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By Sam Yoder
Chicago Blackhawks Writer
On September 24th 2016 the Chicago Blackhawks held their 8th annual training camp festival. This is the main event of the training festival and features a “Red vs White” scrimmage of prospects and current NHL players. The roster for this year’s game included well known Blackhawks players such as Brent Seabrook, Scott Darling, Andrew Desjardins, and Michal Rozsival, alongside top tier prospects such as Alexander DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz, and Mark McNeill. The format for the event is a regulation NHL game followed by a 10 minute 3v3 fourth period, with players approximately evenly split between the two teams. After attending the event a few people players stood out, and I will mention a few of them here.
Firstly, 22 year old center Vincent Hinostroza should be relatively well known to most avid Blackhawks fans after playing his first 7 games last season, and he stood out for team Red after scoring two goals in the 3v3 period, both of which were after some impressive personal efforts in the slot. He was defensively and offensively responsible all game, and was consistently in the right place, doing the right things, with and without the puck. If he gets the chance I can see him slotting in on the third line as a real depth contributor this season, most likely on the wing instead of down the middle.
Another young player I was happily surprised by was 2016 second round draft pick Alexander DeBrincat. He is generously listed at 5’7” and in the thick of it he does look small compared to the other players. You quickly forget this as you watch him weave through defensemen and work his way towards the net. He plays a fearless brand of hockey around the net, and if he grows an inch or two and puts a few pounds on he will be a rock solid prospect, and don’t forget he is only 18!
Another player with a lot to prove is Richard Panik. The first line left wing role is still very much open to all comers and Panik seems to be one of the best options. He might not bring the same amount of pure talent as previous Blackhawks players such as Sharp and Saad, but he is absolutely relentless, and can snipe a shot from time to time. His ability to both cause and pounce on turnovers impressed me a lot last year, and his performance in this game was a great illustration of this. I think he would be a great compliment to Jonathan Toews up front, and I think it would be a shame if he doesn’t get the chance.
Lastly I must mention a player who stood out to me in a negative way. Jordin Tootoo was recently signed by the Blackhawks to fill a hole which doesn’t exist. There are plenty of tough players on this team, and there isn’t room for a player who’s main method of contribution is simply being a rough and tumble guy who hits everything who moves (especially on a team that already has 6’4”, 220lbs Brandon Mashinter on an incredibly budget friendly $0.575M contract). In contrast to the aforementioned players he was consistently out of position, he constantly dropped passes and gave the puck away, and the rare times he actually was in position to take a shot they tended to end up high and wide. I appreciate the idea of having a veteran presence on a progressively younger team, but if his most impressive stat is his ability to consistently amass 100+ penalty minutes a season, I think he might be better served in the press box, letting some “kids” have their shot at the big time.