By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
The Central Division and three Alexandria Blizzard players came back from the North American Hockey League’s Top Prospects tournament in Massachusetts with a championship earlier this week.
The Blizzard’s Paul LaDue, Tyler Swanson and Alex Altenbernd capped off the three-day event with a 2-1 record. They were a part of Team Weight, which finished off the tournament with a 7-2 win over Nardo Nagtzaam and Team Legwand. That gave Team Weight the title, based on a plus-eight goal differential tiebreaker after three teams finished with 2-1 records.
It was an opportunity for many of the top prospects in the NAHL to showcase their talents in front of an important audience. Many college scouts took in the tournament out east, trying to identify the players who can help their team in the future.
“There were a lot of scouts there,” Blizzard head coach and one of two Team Weight coaches Doc DelCastillo said. “That’s a real positive thing, and our division did well. We won the tournament, which was kind of fun. Our guys that represented the Blizzard did extremely well. I had a lot of positive comments from scouts.”
LaDue and Swanson, both defensemen, skated right with many of the top forwards in the league throughout the tournament. LaDue picked up an assist in his team’s 7-2 win on Tuesday.
Altenbernd and Nagtzaam, who played with Team Legwand after being a late addition to the event, both put up points. Altenbernd capped off the event with three assists on Tuesday, while Nagtzaam finished with one goal in his team’s 9-4 loss on Monday.
“I thought [they all] played really well,” DelCastillo said. “Paul LaDue, as a defenseman and for his age, he did really well. I had some comments from some college guys about him. Swanson did really well. [Altenbernd] had a really good weekend, and Nardo wasn’t on our team, but I was able to watch some from the stands and I know he was productive…It’s rewarding for those guys. I know they’re good players, and they got the opportunity to showcase themselves and did well.”
The challenge now is to keep performing at a high level with Alexandria. Many of the scouts who were interested in the Blizzard players will continue to keep stock of how they do throughout the season. How much recognition they continue to get may hinge on the team’s performance as the Blizzard try to climb the division standings in the second half of the season.
“I think it’s good recognition,” DelCastillo said. “[College scouts] see some players they like and they want more information and hopefully in the second half of the season, they are coming back out. It’s good for our players.
“It’s disappointing because of course, I look at my team, and I think there’s probably four or five other guys who are deserving to go to an event like that and didn’t get the opportunity. But a lot of that depends on how we’re doing. We need to make a push here as a team.”