Questions to Be Answered at Traverse City
Just some quick thoughts of mine going into this week's tournament:
1.) Will Andy Rogers step up and win an invitation to full Lightning camp? He's currently not slated to go to Brandon in two weeks, but he's reportedly been training like a mad man to try to get in on the competition with fellow prospect Matt Smaby for the #6 and #7 jobs in Tampa. This week's tournament will probably have little bearing on the 07-08 season at the NHL level, but the one way it could is if Rogers plays well and sets himself with a shot to make the Lightning.
2.) Where is Riku Helenius at developmentally after losing a season to shoulder surgery? Every game he gets in the first half of this season will be critical to answering that question, and Helenius' development is critical to the Lightning seeing as he's the only top-15 pick the team has had in the last six drafts.
3.) Will Stanislav Lascek finally have the Traverse City tournament he's capable of? Lascek was a dominating scorer in junior, but I've always held reservations about how his game translates to the pros even before last season's rookie year debacle because of his failure to break through in this tournament. If he can finally step up and be the big scorer here he's capable of, I might have to get on the Lascek bandwagon.
4.) Where does Chris Lawrence really fall on the depth chart for Norfolk? Is he ahead of Lascek and Radek Smolenak, or behind them? He's been mediocre at best in these tournaments, but after a very strong 06-07 campaign he looks poised to potentially make some noise.
5.) Do any of these forward tryouts earn a contract from the Lightning or Admirals? Dean Ouellet, Jason Reese, Colby Pridham, and Colton Yellow Horn (particularly Yellow Horn) interest me going into the tournament. Of those four only Yellow Horn and Pridham are currently signed up to go to Norfolk camp. Yellow Horn's got skill coming out of his ears, and although he probably doesn't have the burst to make it as a 5'7" forward in the NHL, he's probably good enough to be a very valuable minor league scorer, and every little bit will help the Ads this year.
6.) Is Mitch Fadden as good as I think he is? I think the Lightning flat out stole a first or second round caliber talent when they took Fadden in the 4th round this year. If I were drawing up the lines for this team, Fadden would probably be my second line center playing with some of the high powered invites like Yellow Horn. He's gotten very little pub, and this is an opportunity for him to steal the show and make a name for himself.
7.) How do things shake out depth chart wise with the second tier of defensemen. We obviously know Rogers and Vladimir Mihalik are high on the first tier of the Lightning prospect food chain. What I'm not entirely certain about is how the second tier of players really is ordered. Dane Crowley, Justin Fletcher, and Mike Lundin all have a lot of positives in their favor in terms of mobility and how well they played last season and each has shown some offensive upside while Michael Ward, who was underutilized in Lewiston last season, has been playing well on the power play for the MAINEiacs in the QMJHL preseason. I'm interested to see if Traverse City helps one out of the clump of Crowley, Fletcher, and Lundin break from the pack, and where Ward is relative to that pack.