Training camp opens on Friday for the Rangers, but a few of the young prospects who are expected to get a long look by the coaching staff got the chance to make an early impression on the organization’s higher ups by taking part in the Traverse City, Mich. prospects tournament over the weekend.
Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, who are expected to make the NHL roster on opening night, are in Traverse City, as are European free agents Michael Lindqvist and Ville Meskanen, and top defense prospects Libor Hajek and Ryan Lindgren. Also in Traverse City is 20-year-old center Brett Howden, a 6-3, 200-pound former first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning whom the Rangers acquired when they dealt Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller at last season’s trade deadline.
“I’m excited to kind of show what I’m about,’’ Howden said of playing in Traverse City. “Being with the development camp (in June), they got to see a little bit of what I am, but I feel like in a game, we’ll be able to express more of what all of us players are about.’’
Howden made a favorable impression in the opening game of the tournament, picking up two assists in the Rangers’ prospects 7-5 loss to Dallas. Entering his first year of professional hockey, Howden, who had 24 goals and 75 points in 49 games last season with Moose Jaw of the WHL, believes he has a legitimate chance to make the Rangers’ opening night roster.
“Absolutely,’’ he said. “I think that’s what everyone’s got to think, going into camp. You’ve got to think that you have a chance to make it, and that’s why everyone’s here. I’m coming in thinking the same thing and just taking it step by step, taking it day by day.’’
The odds would seem to be against him, with the center position already occupied by Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, Andersson and Chytil, plus the likes of Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov, who are also centers but are most likely going to play the wing. But Howden isn’t focusing on who his competition is in camp. Instead, he’s just worried about making sure he’s doing what he does and doing it well.
“Obviously, I’ve just got to show what I can do, and show my game, and do whatever I can to the best of my ability and let everything take care of itself,’’ he said. “I can’t control what (the coaches) do, or what they say, or how they think. I just can control what I can control on the ice and off the ice and that’s what I’m going to try and do.’’