TRAVERSE CITY -- A week ahead of the full-fledged Detroit Red Wings training camp here, the team's prospects are hoping to get a leg up on consideration for a roster spot with the Stanley Cup finalists.
The NHL Prospects Tournament kicks off on Sunday, with four games each day between the participating NHL teams' top prospects. Teams in this year's tournament are Detroit, Minnesota, Columbus, St. Louis, Dallas, Carolina, Atlanta and the New York Rangers.
Among Detroit's top prospects at the four-day event are 2008 first-round pick Thomas McCollum, 2006 second-round pick Cory Emmerton and the team's two second-round picks in 2009, center Landon Ferraro and left wing Tomas Tatar, and third-round pick Andrej Nestrasil.
"I'm anxious to see the players we drafted this year -- Landon Ferraro, Tatar, Nestrasil and the rest of them," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
The Wings are deep at center and absolutely loaded on defense and at left wing, where the depth helps offset the off-season loss of Jiri Hudler to Russia's Moscow Dynamo.
With Henrik Zetterberg, Johna Franzen, Ville Leino, Tomas Holmstrom, Kirk Maltby and Justin Abdelkader back from last year, left wing is definitely a position of strength, which could make it much more difficult for youngsters such as Jan Mursak, Emmerton, Dick Axelsson and Jonan Ryno to secure much more than a spot with the Wings' affiliate in Grand Rapids.
"I'm looking at a lot of these players as far as how they are coming in their progression," Holland said. "I'm looking at where they were at a year ago. The summer development camp is really an education camp; this is more of an evaluation camp. There's eight NHL teams that have kids for the most part between the ages of 18 and 22, so they are being judged against their peers. When the main camp comes around and they're skating against (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg, it's not fair."
But at center and right wing, Detroit has four established NHL players at each position, meaning the prospects there are vying to be in line for a call-up should someone sustain an injury.
"My idea of player development is moving the players along slowly," Holland said. "For us, these players are our future. Especially for us. We've got our core signed up and we added veteran players like (Jason) Williams and Patrick Eaves and (Todd) Bertuzzi. And then you've got guys like (Jonathan) Erickson, (Ville) Leino, (Darren) Helm and (Justin) Abdelkader fighting for spots. We've got a team that for the next couple years is going to be a tough lineup to crack."
At right wing, this includes Mattias Ritola, Francis Pare, Jeremy Williams and Jamie Tarif, and at center Evan McGrath, Kris Newbury, Ryan Oulahen and Brent Raedeke are among those trying to earn consideration for that spot.
Tickets are $5 each day at the door.
Red Wings training camp will be Sept. 13-15 at Centre ICE.
Wings prospects camp roster
Mitchell CallahanRW5-111752009 (6-180)
Andrej NestrasilRW6-22002009 (3-75)
Cory EmertonLW/C6-01902006 (2-41)
Landon FerraroC6-01702009 (2-32)
Stephen JohnsonC6-21852008 (6-181)
Dick AxelssonLW6-21762006 (3-62)
Jan MursakLW5-111732006 (6-182)
Johan RynoLW6-52092005 (6-137)
Tomas TatarLW5-111762009 (2-60)
Adam AlmqvistD5-101692009 (7-210)
Gleason FournierD6-01682009 (4-90)
Sergei KolosovD6-41872004 (5-151)
Logan PyettD5-111982006 (7-212)
Tomas McCollumG6-22052008 (1-30)
* denotes tryout free agent.
WHERE: Centre ICE arena, Traverse City
GAMES: Four each day on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday
TICKETS: $5 each day
TEAMS: Detroit, Columbus, Carolina, Atlanta, Dallas, St. Louis, N.Y. Rangers, Minnesota