When Connor Hall was taken in the third round by the Pittsburgh Penguins in this past year’s draft, his selection raised some eyebrows.
Nobody felt that Hall was a bad prospect by any stretch of the imagination, but his rough and tumble style seemed more appropriate for a late-round pick in many pundits eyes. Hall insisted to beat reporters attending the draft, “I can do more than just hit.”
He certainly showed that on Saturday in the final day of development camp, raising eyebrows once again, but this time with skill and scoring ability. The defenseman took center stage for Team EJ as they went on to win the camp’s three-on-three tournament.
“I’m not really labeled as an offensive defenseman,” Hall said with a smile after the tournament was over.”But I do think I have some offensive upside to my game. I’m just trying to work on that part of my game, but it kind of all came together today.”
Hall showed off the mobility that Penguins scouts have been raving about to score twice in regulation and then the shootout game-winner in Team EJ’s upset of Jake Guentzel and Team Badger to qualify for the championship game. In the title match, Hall was held off the scoresheet and hit the post twice, once on a clean breakaway.
Opening the scoring for Team EJ in the final against Team Patrick was free agent acquisition Lukas Bengtsson. The 22-year-old blue liner didn’t get to play much three-on-three in the Swedish Hockey League, so he was left impressed by the pace of play.
“It’s special,” Bengtsson said. “There’s a lot of space and a lot of turnarounds. It’s fast paced… It’s a fun game for the crowd, too. There’s many chances, back-and-forth, maybe not too much fun if you’re skating all the time, but we had a good time.”
Team EJ’s lead was extended to 2-0 on the eventual game-winner courtesy of C.J. Yakimowicz. The Kingston native broke free and sent the water bottle atop Cam Johnson’s net into orbit with an elevated backhand shot.
Team EJ would add one more goal before Teddy Blueger spoiled Sean Maguire’s shutout with less than 25 seconds left in the game.
- Though he was on the losing side of the title game, Ethan Prow may have been the most impressive player in the tournament not named Connor Hall.
- Bengtsson has made it very clear that he intends on doing everything he can to make Pittsburgh’s team out of camp, but based on all the free agency signings the Penguins made yesterday at the start of NHL free agency, he’ll be facing an uphill battle. The shifty Swede could strut his stuff in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before realizing his NHL dreams.
- Here are the full three-on-three tournament rosters, for those interested in seeing the team make-ups:
TEAM EJ – (D) Lukas Bengtsson, (F) Blaine Byron, (D) Connor Hall, (G) Sean Maguire, (F) Austin Ortega, (F) Nikita Pavlychev, (F) Gage Quinney, (F) C.J. Yakimowicz
TEAM PATRICK – (F) Teddy Blueger, (F) Reid Gardiner, (D) Neal Goff, (F) Christian Hilbrich, (G) Cam Johnson, (D) Matt Petgrave, (D) Ethan Prow, (F) Freddie Tiffels
TEAM BADGER – (D) Niclas Almari, (F) Anthony Angello, (F) Jake Guentzel, (G) Filip Gustavsson, (D) Cameron Hebig, (F) Troy Josephs, (F) Conor Lemirande, (D) Joseph Masonius, (D) Robert Michel
TEAM BOWMAN – (D) Dane Birks, (G) Tristan Jarry, (F) Tyler Kelleher, (F) Sam Lafferty, (F) Austin Lemieux, (F) James McEwan, (D) Jeff Taylor, (D) Michael Webster, (D) Dylan Zink