Erasing a two-goal deficit in the third period, the Detroit Red Wings scored four unanswered goals to beat the Dallas Stars 6-5 in the 2019 NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan.
It’s a nice confidence booster for the young prospects, a few of whom will have a legitimate shot at making the big club later this month.
This is the Red Wings’ second tournament championship, also winning it in 2013.
So, while winning a tournament against other prospects is fun and cool, does it actually mean anything in terms of helping the NHL team?
Ultimately, no, but that’s not to say it’s worthless.
This is a prospect tournament, after all, so being successful against 18- to 24-year-olds is good, but it’s not even comparable to the AHL and certainly not the NHL. Each team has a number of free agent invitees, so it’s not as if each team is stacked with first- or second-round prospects.
As stated earlier, the Red Wings have won this tournament before, and the big club has not seen success because of it.
So, while a Prospect Tournament championship doesn’t guarantee immediate NHL success, we can look at the players who stood out in this tournament and see how they contribute in the coming years.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) September 10, 2019
Joe Veleno had seven goals in the tournament, including two in the championship game. He was a first-round pick, so it’s not as much of a surprise to see him succeed, but it is exciting in the sense that he exceeded goal-scoring expectations and is putting together a strong case to make the Red Wings out of training camp.
Filip Zadina didn’t score any goals, but he had five assists on the top line with Veleno. Those two could see playing time together in Detroit or, possibly, Grand Rapids. Zadina was snake-bitten all tournament, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in his inability to score.
Mortiz Seider looked like a top-six pick. He was aggressive, feisty and made quick, smart plays with the puck. He had five assists and played in all situations.
No one knew what to expect from Seider, as there wasn’t a lot of tape on the 18-year-old. And of course, one good showing in a prospect tournament doesn’t guarantee NHL success, but early on, he’s looking like he could be a top-pairing defenseman for the Red Wings down the road.
Givani Smith also looked great, scoring three goals and adding three assists. Skating always has been the knock on Smith, but he was aggressive and getting under the skin of his opponents, much like Bertuzzi has done in his time with the Red Wings.
If he continues that success with Grand Rapids this season, he could make a case for a late season call-up.
Taro Hirose also had a good tournament with one goal and three assists on the top line with Veleno and Zadina. We got an early glimpse of Hirose with the Red Wings during the final 10 games of this past season. He probably won’t keep up the pace of seven points every 10 games, but he possesses a high hockey IQ and is a great playmaker. He’ll be useful during the rebuild.
Ryan Kuffner, after going pointless in his 10 games with the Red Wings, scored three goals and added five assists in the tournament. He’ll more than likely start the season in Grand Rapids but could see a call-up at some point during the season.
Veleno, Seider, Zadina and Hirose are the four I expect to see on the Red Wings down the road. Three of these players are first-round picks, so they should be mainstays. But hitting on first-round picks hasn’t always been a guarantee for the Red Wings, so it’s nice to see them get rewarded.
Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a prospect tournament win and getting excited for the future. Just don’t be surprised if there are some growing pains with these standouts as they hit the next level of their journey.