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Chicago Blackhawks – Prospects in CHL’s Memorial Cup recap


Chicago, IL — So how have the Chicago Blackhawks prospects done in the CHL Memorial Cup?  Well lets start with Nathan Noel and Matthew Highmore and their Saint John Sea Dogs whose journey has now come to an end.

In a battle of teams that had not won a game between the Sea Dogs and the Seattle Thunderbirds the Sea Dogs dominated in a 7-0 landslide which earned them the right to go to the Memorial Cup Semi Final. Noel had an assist in this game and Highmore ended the game with two apples.

Unfortunately they had to face the fire power of the Erie Otters again and while they had a better game versus the Otters than the 12-5 drubbing they took they none the less were eliminated from the tournament 6-3.

Nathan Noel ended the event with one goal and one assist in four games and Matthew Highmore ended the tourney with three assists. Congrats boys on a great season and being QMJHL Champions.

My overall thoughts on Nathan Noel was that he is all heart. He reminded me of Andrew Shaw, smaller yet plays a physical game especially in the corners and along the boards. Noel is more of a defensive player used on the penalty kill and he was centering the third line for Saint John which is the checking line.

I see him going to the IceHogs and there everyone will love this guy as he projects a team first all the way.

Matthew Highmore was centering the first line and was used on the power play. The thing about Highmore’s game is he is physical and is always by the oppositions net which is always a good thing.

He ended the tournament with a 50% face-off percentage but it was noticeable in the last game against Erie he won almost every face-off in the defensive zone which everyone can use that skill.

I think Highmore will need some seasoning in Rockford but can be an impactful net front presence and power forward if he works on it. He has really good speed which is a huge asset.

The next game was a battle of the unbeaten teams when the Erie Otters took on the host team Windsor Spitfires for the opportunity to get a pass to the Memorial Cup Final.

I was hyped to see this game. I wanted to see how well both Graham Knott and Alex DeBrincat did against a familiar OHL foe that is very good. Now neither player hit the score sheets and the Spitfires totally frustrated the high powered Otters.

The Spitfires totally blanketed the Otters forwards and their goalie was insanely good that night. DeBrincat had a rough game physically as he was targeted for sure. In fact he had to leave at one point but did make it back into the game.

Since we get a rematch of these two teams for the final I am curious to see how DeBrincat will now make adjustments to deal with no space and time and his response. Welcome to the world of Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin.

This is great preparation for the NHL, becauses believe me there will be even less time and space there and the physicality will be even more ramped up and if your lucky enough to make NHL playoffs that is off the charts intensity so best get ready now if you want a championship at the highest level of hockey.

The encouraging thing for Blackhawks fans is it seems that DeBrincat can take the physical play pretty well and even dishes it occasionally. He and the Otters seemed ready for battle when they downed the Sea Dogs 6-3 in the Semi final to punch their ticket to the final.

We all know how talented DeBrincat is offensively but what I’ve been impressed with is his two way game and his defensive responsibility. In fact in this game he managed to clear a puck away from his crease that got past his goalie and was sitting there ripe for the pouncing.

Good on you Alex for being that down low as a forward acting like a defenseman that will endear you to coach Quenneville for sure. It is little things like that the coaches notice and will keep you in Chicago.

DeBrincat is used in all situations but really shines on the power play where they use him in the high slot where he can tip or pass or just let that rocket of a shot he has go. What is very noticeable about DeBrincat is his hand eye coordination is top notch which explains the high slot positioning.

His line with Dylan Strome and Warren Foegele is just fun to watch as they work off each other. This line ended up this game with two goals one each by Strome and Foegle and four assists three of which came from DeBrincat.

Two of his assists were on Taylor Raddysh power play goals and the other apple was on Dylan Strome’s goal. I think it is highly likely that DeBrincat can make the jump straight to the NHL from the CHL.

I will have a more definitive opinion on him after the final and as I stated earlier how he bounces back and responds against a more NHL like defensive structured team with tight checking, blocking shots, great goalie and clogging up of the neutral zone.

The Erie Otters just have so many scoring threats and fire power it’s hard to keep them suppressed for too long. The final should be a good one against Graham Knott’s Spitfires who seemed like the only team that found a formula to slow them down.

