With the 2013 Traverse City Hockey Tournament coming up in less than a month, we're about to get our first sign of real, actual hockey. Even if it doesn't count.
That's a worthy enough occasion that we take a break from our Olympic Invitee articles.
As some of you will already know, the Minnesota Wild have notched a victory in the tournament, winning it all in 2010. 2010, of course, being the now semi-legendary first "real" draft for Chuck Fletcher. However, since collegiate players tend to not play in the tournament (they're at school), as well as overseas players (who are overseas) that aren't attempting to crack an NHL roster, Mikael Granlund, Johan Larsson, and Jason Zucker did not participate in the tournament.
In fact, only Brett Bulmer, Darcy Kuemper, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Tyler Cuma, and Nate Prosser are the only players from that team (who have a shot at making the roster, anyway. What's particularly interesting about those 6 players is Jared Spurgeon, who was un-signed by the Wild at the time, and on an amateur tryout for the tournament. My guess is, it went well for Spurgeon.
This year, only two of those prospects returns to the tournament (Bulmer and relative non-factor Josh Caron), but there are still big and interesting names there. The biggest being Mathew Dumba, the 2012 first-round pick Wild fans hope will develop into a big-hitting, offensive dynamo. Johan Gustafsson will be looking to display his game in North America. Erik Haula could continue to make a case for a roster spot (maybe even the second-line center job) with a dominating performance. Zack Phillips, Tyler Graovac, and the aformentioned Bulmer don't likely have a shot at a roster spot out of camp, but all could theoretically make the team at various points throughout the season. Raphael Bussieres is a very intriguing prospect in the Wild system, and Kurtis Gabriel and Dylan Labbe will look to make strong impressions, as members of the most recent draft class.
Keep an eye on this, Wild fans.