The CHL Top Prospects Game and AHL All-Star weekend are both in the rearview mirror for the season, while the Beanpot tournament in Boston is now half-over. Boston College and Boston U. will duel for the city’s trophy, with Northeastern and Harvard in the consolation game. In other development news, the Los Angeles Kings have partnered with the United States League to put on a Pacific Region Showcase at the NHL team’s practice facility in El Segundo. It takes place in late March and will feature players from the 2000, 2001 and 2002 age groups. These are exciting times for the growth of the game. Let’s get caught up in the world of prospects.
Alex DeBrincat, RW – Erie Otters (OHL): At some point, you have to stop believing that DeBrincat has “lucked out” with his linemates and accept that there’s a reason coaches always stick him with top guys. The 5-foot-7 sniper has played with Connor McDavid, Dylan Strome and Auston Matthews and it’s because he can find space, wire the puck and thrive with elite players – not everyone can. DeBrincat is well on his way to another 50-goal season and the 2016 draft prospect is doing so with an entirely different type of center.
“I’ve had to adjust, but it’s easy playing with those types of guys,” he said. “Connor is so fast and does everything with speed, while Dylan likes to slow the game down and play at his own pace. They’re both so good.”
DeBrincat had a less-than-ideal world juniors for Team USA, but he’s not getting down about it. After starting with Matthews as his center, he was ejected from his first game (against Strome and Canada) for a spear, then hurt in his second appearance, versus Sweden. When he returned, he was an extra forward, though coach Ron Wilson praised the right winger for being a pro about it.
“It didn’t really go my way, but no one has a perfect career,” DeBrincat said. “You have to face some adversity and it will make me better in the long run.”
And hey, he still won a bronze medal. Next up? Shooting for that elusive OHL title, which the Otters fell just short of last year with McDavid in charge. The Western Conference is murderous once again, but Erie has the firepower and the will. For DeBrincat, evening out his game is a mission.
“I’m still trying to improve on my defensive game,” he said. “Sometimes I cheat the zone a little bit, but that’s something I’ve really been working on.”
In the meantime, he can continue to do good by keeping his perch as one of the league’s top scorers. That’s something for enemy defenders to work on (and good luck with that).
In the Pipeline
Teddy Blueger, C (Pittsburgh): Blueger’s Minnesota State-Mankato squad upended the University of Minnesota on the weekend with the gritty, two-way center getting points on all three goals in the 3-2 triumph. That gave the Mavs third place in the North Star Cup, won by St. Cloud State, who beat Bemidji State in the final.
Nicolas Roy, C (Carolina): Skating concerns tanked Roy’s draft standing last summer, but the Chicoutimi Sagueneens pivot is getting revenge in the best way possible. The 6-foot-4 faceoff ace rang up 18 points in 10 games to earn third star of the month honors in the ‘Q.’ Not bad for a fourth-rounder.
Ian McCoshen, D (Florida): An excellent two-way defender who is likely in his last year with Boston College, McCoshen helped the Eagles past Harvard with assists on the game-tying and game-winning goals.
Nick Ritchie, LW (Anaheim): Though many of the top scorers at the AHL All-Star Game (or games, as it would be, since they also did a 3-on-3 tourney) were veterans, Ritchie did his part for the Pacific with three points in three nine-minute games. The San Diego Gulls power forward has 26 points in 30 regular season outings.
Pascal Laberge, C – Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL): The star of the CHL Top Prospects Game, along with linemate Pierre-Luc Dubois, Laberge notched two goals and three points for MVP honors. Back home with the Tigres, Laberge is quick and deadly on open ice, but also has a feisty edge to his game.
Charlie McAvoy, D – Boston University Terriers (Hockey East): Scouts love the risk-taking of McAvoy, especially because his gambles usually pay off. The confident and mobile defender had the game-winning goal in the Terriers’ 3-1 Beanpot win over Northeastern.
Kale Clague, D – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): The Wheaties are starting to roll the way we thought they would this season and Clague is rebounding from a tough start to his draft year. The two-way defender now has four points in his past three games. Smart and competitive, Clague just needs to get stronger.
Shane Bowers, C – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL): Despite being one of the youngest players in the league, Bowers is a top-10 rookie scorer. A recent hot streak has earned the 16-year-old four points in three games. Bowers is a skilled and dynamic player who elevates the play of those around him.
Jonah Gadjovich, LW – Owen Sound Attack (OHL): You can already tell that Gadjovich is going to be trouble next year. The OHL player of the week is first on the puck, goes to the tough areas and doesn’t leave until the puck is in the net (or the whistle blows). Gadjovich tallied six points in two games to earn his league-wide honor.