Believe it or not, hockey is just around the corner. The Traverse City prospect tournament begins on September 6. Of course, most of us will have our eyes glued to Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, Igor Shesterkin, Adam Fox, and Yegor Rykov, but they aren’t playing in this eight-team tournament alone.
The Rangers filled out their Traverse City roster with six free agent invites, five of which are forwards. These are players who were either undrafted or, in the case of Anthony Salinitri, drafted but went unsigned. On a team full of valuable prospects who are looking to impress the organization that has invested in them, these six free agents are hoping to make their mark and use this as a stepping stone to signing a professional contract.
Keith Getson, Forward
Getson, 21, is a 5-foot-11 center with five years of QMJHL experience under his belt. The Nova Scotia native spent the majority of his career in the Q playing for the Charlottetown Islanders, but was traded to the Halifax Mooseheads on Dec. 28, 2018. Before that he was the Islanders’ captain, and holds the record for the most consecutive games played by a skater in team history.
Getson scored 29 goals last season — six of which came on the power play — and notched 27 assists with the Islanders and Mooseheads. He also tallied 15 points in 23 games for the Mooseheads in the playoffs, but is remembered by most for getting absolutely rocked by Max Martin. It’s a good thing that he’s a tough kid.
Getson was a big scorer at the major midget level, but had modest production in his first three seasons playing major junior. That is likely because he played a depth role and, like so many young players in major junior, had to earn his coach’s trust and more ice time. He had only 56 points in his first 185 regular season games before breaking out with 20 goals and 29 assists in the 2017-18 season.
Given the fact that he’s already in his early 20s, it’s hard to judge where Getson’s ceiling is. Maybe he just needed an opportunity to step up into a bigger role, or maybe he began to produce two seasons ago because he was more physically developed than many of his peers. We should get an answer to that question at Traverse City.
Brett Kemp, Forward
Kemp, 19, is a 6-foot-1 center who has played for three different teams in three years of WHL hockey. Originally a second round pick (41st overall) of the Everett Silvertips in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, he was dealt to the Edmonton Oil Kings in a blockbuster deal on Jan. 4, 2017. Last season, he was traded again from Edmonton to the Medicine Hat Tigers.
An injury on Edmonton’s top line last season created an opportunity for Kemp to play with Columbus Blue Jackets’ prospect Trey Fix-Wolansky, and he took full advantage. He buried 33 goals — 22 of which were scored with Edmonton — in 64 games last year, crushing his previous high-water mark. He also set a new career best with the 193 shots he put on net.
“He’s played well for us,” Oil Kings head coach Brad Lauer observed back in November. “We lost Vince Loschiavo a couple of weeks ago and we altered our lines around and he took advantage of the opportunity of the extra ice time and playing with Trey. He is a skilled offensive player and he has huge upside offensively. He has good hands and is a good skater.”
Kemp was ranked 128th by NHL Central Scouting ahead of the 2018 NHL Draft, but went undrafted. The natural center definitely needs to add some muscle to his frame if he wants to make it to the next level. With that being said, there is definitely some real potential here. It will be interesting to see what kind of impact he will have this season on a Tigers team that is led by a cabal of undrafted prospects.
Kade Landry, Defenseman
Landry, 20, is the only free agent defenseman to get an invite to the Rangers’ Traverse City roster. He’s coming off of a big year and is hoping to follow it by proving himself on a blue line that also features Fox, Rykov, Tarmo Reunanen, Joey Keane, Nico Gross, Hunter Skinner, and Matthew Robertson. He definitely has his work cut out for him.
Last season, Landry took his game to another level by scoring 51 points in 66 games from the Bulldogs’ blue line. It’s worth noting that he had 16 points in 44 games with the Bulldogs the year before, so that’s a pretty significant increase in production. It certainly didn’t hurt that he played on a team with NHL prospects Arthur Kaliyev and Matthew Strome, but the fact that Landry led the Bulldogs’ blue line and was third among undrafted OHL d-men in scoring last season is a pretty big deal.
One number that jumps off of Landry’s OHL stat page is that he finished the season as a -35. That was the lowest plus/minus on the club by a wide margin, but it’s important to note that Kaliyev finished with a -10 and Strome finished with a -20 rating. It’s even more important to note that Hamilton finished fourth in the East Division with a record of 29-34-5 and had a -42 goal differential.