Graham Knott is having a good tournament himself. He currently has two goals and one assist in three games played. Knott played in one less game due to their beating the Otters and not having to play a semi-final game.

Knott’s game is pretty simple he is straight up a power forward on the RW. He is big powerful and just a menace in front of the net with his 6’4″ frame. He screens a lot of shots and for that alone he is impactful in games that may not show up on score sheets.

I need to see more of Knott to give an opinion on if he is ready to go straight to the NHL or not. Sunday I will be watching him and DeBrincat closely. The game thankfully will be on NHL Network at 6pm CT. I would recommend tuning in if your interested at all about the future of the Blackhawks.

With the Blackhawks out of the playoff in what seems like an eternity since we saw them, I am so glad that the NHL Network broadcast the Canadian Sportsnet telecast in the United States of this Memorial Cup.

Not just because I’m not that interest in the NHL playoffs but because it gives us in the States a chance to see the CHL prospects for our teams that we don’t normally get a chance to see. I don’t recall the NHL Network ever broadcasting this before. We can see players on NCAA teams but not generally the CHL.

I’m sure I am not the only one who can’t travel to Erie, PA or Saint John or Windsor although I’m sure those are grand destinations work always seems to get in the way. So thank you NHL Network and Sportsnet so we can get to see these incredibly talented young men continue their journeys to making their NHL teams.

To all the Chicago Blackhawk prospects Good Luck! Those remaining in the tournament and those out we look forward to seeing you either in Rockford or Chicago hopefully.

I will do a final wrap up blog after Sunday’s game to put a bow on this tournament and give a final opinion on DeBrincat and Knott’s game and how they will transition to the NHL and some hidden gems that I spotted that maybe teams should consider drafting this June.

One thing we do know is that one of the Chicago Blackhawks prospects will be a Memorial Cup Champion what an accomplishment.

 

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Chicago Blackhawks prospects in CHL Memorial Cup how are they doing so far?


Chicago, IL — Catching up on the events of the Memorial Cup games three and four, game three saw Graham Knott and his Windsor Spitfires down the Seattle Thunderbirds in a 7-1 Route.

Knott had himself a game. He ended up with 2G, 1A and 5SOG now that is establishing your presence in a game. Knott also has some very good line mates in Logan Brown (Ottawa Senators prospect) and Jeremy Bracco (Toronto Maple Leafs prospect).

Knott’s assist came on a goal by Bracco so to say this line can wreck havoc is an understatement. Knott was named second star of the game as his line mate Logan Brown was first star.

Bracco had 1G,1a and Brown had 1G,2A along with Knotts tallies the line ended up with 4G, 4A. I’d say they had themselves a game.

This line maybe the only one who can give the Erie Otters some trouble who they will be playing against on Wednesday.

Both the Spitfires and Otters are currently undefeated in this tournament so Wednesday’s tilt will be a good one to say the least and could be the decider of who wins the entire tournament.

As I have state before Knott is a power forward. He is big, physical yet skilled. He always seems to go to the net. I can’t wait to see how his line does against the Otters and their stellar defense.

Ah Alex DeBrincat and his Erie Otters what is there to say. The Otters are a well run team both offensively and defensively these kids are really good and fun to watch. They set up plays like a pro team. In fact I’d venture to say they may play as well if not better than some pro teams.

In game four they took on Matthew Highmore and Nathan Noel’s St. John Sea Dogs but this game was finished almost as soon as it started with the Otters thrashing the Sea Dogs 12-5.

It was hard to notice anyone other the DeBrincat and his Otter team. His line mate Dylan Strome (Az Coyotes prospect) set a record for most points in a game with seven 4G,3A. DeBrincat had an assist on three of his goals and tallied a goal of his own for a four point night.

All year long these two along with either Taylor Raddysh or Warren Foegele have just been amazing. I can’t say enough about DeBrincat his shot is heavy and accurate but maybe his passing is even prettier than his shot.

There was a play in particular where he set up Strome on a rush up the ice I swear it looked like Panarin to Kane or Kane to Panarin it was that pretty.

Chicago get ready, not to put pressure on this kid but I can foresee him coming straight to the Blackhawks or if he is in Rockford it will not be long.

