TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Chicago Blackhawks defensive prospect Luc Snuggerud put together the most impressive individual performance of the NHL Prospects Tournament on Monday, leading his team to a 9-2 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Snuggerud had a pair of goals and three assists as Chicago advanced to Tuesday’s championship game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Carolina had been one of the most impressive teams through the first two days of the tournament and had outscored its opponents 10-2, but Snuggerud and Chicago systematically picked apart the Hurricanes.
The Blackhawks led 3-0 after the first period. Alex Debrincant scored for the third straight game, Matthew Highmore struck shorthanded and Will Pelletier scored off a pass from Snuggerud.
In the second period, Snuggerud scored on the power play and set up Michael Cramarossa, cancelling out a goal by Hurricanes’ first-round pick Martin Necas. Snuggerud had an assist and scored shorthanded in the third period as Chicago completed the route.
It’s the type of game that should create some excitement for Blackhawks fans. The 21-year-old University of Nebraska-Omaha prospect is still at least two years from being an NHL regular, but he should make an impact with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs this season.
Snuggerud had a 13-game cameo with Rockford last season after his collegiate career came to an end and had five points. He looked composed and comfortable during that stretch, and he said it should lay the ground work for a true rookie season.
The Blue Jackets top prospects, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Vitaly Abramov, may be closer to NHL debuts, but 2016 seventh-round pick Calvin Thurkauf is starting to look like a draft steal for Columbus.
Thurkauf is tied for the tournament lead with six points, all on assists, and several scouts in Traverse City have spoken highly of the Swiss winger, who averaged just under a point per game in the WHL. Thurkauf is going to be a rookie with the Cleveland Monsters in the AHL this season and is going to be a player to watch.
For most of this tournament, Martin Brodeur has paid close attention to the St. Louis Blues prospects.
It makes sense. As the Blues assistant general manager, Brodeur has been closely monitoring the future of the franchise. But on Monday, Brodeur had his attention split as he spent more time watching the Dallas Stars play the Minnesota Wild.
That’s because Brodeur’s son Jeremy was starting for the Stars and stopped 28 shots in a 4-2 loss. Jeremy Brodeur is at the tournament as free agent invite and is hoping to earn a contract (likely a minor-league deal) before NHL training camps start next week.
It’s hard to find a franchise defenseman. This week at Traverse City has only reaffirmed that fact.
A pair of general managers here pointed out that most of the defenders in this tournament will be AHL players or bottom-pairing defenders in the NHL.
“Elite defensemen don’t just show up all the time,” one GM said. “You can see that at this tournament. Some good talent, but this should show you how difficult it is to find that one guy that can redefine a franchise.”