At first glance, Landry looks like an unpolished puck-moving defenseman with significant offensive upside who has experience playing a lot of minutes. The real question here is what kind of player he can be after a little bit of polish. For those who are curious, he’s a left-handed shot and has a 6-foot-1 frame.
Josh Maser, Forward
Maser, 20, is coming off of back-to-back seasons with at least 28 goals for the Prince George Cougars of the WHL. Originally a fourth round pick of the Prince Albert Raiders in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, the winger definitely has a tough streak. He plays a lot bigger than his 6-foot-2 frame and has no qualms about going into the nasty areas to win pucks and to take the body.
Maser’s teammate Josh Curtis summed up his game in an interview last season:
“I’ve played with Maser a couple times this year and he’s a really simple guy to play with, he keeps it simple and chucks his body and he shoots a lot too, which is good for me - I pass the puck and he shoots it.”
Clearly, there’s nothing fancy about Maser’s game, but that doesn’t mean he’s not effective. Maser led the Cougars with 11 power play goals last season and finished third on the team in shots on goal (186). He uses his strength to make things happen in the corners and in front of the net and could make it to the next level as an agitating depth forward.
Cody Milan, Forward
Milan is the oldest free agent invite on the Rangers Traverse City roster. At 23, he already has 122 games of NCAA experience and 141 games of USHL experience under his belt. He’s very much the dark horse of the Rangers free agent invites, but it would be pretty disappointing for him to look out of his element in the tournament considering his age.
Milan is a 6-foot-2 winger who wore a letter playing for his home state Michigan State University last year. Of course, the Spartans’ most valuable player last year was Taro Hirose. Hirose signed with the Detroit Red Wings after completing his senior season and has already put up seven points in 10 NHL games. Unfortunately for Milan, he didn’t get to share a lot of ice time with Hirose, especially at evens.
Interestingly enough, Milan finished second on the Spartans in power play goals (6) last year, but scored just seven of his 20 points at even strength. The rest of his boxcar stats are equally underwhelming: he finished fourth among the Spartans forwards in scoring with seven goals and 13 assists and averaged 2.14 SOG/GP.
That's Cody Milan's sixth goal of the year and fourth on the PP. pic.twitter.com/czd7NPsnrq— MSU_Hockey (@MSU_Hockey) March 4, 2018
It’s no secret that Michigan State was a one line team last year, but Milan’s lack of production is still suspect. He has never been a flashy player, so maybe the Rangers are giving him a look because they think there might be some untapped potential given the mark he made on the Spartan’s power play. However, the odds are stacked against the 23-year-old.
Anthony Salinitri, Forward
Salinitri, 21, finished his five-year OHL career on a sour note last season. He earned a six-game suspension in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final for a roughing penalty that the league deemed to have significant contact to the head of Ottawa 67’s forward Marco Rossi. Prior to that incident, Salinitri was the Oshawa Generals top goal scorer in the playoffs. It was a rough final chapter to his OHL career that followed a sensational regular season.
The undersized versatile forward piled up an eye-catching 88 points in 68 games split between the Sarnia Sting — where he was an alternate captain — and the Generals last season. He scored 34 goals in 43 games after being dealt to the Generals on Nov. 18, 2018. His previous best in a single season was 28-goal performance in 66 games with Sarnia in 2016-17. Sometimes a change of scenery — and linemates — can really do wonders.
Great assist by Generals overage player Anthony Salinitri (Drafted 2016 by Flyers) and a good goal by Panthers prospect Serron Noel.— Eliteprospects (@eliteprospects) April 1, 2019
SN: https://t.co/Xpc9bISZVB#OHL #OHLPlayoffs #LetsGoFlyers #FlaPanthers pic.twitter.com/wAKAJLo4EP
Originally a draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers (172nd overall, 2016 Draft), Salinitri became an unrestricted free agent when the Flyers opted not to sign him. After being cut loose he was invited to the Vancouver Canucks prospect camp last offseason where he impressed with his speed and versatility. In addition to showing flashes of exceptional creativity, Salinitri has also been praised for his play away from the puck.
On paper, he has all the makings of developing into a valuable scoring threat at the AHL level, but for the time being Salinitri is slated to play USports hockey at the University of Windsor.
He has a big opportunity at Traverse City to prove that the Flyers made a mistake when they chose not to sign him. There will definitely be a lot of scouts looking for his number in Michigan. His skating ability has been celebrated for years, and he could steal the show if he finds himself with nothing between him and an opposing goalie but open ice.