Two months ago, Alex Pietrangelo captained the St. Louis Blues to their first-ever Stanley Cup title and scored the series-clinching goal in a winner-take-all Game 7. Nine years before reaching the pinnacle of professional hockey, he was skating at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City.
Long one of the top defensemen in the National Hockey League, Pietrangelo is one of many players who competed in the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City and then went on to All-Star careers. The annual event returns to Centre Ice Arena in September with another batch of the world’s best hockey prospects. The 16-game tournament Sept. 6-10 offers a glimpse of the future for the Detroit Red Wings and seven other NHL teams.
Who knows which prospects might follow in Pietrangelo’s steps and soon hoist the Stanley Cup?
“The NHL Prospect Tournament is some of the best hockey played for a minor cost of $10 a day,” said Tom Rodes, tournament director. “Top-end talent and future stars headline rosters every year.
“Additionally, many former NHL stars are now managing, scouting or coaching some of the teams, so you could bump into (Red Wings’ brass including new General Manager) Steve Yzerman, (assistant general manager) Pat Verbeek, (director of scouting) Kris Draper or (director of player evaluation) Jiri Fischer.”
In fact, ticket sales for this year’s tournament are going faster then ever, and “we’re thinking it
has something to do with returning Red Wings ‘Captain’ and now General Manager Steve Yzerman,” Rodes said.
The Red Wings started the NHL Prospect Tournament in 1998, the year after the team started holding its pre-season training camp at Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City. The tournament gives team management and scouts the chance to evaluate prospects before the season, and it’s a great opportunity for fans to find new favorite players for the future.
The NHL Prospect Tournament was the first of its kind and remains the largest with eight NHL teams participating including the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and the Red Wings.
As host of the NHL’s largest prospect tournament, Traverse City has become the gateway to the NHL for many of the game’s best players. In fact, more than 600 NHL Prospect Tournament alumni have played or are currently playing in the NHL including current Red Wings Dylan Larkin and Jimmy Howard.
The eight teams in the NHL Prospect Tournament consist of drafted players from the Canadian junior leagues, European players and players with up to a year of minor-league experience such as Filip Larsson, who is slated to play goalkeeper this year for the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League. Three of the top six players picked in this summer’s NHL Draft are expected to participate including Kaapo Kakko, Kirby Dach and the Red Wings’ own Moritz Seider. Top Red Wings’ draft picks in 2018, Filip Zadina and Joe Veleno, as well as current Red Wings Ryan Kuffner and Taro Hirose also are likely to suit up.
The eight teams each play four games in a round-robin format that concludes with a championship game at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 10. Red Wings games are scheduled at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, and at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9. The Red Wings also will play on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at a time to be determined.
“The hometown Red Wings draw a full house every time they play and the championship game at the end of the tournament is also typically jam packed,” Rodes said.
Tickets are available for $10 per day and include all four games scheduled that day. Evening and weekend games tend to attract the largest crowds. Undated general admission, not game specific.
After the NHL Prospect Tournament, the full Red Wings team will gather at Centre Ice Arena for the annual Red Wings Training Camp with practices and games Sept. 13-16. Ticket prices range from $10 to $35 with games scheduled at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, and noon Sunday, Sept. 15.
While in town for the NHL Prospect Tournament or the Red Wings Training Camp, you’ll have a great opportunity to enjoy a last blast of summer or a first taste of fall in beautiful Traverse City. Starting in September, you can get Fab Fall Packages in Traverse City with deals on places to stay as well as discounts on dining, shopping, wineries, spas and more.