His scoring instincts are unreal he is always in an area to score or set up his line mates. Now this isn’t NHL defenders he’s playing against but I’m excited to see his development.

DeBrincat also plays on special teams both power play at the point and on the penalty kill which is great because it is rounding out his game early.

His defensive awareness if high end and his stick work is NHL ready he may just need some strengthening in the wrists but we will have to see.

The goal DeBrincat scored was a blast from the high slot that was accurate because he looked liked he was just trying to get the whistle to blow as there was a delayed penalty call coming and the Otters were already on the PP so he wanted to get a two man advantage.

I guess when you are hot and a goal scorer everything just goes in.

So far in this tournament DeBrincat is third in points, assists, goals and first in power play goals. Now that is production.

Graham Knott is third in power play goals, first goals and plus minus. Again we can see the balance in Knott’s game.

Tonight the St. John Sea Dogs and Highmore and Noel play against the Seattle Thunderbirds and both teams are desperate so this should be a good tilt.

The one to really watch though is Wednesday when the Otters take on the Spitfires in an OHL showdown. I’d say though if you can tune in to all these games.

Good Luck to all the Blackhawks prospects in their games.

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Chicago Blackhawks – Game two of CHL Memorial Cup Alex DeBrincat and Otters win 4-2


Chicago, IL — The CHL’s Memorial Cup round robin tournament continued Saturday with its second game between OHL Champion Erie Otters featuring the Chicago Blackhawks 2016 2nd round pick Alex DeBrincat against WHL Champions Seattle Thunderbirds.

I have listened to the Otters games on the radio both in the regular season and their playoff because of DeBrincat but to say I was excited to see him play was an understatement.

Alex had a goal and assist in the game and was named first star of the game. What really impressed me though was when he had to back pedal to catch a defender when Erie was on the power play and they poked the puck to center he was fleet a foot enough to tie up the opponent and never really let him get a shot off. Now that son will endear you to Coach Quenneville. He loves his players to be defensively responsible.

The other thing that was very noticeable is DeBrincat is equally adept at passing as he is scoring. He has good on ice vision and really good hockey sense. He actually is good without the puck too.

DeBrincat’s shot though is a snipe he has a quick hard release that is NHL ready. He gets to the tough areas of the ice and doesn’t back down from physical play at all.

Now he won’t get that kind of time in the slot in the NHL but when you can score goals from anywhere and are a danger every time your on the ice some time your bound to get open.

His goal was a pure goal scorers goal. The hand eye coordination is unreal. He was at a bad angle with a knuckling puck but got enough on it with power to get it past the Thunderbirds goalie.

His assist was with his usual line mates Dylan Strome and Taylor Raddysh with DeBrincat getting the secondary assist. These guys just work together so well. In fact the entire Erie Otters teams is so well ran they are a well oiled machine.

DeBrincat and the Otters next take on St. John Sea Dogs on Monday night which should be a blast as St. John has two more prospects in Matthew Highmore and Nathan Noel. So this should be fun to watch how all the guys do.

Good Luck to al.

Tonight Graham Knott of the Windsor Spitfires takes on these Seattle Thunderbirds. Tune into NHL Network to catch Graham Knott.

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks prospects in CHL’s Memorial Cup


Chicago, IL –Yesterday the Canadian Hockey League’s Memorial Cup tournament got underway with a good match-up for Blackhawks fans. The game between the favorite St. John Sea Dogs and Windsor Spitfires featured three Hawks prospects.

For the Sea Dogs 1st line center Matthew Highmore who the Hawks recently signed as a free agent and third line center Nathan Noel were featured. On the opposing Spitfires side was 2015 2nd round draft pick Graham Knott.

I have to admit I really enjoyed this game. Thank you NHL Network for showing the Canadian Sportsnet feed.  I wasn’t the only one enjoying the game in the house was Connor McDavid. McDavid the former Erie Otter seemed to enjoy the game.

This was the first time I actually got to see Highmore and Noel and let me just say I was impressed with these kids speed and two-way play.  I can’t wait to see them live.  Highmore controls the play well in the offensive zone but what really impressed me was he was very defensively responsible.

