The Traverse City Tournament kicks off today, with the Baby Rangers taking on the Baby Stars tonight at 7pm. The team will play four games between now and Tuesday, just in time for training camp to open. This year’s tournament has a different feel, as more eyes are on the prospects with the Rangers expected to be bottom-feeders. There are a few things to focus on, if you’re new to following this tournament.
1. The Top Prospects
Filip Chytil and Lias Andersson are going to garner a significant amount of attention, and rightfully so. The two first rounders from 2017 are expected to make the Rangers roster this year and be the faces of the rebuild.
Andersson, the 7th overall pick, is already tabbed by many fans to be the future captain. He may not be an elite level talent, but he’s still a very talented prospect who could, at his peak, be a middle-six/top-six (2C) center. However with Andersson, there is unneeded –and probably unwarranted– pressure on him to ensure the Derek Stepan trade doesn’t turn into a total bust. That’s unfair for Andersson, but that’s how it goes for most fans, unfortunately.
As for Chytil, he is an elite level talent and one of the youngest players on the Traverse City roster. Let that sink in for a moment – one of the youngest players on the roster is an elite level talent expected to make the Rangers. Chytil just turned 19, and his play will be under a microscope. Can he play well enough to impress the coaching staff?
2. The Dark Horses
Ty Ronning, Tim Gettinger, and Brett Howden form a third line that has me giddy. Howden often gets overlooked with Chytil and Andersson in the mix, but he’s a first round pick of his own right. He might be a sleeper for the 4C role to start the season, and that begins with a strong showing in Traverse City.
As for Gettinger, he’s made huge strides since the Rangers took him in the 5th round in 2016. This kid is huge at 6’6″ and 220 lbs, and he has the skating ability to make opponents look silly, at least in the OHL. He may not be on the Howden/Chytil/Andersson tier in terms of expectations, but he could turn in a dominating performance. After all, he is on the third line, garnering lesser quality of competition.
If there is a polar opposite of Gettinger’s size, it’s Ty Ronning. The diminutive forward is my dark horse to make the roster outright this year, ahead of Howden and Gettinger. The kid is feisty, skilled, and quick. He needs a dominant performance at Traverse City to start that train, though.
3. The Deadline Acquisitions
Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren are going to get a lot of pressure from fans, although most of it is unwarranted. The Rangers specifically targeted these guys at the trade deadline, so there is an expectation that they wow us. The thing is, neither of these guys play a “wow” game. If you aren’t noticing them, they are doing the right thing.
What I want to see from them is solid positioning, rarely getting caught flat footed, and a good first pass for zone exits. Neither of them are expected to make the team this year, as noted by the full blue line of established NHLers. If the fundamentals are there, it bodes well for the future."Three things to look for at Traverse City",