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Traverse City Prospect Tournament

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Thanks to the NHL Network I had the chance to watch three of the Thrashers four games way up north. (Traverse City is a great place to visit if you ever get the opportunity to go.) After watching the games here are my thoughts:

Spencer Machacek: Very nice looking two-way player. Effective on the PK, the PP and at Even Strength. He can score, he can check and and he can hit. What's not to like? Plays with intensity and drive. Looks more and more like a solid 3rd liner with perhaps some 2nd line potential if everything goes perfect in his development. One of his "goals" was a dump in from behind the center ice red line which was just luck. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure he redirected the shot on goal in the Dallas game which they credited to Bogosian.

Arturs Kulda: I just couldn't help noticing him in every game. His distinct bent knee style of skating makes him easy to pick out of a crowd. Sold defensive zone coverage, has some passing skills and can pop people. Not a silky smooth skater like Enstrom, but he increasingly looks like another late round steal out of Europe. He made some coverage errors but I like his moxie--this guy seems like he is always in the middle of the action in his own zone.

Zach Bogosian: I was hoping to see something spectacular but what I saw very solid. In the Red Wing game he made one terrific end-to-end rush with the puck and had some nice shots on goal. He also dished out a couple of hard checks. I think the most impressive thing about him in the tournament was his vision while on the power play. While under pressure he spotted open teammates and made clean passes to them. His defensive zone positioning was good but twice I noticed him getting out of his lane which led to chances for the opposition. In the Dallas game it was Bogosian's man who was alone in the slot and scored.

Rylan Kaip: It is very rare for a non-scoring player in college or juniors to make the NHL. To pull it off you have to be a perfect defensive player. Kaip might have a shot. He is almost always in the right spot and his PK work looked great to me.

Chad Denny: Had some big hits but pulled an Exelby and took himself out of the play and set up an odd man rush for the other team. Showed the slapper a couple of times.

Grant Lewis: Hurt early on. Incomplete information. Had a bad turnover in game one but was bailed out by an offsides call.

Paul Postma: Still needs to work on positioning and consistency. In the gold medal game he came across the net to hit a guy Chad Denny has already steered out of danger--leaving his man wide open to score. I'm not sure what is worse abandoning his man in the slot or failing to prevent the pass while going for the highlight reel hit. Not a very smart play, I'll bet Denny was thinking, "What the bleep are you doing over here? Take care of your own side!"

Angelo Esposito: He's still quite young. He has the raw materials of a star--flashy skater, slick moves--but he lacks hockey sense. Twice in one game he busted an offensive rush by going offside. He fails to get a shot on net while wide open shot in the slot area. He made a brutal pass from behind his own net that led to a scoring chance against his own team. In the championship game his team gets a power play while down 3-1 and with zero pressure on him he just loses the puck. Mental mistakes abound. For him to make the NHL he must produce many more quality shifts and many fewer wasted shifts than he is right now. To throw in one positive comment in a negative review--he seemed to be trying very hard to do his part on the defensive side of the puck and the coaches put him out on the PK unit. He had one terrific rush, but one great rush will not put you into the NHL when coupled with all the other errors.

Riley Holzapfel: Is this guy riding on his laurels? Seems to me that the effort level has tailed off a bit. He needs to crank up the intensity level if he wants to turn heads. I was very excited about his chances two summers ago but I'm less certain about him now.

I'll have more comments later next week after I head up to watch the Thrashers prospects take on the Predator prospects in Nashville.