I love the Traverse City Tournmanet. I always have. I'm a big prospects junkie, love the draft and love following the New York Rangers prospects as they move through the pipeline. Traverse City isn't just the first form of competitive hockey to ring in the new year, it's also an opportunity to see our prospects against some of the best in the NHL.
So I love to do a "Top Five Players To Watch" every year. It gives me an opportunity to focus on some of the players looking to make the biggest statements.
And off we go:
Conor Allen -- As collegiate players were flying around last season (including Quinnipiac Goalie Eric Hartzell) the Rangers made a quieter splash. They brought in Allen, who was a very solid puck moving defenseman on a very bad UMass squad. Allen has great vision and ran the point for the Minutemen's power play. We didn't get a good look at him last season (he only played in two AHL games) but this will be a good opportunity to see what he can do.
Anthony Duclair -- The Rangers final third round pick this year, Duclair's stock fell after an injury threw off his sophomore season. There is a ton of potential in Duclair, including an offensive ability that saw him the second most points of all U-17's in the QMJHL two years ago. The one player to score more points than him? Nathan MacKinnon. He impressed in this year's summer prospects camp. This test will be a little more firm.
Michael St. Croix -- It feels like St. Croix has been in the Rangers' system forever. And on some levels that's not a bad thing. St. Croix is coming off back to back impressive seasons in the WHL (105 and 92 points respectively), and will be looking to really, really, really stand out in Traverse City. St. Croix is looked at as a player with a ton of potential in the Rangers' system. This is his year to prove he belongs there. This tournament is a big first step.
Thomas Spelling -- Mostly for all the reasons I outlined in this story here, but I'll reiterate the point briefly: Spelling's move to go back to Denmark rather than signing a deal in Sweden is looked at as a major disappointment. Spelling needs to prove it's nothing more than a temporary stop. Traverse City is the place to do that.
Danny Kristo -- I was so excited when I saw Kristo on the list of players. I think we've all heard, read and seen everything we possibly could on Kristo this summer. To actually see him play in a game is a big deal, and a big first step as he attempts to make the big club out of camp. The Rangers were thrilled to get Kristo this offseason, let's let him show us why.
Let me also add that I left Oscar Lindberg and Jesper Fast off this list on purpose. I think we've seen enough of their skills in the SHL, and while everyone is obviously thrilled with the duo, the Rangers kind of know what they have in both of them. This list was more of a "these players have something to prove" type of thing.
Thoughts, guys? Who are you excited to see? See the full list of players here if you missed it.