The Alexandria Blizzard will be well represented at the North American Hockey League’s Top Prospects Tournament in Walpole, Mass. from December 5-7.
Forwards Nardo Nagtzaam and Alex Altenbernd, along with defensemen Paul LaDue and Tyler Swanson, will have an opportunity to impress a number of college and professional scouts at the event. The tournament is a three-day, round robin, featuring four teams comprised of the top committed and uncommitted college prospects in the NAHL. Blizzard head coach Doc DelCastillo will also be at the tournament as one of the head coaches for Team Weight.
It is the first in what will be two top prospects tournaments in the NAHL this season. The second will come later this winter in Michigan. This weekend’s event is the first time the tournament has been held out east.
“I think it’s a good opportunity,” DelCastillo said. “I honestly don’t know, though. It’s dictated on how many scouts go to it. I know there are some guys in the west that are not going just because it’s in Boston, although, I would think there would be quite a few eastern schools that are going to go. Any time you put an all-star game together, it should be a good opportunity for the players.”
Three of the four Alexandria players are still searching for Division I scholarship offers. Nagtzaam recently signed his intent to play for Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania next season.
He and Altenbernd are two of the top three scorers for the Blizzard. The two have combined for 52 points through the first 21 games. LaDue, who was recently named to the NHL Central Scouting Bureau “Players to Watch” list for the 2011 NHL draft, and Swanson help anchor the blue line for Alexandria.
“I think they are very deserving,” DelCastillo said of his four players going to the tournament. “Tyler Swanson has been a two-time captain for us. He’s our leader in the locker room, and it’s nice to see him get recognized. I think Alex is kind of floating under the radar screen a little bit. I think some colleges are going to see him and see how he skates and his skill level and be blown away a little bit.”
“Nardo is Nardo. He’s got a scholarship, but hopefully he can show what he can do. When he’s on, he’s one of the better players in our league. Paul LaDue is in a different situation. He’s a senior in high school. The NHL has recognized him as a prospect in our league, and it gives him an opportunity to showcase himself.”
As a former college coach, DelCastillo knows how important it is that the players do not try to do too much at events like this.
“As a college scout, when I was there, you’re not necessarily going and finding the best players,” he said. “It is finding the best fit for what you need for your team. So these players need to showcase what they can do and hopefully somebody finds a good fit for them on their team.”
LaDue, Altenbernd and Swanson will all play on team Weight under DelCastillo and Coulee Region head coach Garrett Strot. Nagtzaam was a late addition to the tournament and will play for Team Legwand. The four teams are named after Ryan Miller, Brian Rafalski, David Legwand and Doug Weight. All four played in the NAHL and are currently playing in the NHL.