Aug
18

Briefer on New York Rangers Traverse City invites

August 18, 2015, by

With Dave currently doing the Top 25 Under 25 for the Rangers there is one thing he said that I really hope sticks with people, and that is people tend to forget that roster players, that aren’t considered prospects anymore, can be young too.

Dave is absolutely right, people tend to forget that roster players can be young too,and the Rangers most definitely have a nice group of young players who are currently playing for the big club. That said, it is no secret that the Rangers prospect pool is thin. For now that isn’t a problem, as there aren’t many holes on our roster so far. It is a lot easier to get better prospects when you are a cellar dweller and trade veterans for picks, as opposed to being in the Rangers’ position in not drafting in the top-five for over a decade and being a Stanley Cup Competitor for the last half decade.

While the Rangers look like they had a pretty nice draft, the thin prospect pool becomes apparent only now as we are creeping towards the Traverse City Prospect Tournament. For new fans, this tournament is a little round robin tournament held in Traverse City including eight teams; Detroit, New York, Columbus, Minnesota, Dallas, Carolina, Chicago and St.Louis. This tournament is ideal for both the fans and teams as fans can potentially see or read about how the prospects are doing, and the teams can potentially find a future member of the organization there through invites.

Looking through the system though it has become apparent that the thin prospect pool will look thinner in this tournament. Not because of comparison to teams like Columbus or Carolina, who have been drafting relatively high, but because many highly touted prospects like Pavel Buchnevich or Robin Kovacs won’t be able to play because they would be playing for their respective teams in pro leagues. This list also includes Aleksi Saarela, Daniel Bernhardt, Igor Shesterkin, and probably Sergey Zborovskiy. The roster most likely won’t include Dylan McIlrath or Oscar Lindberg either.

This opens doors to roster invites, of which the Rangers have ten non-roster invites, per NHL.com (site lists NYR property, which includes roster invites for now). Remember all of these players are worth a tryout, the only thing we can really argue about is who do we like better, would we be ok with signing a player, or the famous “why did we invite Player Y when this team invited Player X, I wanted Player X.”

Artem Artemov (pictured above), RW- First of all, awesome name. Artemov played for the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL last year, and the 18 year old, 6’0 forward scored 14 goals and 18 assists in 68 games. Unlike the prevalent stereotype about Russian players, Artemov is a very good two way player. While not a physical player, his positioning and IQ –two qualities the Rangers love– on the ice definitely makes it look like he can continue to grow as a player.

Artemov is someone that Saginaw coaches rave about, but they hope he works on his consistency. Once he does he can become a pretty good hockey player. He needs to use his teammates more, but it’s hard to imagine that the young Russian won’t continue to improve in the OHL as he gets more comfortable. At 18, Artemov would be going back to the OHL this season that means any contract would slide (won’t count for the 50 contract limit). Contracts no longer slide at age-20.

Cameron Askew – I have been talking Askew about for a few months now, and it is awesome to see the Rangers give him a chance after all of those interviews. The 18 year old, 6’3, 210 lbs forward from South Boston is hoping there is still some space in the organization for another big, talented, Massachusetts boy. As I talked about in the draft preview, Askew is a big, tough, hard working power forward that is working on his all around game.

After scoring 45 points in 66 games in the QMJHL for Moncton, there is definitely room for improvement. In the end he needs to score and he needs to work on his skating. His father told me he has been working all summer and is really trying to make a bang next season. With his size and skill if his skating and explosiveness truly improved he can do some serious damage. I know I will be pulling for him, hopefully he wows the staff in the tournament.

Zach Bratina LW-  Bratina was part of development camp earlier in July. While he is a nice skater and a hard worker, the 19 year old really hasn’t stood out much in the OHL thus far in his career, and yet here he is having an opportunity to wear the Rangers’ jersey in Traverse City. Bratina is intriguing to me because when the Rangers were broadcasting some of the camp, Jim Cerny sat down with the head of Player Development Gordie Clark, and asked him which players have impressed him. Bratina was one of the first players Clark talked about, so I am sure they will be watching him thoroughly in Traverse City.

I’m pulling for all of these guys to become quality pros, but for that to happen to Bratina he has to start producing in the OHL. It is harder to score in the AHL or NHL than the OHL. He has the potential to be a nice bottom-six forward.

Brooks

Adam Brooks C- This kid right here is one of my favorite possible invites. I first heard about him possibly joining the roster on Thursday night, when one of his childhood friends from Winnipeg reached out to me and asked me what I think about Adam Brooks. I replied that he is someone that I really hope becomes a pro one day because he is simply a feel good story. His first two seasons in the WHL were porous offensively, and it looked bleak for the 5’11 center.

Low and behold a coaching overturn revitalized the career for the once Bantam AAA phenom. He was always seen as a possible offensive dynamo, which is why those first two seasons shocked so many people. After not scoring more than 12 points in a season, the 19 year old Winnipeg native scored 62 points in 64 games. He’s a teammate Sergey Zborovskiy, and the Rangers love teammates. This is a really good read about him.

Difruscia is no stranger to being a good depth forward.