He had a glorious opportunity where he stole the puck from a defender in the offensive zone and took it to the net he just could not get it past the goalie. He also had another chance put couldn’t get the puck under control and missed a wide open net that would’ve tied the game.

Highmore went 13 or 24 in the face-off circle which anytime your over 50% you’re doing pretty well.

Nathan Noel oh my that boy is fierce he is a human fireball. He reminded me of Andrew Shaw how he battled along the boards and he has no regard for his body as he flings it into the boards and opposition.

This kid has speed to burn as well. He is fast and all over the ice. Like Highmore he is also a very good two-way player which coach Quenneville will be thrilled with. What the Blackhawks will like as well is Noel can play both sides of special teams penalty kill as well as power play.

He also scored a goal on the power play from about 25 ft. out. Noel is more of a set up man as you can tell his passing and on ice vision are very good for a young player.

Noel also did very well in the face-off circles he went a remarkable 10 for 13 or 73% Yeah alrighty kid you keep doing that I bet you will see ice-time in the NHL.

Now the host Windsor Spitfires pretty much dominated the game and ended up winning 3-2 as they survived the Sea Dogs late game heroics. Graham Knott gave me the best laugh of the game.

He snuck up on the Sea Dogs on ice huddle to hear what they were saying late in the game much to the displeasure of the Sea Dogs. Oh Graham you are special I see HA.

Seriously Graham Knott is a power forward in every sense of the words. He is big, strong and does skate with a powerful stride. He has a very long reach and uses his long reach well to dig out pucks in the boards.

He likes to get to the middle of the ice slot area, smart guy. He plays very physically and is like a one man wrecking ball. He has the type of size that again the Hawks are sorely lacking.

All in all I thought all of the Blackhawks prospects were very good and very involved in plays and noticeable on the ice. If you get a chance to tune into these games I would suggest doing so as this is the future of the Hawks.

Tomorrow I will have another recap on the Erie Otters game which is currently going on against the Seattle Thunderbirds. Alex DeBrincat already has a goal in the game. I will also finish up the IIHF Men’s Worlds with Artemi Panarin of Russia going for Bronze and Marcus Kruger of Sweden going for Gold.

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – IIHF Men’s World Championships Quarterfinals


Chicago, IL –Finally the tournament got to the secondary rounds and on this day it did not do well for Team USA who got shut out by Team Finland 2-0 and were thus eliminated from the tournament after winning top spot in group A.

You’d have to say that was a fail but give Team Finland credit. Not sure if Team USA was over confident after defeating Team Russia or they just had a bad day.

Our Blackhawks ended their tourney with Nick Schmaltz having 3 assists in total in six games played as he missed one day due to injury. Trevor Van Riemsdyk did not have the best of outings as he saw his minutes diminished as the tournament went on.

Still for both it was a good developmental experience. The one thing that stood out to me was Schmaltz needs to shoot more and just keep working on getting stronger. TVR maybe work on foot speed and skating. Good job guys representing hope you enjoyed your time in Cologne. See you at the convention I hope.

So Finland moves onto play Team Sweden who defeated Team Switzerland 3-1. So we have the classic rivalry once again renewed with Finland against Sweden.

Marcus Kruger did not hit the score sheet for Sweden but as I’ve said before Sweden does not really need him to. Sweden will probably be the favorite but you can never discount the Finns as Team USA just found out.

Team Russia faced Team Czech Republic and defeated them 3-0 in another showcase of their firepower.

The Czech team actually started off well and seemed to employ the USA model for playing in the Russian zone but the Russian team is so skilled and with their quick strike and fast transition game it proved to be too much for Team Czech Republic.

With Team Czech Republic now eliminated from the tournament Michal Kempny ended the event with 2G and 1A in seven games. All in all I thought he was solid and jumped into plays in the offensive zone throughout the tournament. I see a progression in his overall game from when he first came to the Hawks.

I sincerely hope he does get re-signed by the Hawks. To let him go would be a mistake in my opinion. He brings a physicality which the Hawks lack on the back end and he is pretty good on the power play as well. Good tournament Mr. Kempny.

