The 2019 NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City is always a good place for draft picks and camp invitees to make a good impression upon their teams. In fact, the Minnesota Wild are a good example of this. For example, a year ago they signed undrafted goaltender Dereck Baribeau from the QMJHL to an entry-level contract after a great performance at the tournament.
The Wild as a team did not perform all that well in the tournament, as they failed to win a single game. However, this does not mean that there weren’t good performances by a few players. So with that in mind, here is a few prospects who stood out from the rest:
Mat Robson (Goaltender)
Mat Robson, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound goaltender was signed out of the University Of Minnesota this past season by the Wild. He played well in his time at the tournament, using his bigger size and hockey sense to make many good stops. One of the things about Robson’s game that has been talked up the most is how well he plays his angles. This might make it seem like he doesn’t make many amazing saves, but that is mostly just due to how good he is at his angles and squaring up to pucks. He showed that skill, along with a good ability to limit rebounds in the tournament, which are all attributes that should translate to professional hockey right away.
William Bitten (Right Wing)
William Bitten, the small but speedy forward, was very noticeable in all of the games he played for the Wild at the tournament, showing off that very quick skating ability which often pushed the pace of the games. While he did not produce much on offense, Bitten was leaving his fingerprints all over the games by competing hard, creating offense with his speed, and demonstrating a solid two-way game. Bitten will once again play for the Iowa Wild this year, looking to build off a very solid 29-point rookie campaign (through 63 games played), and continue his progression toward the NHL. He was probably the best player on the team throughout their four games at the tournament, and he will be a player to watch in the next year.
Dmitry Sokolov (Left Wing)
Dmitry Sokolov is the Russian winger who has always had great goal scoring abilities and a high-end shot that could beat NHL goaltenders. There has never been a doubt about that part of his game. It’s the other things — mediocre skating and conditioning, lack of two-way game, and effort — that have held Sokolov back. While he was not fast by any means, Sokolov’s skating showed a nice improvement in Traverse City. He seemed quicker, and overall more tuned into the game in all areas, which is a great sign. Along with just being in better physical shape, if Sokolov can continue to improve his skating and defensive play, he could be a very useful NHL player for the Wild in the next couple of years.
Nico Sturm (Center)
Nico Sturm, the German-born player, was signed out of Clarkson at the end of this past season as a college free agent by the Wild and appeared in two games for the NHL team at the end of the season. The big center is a great defensive player, with solid offensive skill and is great on face-offs. While offense is likely to not be his trademark in the NHL, he did show a little extra offensive skill in the tournament, along with a solid shot. Obviously, the defensive side of the game and face-offs are where Sturm is at his best, like a slightly less skilled Mikko Koivu, but he should be able to make the transition into a solid NHL player. Sturm will most likely start the season with the Iowa Wild in the AHL, but will be one of the first call-up options in case of injuries.