Anthony Difruscia LW- Difruscia is a 5’11, 197lbs left wing who has been a consistent producer for the Niagara Ice Dogs the last two years as an alternate captain. The 20 year old has produced back to back seasons of at least 50 points. At his age, that leaves a bit to be desired, as you would want an older guy to be putting more points up. Difruscia adds depth to the Traverse City roster and will try to make a big impression to those watching him. He is going to play his final CHL season as an overager this year with a lot to prove. Difruscia is a yappy pest that can help as a possibly bottom-six forward. Difruscia is one of the few whose contract would not slide.

Tenacious around the net, Hart adds some strong, tough two way game to the Traverse City team

Jayden Hart C/RW- At 20 years old, the 6’2 208 pound forward is one of the older invitees this year and is someone that I am actually pretty interested in. His WHL career has been average at best and he didn’t really improve much offensively during his older years. Things looked bleak from an NHL standpoint, but then Hart was given a PTO by the Rochester Americans. All of a sudden Hart had a pretty nice introduction to pro hockey as he recorded four goals in 11 games. Obviously it is possible that it’s a fluke but it is still pretty cool. While Hart is most likely a roster filler in the AHL, his willingness to get to the front of the net and try to chip in dirty goals is always a nice trait. In the end, Hart is someone that may get an AHL contract (wont count towards NHL contract limit) to help the Wolfpack out.

Possible bottom-six depth in a few years?

Hayden Hodgson RW- No relation to current Nashville Predator Cody Hodgson, the 6’2 right wing playing in Sarnia is another Traverse City invite who is under 20 years old. Hodgson really improved over the last year offensively as he went from 18 points to 38 points. Hodgson is a big kid and really uses his body should he keep developing he just like Zach Bratina can be a good possible depth forward option in the future.

Ottenbreit (blue) jockeying with Oilers top prospect Leon Draisaitl

Turner Ottenbreit D- Turner Ottenbreit is a left handed, 6’3, 190 lbs defenseman that is one of my favorite invitees because he is only 18 with room to grow. Ottenbreit played with 2015 2nd round pick Ryan Gropp, whom the Rangers’ brass absolutely adore. Naturally I think it is a fair assumption that they have seen a lot of Ottenbreit, and given his young age, I think he may be one of the invitees that have the best chance at a contract eventually.

Ottenbreit has been improving every year in the WHL and I am under the impression that he will be given more ice time this upcoming season. Turner is a good, strong defenseman that isn’t afraid to get physical with his play and fight when he feels the need. He went to the Washington Capitals prospect camp in early July and learned what drills, workouts, and diets need to be done to become more ready for the pro game. Like most younger guys, he is actively working on improving his skating. I spoke to Tim Pigulski, a columnist who covers the Seattle Thunderbirds, who had good things to say about him (here, here, here).

Simpson

Mark Simpson C/LW-  I spoke briefly about Simpson about a month ago, Simpson is pretty tall at 6’5, but very thin at 187 lbs. The tall forward hasn’t had a really impressive career in the QMJHL, but this year he doubled his point production from the previous year. He will be going for his overage season in the Q, and is a player that the Rangers hope is a late bloomer.

Jerret Smith D- Another Seattle Thunderbird invitee that I will be keeping a close eye on. Smith is a right handed 6’2 defenseman who spent his time last season on Seattle’s top pair with highly touted prospect Shea Theodore. Smith became a steady two way defenseman as his career with Seattle progressed, and as of right now is planning on joining them for a overage season.

Smith is reliable in his own end and the iron-man of the Thunderbirds organization, not missing a single game for the last two years. While he still needs to work on his skating and transition game, Smith has been working out with Theodore at Impact Hockey. Considering the relatively lack of defensive prospects, Smith can be a nice add and hopefully can become a legitimate NHLer. Here is what Tim Pigulski had some good things to say about Smith (here, here, and here).

As far as I know so far those are all of the Traverse City invites. I wouldn’t be surprised if we add another player or two to the roster after the new front office additions in Bobrov and Greeley. For those who don’t know my stance on these hirings I am pretty excited. These are 2 young guys that are highly touted in the scouting community so this is just awesome.

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14 comments

  1. SalMerc says:

    After reading this article, i will look for some standout individuals and not for winning the tournament.

    • Dave says:

      I don’t really think winning the tournament means much. A lot of teams use this as a basis for evaluating their prospects.

    • Chris72 says:

      Thanks Josh. Excellent job. It’s sobering to think the vast majority of these players won’t see the NHL. It’s a testament to the level of skill and commitment of the pros. So many want it, so few reach it

      • Chris72 says:

        Hey Josh, with Stepan, Brassard, Hayes, Lindberg and Tambellini listed as centerman, where do you see Fogarty fitting into the equation? If at all

  2. Spozo says:

    Wasn’t traverse city televised on MSG a couple years ago? Any idea if it will be again?

    • Dave says:

      During the lockout, yea it was. I doubt it will be again.

    • Alec says:

      I’m guessing NHL network will be airing some games again. I’d have a mic on Jim Schoenfield, but you’d have to hit the dump button every 30 seconds.

  3. JoeS. says:

    Nice job Josh! thanks for all that info!

  4. Bobby G says:

    Anyone else instinctively read the first prospect’s name as Artem Anisimov?

  5. paulronty says:

    Dallas who won TC last year used AHL players, esp. Ritchie who dominated, which seems to me to defeat the purpose of the tourney, so I don’t get excited abt winning it, but obviously Dallas does.

    • Alec says:

      I think you’re only able to use up to 2nd year AHLers, but it’s probably not a hard and fast rule depending on team depth.