In the political satire novel “Animal Farm”, the pig-controlled government issued a statement that read: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” A similar statement could be issued about the Detroit Red Wings players heading to the annual NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich. Sept. 16-20.
All prospects are equal in terms of receiving an invitation to play, but some prospects are more equal in terms of immediate importance to the organization.
Keep in mind that other prospects, like Jonatan Berggren and Jared McIsaac, won’t be at the Prospect Tournament. But they will be at training camp looking to make the Red Wings.
Here are the six “immediate importance” players to watch in this NHL Prospects Tournament:
Defenseman Simon Edvinsson (Sixth overall in 2021)
It’s been suggested Edvinsson looked tired at the recent World Junior Championships. But we can be confident that nothing has changed from the Red Wings’ perspective. There is a high probability that Edvinsson is going to play in Detroit this season.
Edvinsson has less experience than Moritz Seider had when he joined the Red Wings as a rookie last season. But his skating, 6-foot-6 frame and ice awareness suggest he is ready for the opportunity.
He may try to do too much in the prospect tournament because he has made it clear that he wants to be in Detroit this season. Edvinsson should be the third Yzerman first-round draft pick to make the team.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) August 31, 2022
Left wing Elmer Soderblom (159th overall in 2019)
He is one of the most intriguing players in the whole tournament because he’s 6-foot-8 and has exceptional hands. Take a look at some of the videos of his goals on Twitter. He’s slick around the net was one of the top young players in Sweden last season.
Imagine seeing Soderblom’s big body in front of the net on the Red Wings’ power play.
The Red Wings don’t have much room on the roster. But the Red Wings would love for Soderblom to play at such a high level they are forced to carve out space for him. He’s not going to be a physical force. That’s not his game. But they believe he can score at the NHL level, if not this season, then next.
The Red Wings are looking for Soderblom to give them a reason to keep him. They are high on his potential.
Goalie Sebastian Cossa (20th overall in 2021)
What needs to be remembered about Sebastian Cossa is that he is 19. Already, some fans on social media are wondering aloud if the Red Wings made the right decision when they drafted Cossa over Sweden’s Jesper Wallstedt.
Wallstedt was named best goalie at the World Junior Championships after leading Sweden to a bronze medal. Canada didn’t name Cossa the starter. He played only one game.
The Cossa vs. Wallstedt debate won’t be settled for at least three or four more years. Wallstedt may be ahead of Cossa now, but there is a long way to go. Goalies take longer to develop. It’s the exception when goalies become a NHL starter before age 23-25.
But this tournament is important to Cossa because the Red Wings need to decide what to do with him next season. If he wants to turn pro now, Cossa needs to show the Red Wings he’s ready for that challenge. He can do that by playing well in this tournament and in training camp.
However, historically, NHL teams send 19-year-old goalies back to junior hockey. It happened to Tristan Jarry and Carter Hart.
Defenseman Albert Johansson (60th overall in 2019)
Johansson might be the most underappreciated player in the top prospect group. Everyone understands he is a top prospect, but he doesn’t offer the excitement level of draft picks such Soderblom or Edvinsson.
But what Johansson lacks in pizzaz, he makes up for with a predictable layer of dependability. He has already logged 141 games in the Swedish League and has established himself as a two-way defenseman with a heads-up playing style.
An NHL scout told Detroit Hockey Now that Johansson is going to be an NHL defenseman, probably a No. 4. He will get the job done every night. The same scout said he believes Johansson will need time in the AHL, but thought he will adjust quickly to North American professional hockey.
His mission in Traverse City is to be himself, to play his game, and to learn all he can about playing at the NHL level. You can learn plenty, even at a Prospect Tournament
Right Wing Cross Hanas (55th overall in 2020)
It’s almost like Hanas has a blank slate coming into this tournament. The Red Wings are looking forward to seeing how he handles this level of competition. Hanas is coming off a strong WHL season; He registered 86 points in 63 games.
But this tournament is a good opportunity for the Red Wings to see Hanas against some players who will be older and more experienced than he is.
Keep in mind that Hanas is already 20, meaning he can’t go back to the WHL. He is projected to play in Grand Rapids this season. This tournament will give the Red Wings a chance to have a better understanding of where Hanas is on the development trail.
Defenseman Donovan Sebrango (63rd overall in 2020)
It’s easy to forget Sebrango is still only 20. That’s because he has already played 96 American Hockey League games. COVID-19 hurt the development of some prospects. But it helped Sebrango because he was able to play in the AHL instead of the Ontario Hockey League.
It feels as if Sebrango gained some fans when they watched him play effectively against players in his age group at the World Junior Championships. He was +7 in helping Canada win the gold medal.
Sebrango is projected as a stay-at-home defenseman, but Grand Rapids coach Ben Simon says he believes Sebrango has some offensive upside in him.
At this tournament, the Red Wings will be looking for him to be one of the leaders. He’s been through this tournament before.