Ah now onto Team Russia and our Breadman. Artemi Panarin was again placed on the third line with Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov and Vladislov Namestnikov until Namestnikov left the game when he blocked a shot on the penalty kill. He was replaced by Evgeni Kuznetsov for the remainder of the game.

Russia struck fast on a breakaway goal by Gusev and then a power play goal by Kucherov. As I said it doesn’t take much for Team Russia to make you pay.

Panarin had some great chances in the second and third periods after going shotless in the first period.

In the second period he was robbed by the Czech goalie on his patented one timer and then he had rush up ice but hit the post so nothing for Artemi.

The third period saw him have another glorious chance on a breakaway but he couldn’t get control of the puck and missed the net. After these prime opportunities that he missed you could tell he was getting frustrated.

His talent though is just too much to keep suppressed for too long. He finally broke through with a goal on a beautiful 2 on 1 with Kucherov who set him up perfectly and pretty much sealed Russia’s ticket to the Semi Final round.

Panarin still leads all scorers with 14 points now followed by his current linemate Kucherov with 13 points. Artemi ended the game with 1 goal on 4 SOG and 17 + minutes of ice time.

After the game there was an interview with Russian media where you can see Panarin is very hard on himself for missing those opportunities. That’s ok Artemi it just shows us you are human.

Here is the link to the article by Russian hockey: http://fhr.ru/en/main/ofnews/card/?id_4=13661

He and Team Russia will now face Team Canada who defeated host Germany in a 2-1 win to set up another classic semi-final game. All the semi final games will not be played until Saturday so the teams can recoup and get ready for the next opponent.

I’ve got to say I have thoroughly enjoyed this tournament. For Team Russia to defeat Team Canada they will need to clean up their stick infractions and maybe cut down on over passing and tighten their defense in their own zone and they should be fine.

A few observations is that there is a lot of talent overseas and particularly watching Team Russia there are two that really stood out to me Sergei Andronov and Alexander Barabanov, who reminds me of a junior Panarin and he also plays on the PK. Now I have no idea if they want to come to the NHL but there is plenty of talent there and in the KHL.

Also on smaller hockey countries like Switzerland, Latvia, Germany ect.. there is plenty of talent and skill there you just might need to develop it for the NHL a bit.

Speaking of developing talent it was announced that the head coach for the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs was hired. Jeremy Colliton who is coming fresh off of a coaching gig in Sweden. So there is talent even off the ice abroad.

I will be blogging on this in more detail later and what it means to the Blackhawks organization from a big picture perspective.

I’m glad this tournament does not play on Friday as the CHL Memorial Cup Tournament is starting on Friday with the St. John Sea Dogs taking on the Windsor Spitfires.

So Hawks fans tune in to see some Hawks prospects Matthew Highmore and Nathan Noel for the Sea Dogs and Graham Knott for the Spitfires. If you can’t I will try to cover in this blog.

Good Luck to all our Blackhawks and Blackhawks prospects aboard and here in North America.

Video taken from YouTube – IIHF

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – CHL Championship help could be on the way


Chicago, IL — We are only in mid-May and the Chicago Blackhawks should still be playing right?

Well they are not so this Blackhawks fan’s attention has been focused on the IIHF Men’s Worlds where if you follow this blog at all you know I’m keeping track of our Hawks and how they are doing abroad.

Let us not forget though we have potential future Blackhawks right here still playing in North America.

In fact there are two teams that have earned championships one in the OHL with the Erie Otters and one in the QMJHL with the St. John’s Sea Dogs. Both of these teams will be competing in the Memorial Cup which is scheduled to start this Friday the 19th in Windsor.

Now I have to admit I did not follow the St. John’s Sea Dogs much this year but they do have two Hawks’ prospects Matthew Highmore and Nathan Noel who have just won the President’s Cup in the QMJHL.

They now have the opportunity to play for the CHL’s highest honor to be a champion amongst champions if they can win the Memorial Cup.

Matthew Highmore was signed by the Blackhawks this past March as a unsigned player. Highmore led his team in scoring during the regular season with 34 G, 55A in 64 games played. In the playoff he was second on his team in scoring with 6G, 18A in 18 games played. Now you can see why the Blackhawks were interested in getting this kid in the fold.

