Prospect Tournament set to begin Friday; 2016 first-round pick
Tage Thompson among those looking to make first impression lasting
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The Blues prospects departed Thursday for Traverse City, Mich. to participate in the 2017 Prospects Tournament beginning Friday and running through Tuesday.
And for center Tage Thompson, a first-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, it's all about the first impression.
"I think it's everything," Thompson said. "Your first impression kind of tells everyone your character and what you're all about. I think making a good first impression kind of gives you opportunities down the road. Coming in and making a good impact right away is something that will help me down the road a little bit.
"... I think obviously the goal is to come in and make a good first impression to the organization and as far as the team standing goes, I think we want to win this thing. I'm excited, I haven't done it prior to this, so I'm looking forward to it."
The Blues will once again participate in the eight-team tournament that also features Dallas, Columbus, MInnesota, Chicago, New York Rangers, Carolina and the host team, Detroit.
The Blues' roster includes many first-timers, including 2017 first-round picks Robert Thomas and Klim Kostin as well as those who have participated before, including 2016 second-round pick Jordan Kyrou and 2015 fourth-round pick Adam Musil.
"I learned that it's a fast-paced tournament," Kyrou said. "You've got to play hard. It's a hard tournament. You've got to play with a chip on your shoulder.
"I thought I had a good tournament. I think it gave me a confidence boost. It was good. ... I just want to go out there, focus on myself and play my game and do what I can to help the team win."
The Blues will play in the Ted Lindsay Division against the Wild Friday at 3 p.m., Dallas Saturday at 6 p.m. and Monday at 2 p.m. against Columbus before figuring out when they play on Tuesday after completing group stage games.
"The competitiveness is at a pretty high level," said former Blues defenseman and developmental coach Barret Jackman, who will be coaching the team along with Tulsa Oilers coach Rob Murray. "... I think it's all about effort. It's a good time to make a first impression for a lot of these guys. You want to go in there and show that you're willing to compete and do a lot of the little things to move on and bring to training camp. A lot of these kids are very good at their age level and now they're playing against some of the top competition. They've got to go out there and kind of prove why they were drafted and have fun with it, too."
But that's why that first impression will be so crucial, to leave a lasting mark on the coaching staff and management. It's where Blues defenseman Colton Parayko came in on the highest of levels two years ago and stormed in on the Blues, who were so impressed that they took a long look and gave him every chance of making the team, which he did.
Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo was a participant in this tournament, two times.
"I think the hockey was good, but I think the best part about it was getting to know the other guys that you're going to be potentially playing with down the line," Pietrangelo said. "Mine was 'Bergy' (Patrik Berglund), around 'Osh' (T.J. Oshie), I guess 'Bish' (Ben Bishop) was there around that time. Those are the guys that you get to know and you're going to go through the organization with and that's where it starts. If you want to have a close group, it starts there."
So take in the advice and soak up the experience.
"I talked to (Mackenzie) MacEachern and Sam Blais from Chicago. They say it's a fast tournament, you're playing four games in five nights," Thompson said. "It kind of gives you the taste of the pro style, the pro game. Everyone's got their high-end prospects from across the league. It's a tough, competitive tournament and it's kind of a measuring stick to see where you're at in terms of making it."
Thompson, who played at 185 pounds last season, has increased his strength and size to get him ready for training camp, which begin with players reporting Thursday and camp opening Friday, Sept. 15.
"I'm very comfortable right now where I'm at," said Thompson, who prefers to be between 210-215. "I had a really good summer of training. ... I feel like I'm ready. I'm weighing in at 205-210, in that range. I've put on some weight, feel a lot stronger, feel faster. Those are all things that will hopefully help me make the team.
"... I think it's more strength than weight. The weight will come with age. I'm still pretty young. The main emphasis is getting stronger. I think I did a good job at that this summer. Hopefully, it'll help me make the team. (Leg strength) was my focus, getting a strong low base, helping to fend off guys down low, kind of use my body. That all comes from lower base."
For those players returning for a second and even a third time, like defenseman Thomas Vannelli, it's never too late to make an impression, especially since Blues scouts, who will be on hand, trusted to draft you in the first place.
"They have a lot riding on your success," Jackman said of the scouts. "If you struggled the year before maybe because it's your first year and didn't know what to expect, you come in and elevate and try and show that you're progressing in your development."
Watch out for Kostin, who was taken with the 31st pick in June; he's determined to make that first impression after coming off a shoulder injury that limited his playing time a season ago and had teams pass on him in the draft in Chicago.
"He's got the skill, he's got the size and the strength," Jackman said of Kostin. "For him to come in here and first taste of North American hockey, everybody's kind of eager to see what he brings. He has the potential to be a very high-end offensive threat."
The Blues' roster includes (with jersey numbers):
Forwards: Connor Bleackley (67), Filip Helt (86), Tanner Kaspick (83), Klim Kostin (37), Nikolaj Krag-Christensen (58), Jordan Kyrou (72), Mackenzie MacEachern (62), Hayden McCool (89), Greg Meireles (76), Adam Musil (54), Robert Thomas (36), Tage Thompson (32), Alexey Toropchencko (65)
Defensemen: Sean Allen (81), Trenton Bourque (63), Charles-Edouard D'Astous (74), Michael McKee (84), Niko Mikkola (77), David Noel (60), Dmitrii Sergeev (68), Thomas Vannelli (47), Jake Walman (46)
Goalies: Evan Fitzpatrick (85), Stephen Dhillon (90)
All games will be streamed on FOX Sports Go and DetroitRedWings.com.