TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Alex DeBrincat fell to the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft because of his height.
At 5-foot-7, he simply must have been too short to be an impact player in the NHL, right? Wrong.
And DeBrincat is already starting to make that case after leading the Chicago Blackhawks to the championship of the NHL Prospects Tournament here in northern Michigan.
Playing against his peer group — prospects from seven other NHL teams — DeBrincat scored five goals in four games, including the game-winning tally in the overtime of the championship game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
With the scored tied at 2-2 in Tuesday, DeBrincat corralled a hard shot by Luc Snuggerud off the glass, settled the puck, and scored to deliver Chicago’s first championship in the rookie showcase at 1:32 of overtime.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) September 13, 2017
DeBrincat finished as the tournament’s leading goal scorer and could use his Traverse City performance as a spring board into NHL training camp and possibly play for the Blackhawks this season.
He wasn’t the only prospect to impress this weekend, and the following names could also build off a strong showing here.
St. Louis Blues first-round pick Tage Thompson led the tournament with nine points in four games and had a pair of game-winning goals. The big UConn product could be a key on the Blues power play in the not-to-distant future.
Snuggerud not only had the game-winning assist in the championship game, he also had the the most important individual showing of the round-robin games as he led the Blackhawks with five points in a 9-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Snuggerud was one of the top defenders in the tournament, while Blues defender Jake Walman had seven points, and a tournament-best five points on the power play.
The Blue Jackets may have lost in the championship, but Vitaly Abramov was a force throughout the tournament. The Blue Jackets had a massive team with most of the roster 6-foot-3 or taller, but the smaller Abarmov stood out with his shifty play and offensive creativity.
Hurricanes prospect Martin Necas went in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft because of his elite shot and finishing ability. He lived up to expectations with five points in four games.
The Minnesota Wild are looking for a third-line center in training camp, and Joel Eriksson Ek may be ready to fill that spot after his showing in Traverse City. He had four points, and his overall play impressed general manager Chuck Fletcher, who was watching closely all weekend.
Stars prospect Denis Gurianov was a bit of a no-show in the first two games of the tournament, but he turned it on the final two games and scored four goals in his final four periods. That includes a natural hat trick, the only one of the tournament, against the New York Rangers in the seventh-place game.
Robin Press didn’t score any goals for the Blackhawks in the championship showing, but he did have five assists in the tournament and was a key defender late in the championship game.
Finally, Blue Jackets 2017 seventh-round pick Calvin Thurkauf led all prospects with six assists in the tournament.