Nathan Noel was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2016 4th round. He missed several games this year due to injury but still had amassed good numbers with 24G, 26A in 52 regular season games and in the playoffs he had 2G, 7A in 18 games on the way to picking up the QMJHL championship. Congratulations to both Highmore and Noel on the QMJHL Championship.

Both Highmore and Noel play center and are fast a foot and skilled players. You can catch them in the first game of the Memorial Cup round robin tournament on NHL Network this Friday 5/19 when they take on the Windsor Spitfires who also have a Hawks prospect Graham Knott.

Alex DeBrincat if you have not heard of this name where have you been hiding? DeBrincat and his Erie Otters just won the OHL championship J. Ross Robertson Cup. Congrats to the Erie Otters and Alex well done.

 

I managed to listen to some of the Otters games both regular season and playoffs and let me say this team was very entertaining.

DeBrincat was on a line with some familiar names like Dylan Strome (prospect of AZ Coyotes) and Taylor Raddysh (prospect of Tampa Bay Lightning) and what a dynamic line they were all year long.

I was really upset when DeBrincat was not selected for Team USA in the world juniors but you know what maybe everything works out for the best. If this helped fire Alex it was all worth it.

He ended up winning the Red Tilson Trophy that is awarded the OHL’s most outstanding player. Now that is something even Mr. Patrick Kane didn’t do, so yeah this kid is good.

Don’t worry Alex we want you here in Chicago on that you can be sure. With a Hawks scoring shortage in the playoffs this past year I can almost guarantee he will get a long hard look and top six minutes to start off in training camp.

I can already foresee him on a line with Jonathan Toews after all he did some damage with Strome oh and that McDavid guy as his center so I’m sure he will be able to do something with Captain Serious.

Here is his OHL records and as hard as it is to believe he actually improved this year. Thx again team USA for firing him up.

Regular season and playoffs

Regular season Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2014–15 Erie Otters OHL 68 51 53 104 73 20 9 7 16 26
2015–16 Erie Otters OHL 60 51 50 101 28 13 8 11 19 13
2016–17 Erie Otters OHL 63 65 62 127 49 18 9 22 31 10
OHL totals 191 167 165 332 150 51 26 40 66 49

 

Will there be plenty of work on his part yes and I believe DeBrincat is a RW and that first line needs a LW but I’m sure DeBrincat can make the switch if need be he is a right shot. He does play more of a straight to the net type of game which would fit well with 19 and he does not back down hmm kind of sounds like 19.

He is more of a goal scorer and a battler at the net which to me sounds tailor made for what the Hawks were lacking this year. Only time will tell though if he can make the jump to the NHL seamlessly.

DeBrincat has worked on his two way play and speed in his game. I would say continue that if you want to play for Quenneville you have to be defensively responsible and a 200 ft player and work on winning board battles.

DeBrincat’s Erie Otter numbers were just sick he ended the regular season with 127 points in 63 games with 65G, 62A. these numbers are Patrick Kane ballpark numbers. He led his team in scoring both in the regular season and playoffs.

When Kane played for the OHL’s London Knights he ended the regular season with 145 points in 58 games (62G, 83A). Yes folks that is why he is Patrick Kane and he didn’t win the Red Tilson Trophy.

What is great about all of these prospects playing for championships is learning how to win and what it takes regardless of level. The competitive spirit is something you may have but it still needs to be honed in pressure situations and these guys are learning now which will only serve them come the next levels.

Alex DeBrincat and the Erie Otters will play next Saturday 5/20 against the WHL champion which is still to be decided. This will be broadcast on NHL Network or if you don’t have NHL Network tune into stream for Erie Otters radio. I guarantee you will like it.

If you want to catch the Memorial Cup here is the schedule and times – http://mastercardmemorialcup.ca/article/2017-mastercard-memorial-cup-schedule-and-game-times

The entire tournament runs from May 19 to the 28. I should say if you get a chance tune into these games. These kids are really good it’s scary it looks like you are watching NHL teams. I’ll be tuning in to see what our baby Hawks do.

Good Luck to all the Blackhawks prospects going for the Memorial Cup!

Video taken from YouTube

Stats taken from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_DeBrincat

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