TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. The Carolina Hurricanes have been slowly building their prospect pool, stockpiling draft picks to improve the depth of an organization that has been lacking just that for at least a decade.So the Hurricanes’ 6-4 victory over Detroit in Tuesday’s championship game of the annual NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich., is solid proof GM Ron Francis’ plan to build from the ground up is bearing fruit.Carolina went unbeaten in the four games of the tournament, trailing just once in the opener against the Rangers before winning that game in overtime then overpowering the rest of the competition en route to the title. Carolina won the tournament once before, in their first year in Traverse City in 2009.Led by new Charlotte Checkers coach Ulf Samuelsson, the Hurricanes averaged five goals per game with 14 different players (maybe 15? see below) scoring at least once in the tournament and were backstopped in three of the four games by Alex Nedeljkovic. Steven Lorentz, a seventh-round pick in the 2015 Draft who was passed over in his first year of eligibility in 2014, led the team with three goals in the tournament (side note: the official scoring of the tournament can be hit or miss, but one of Lorentz’s goals was on a point shot by Tyler Ganly that Lorentz may or may not have deflected in). Carolina didn’t skip a beat despite missing Sebastian Aho, their top prospect who was playing on the top line for Finland at the World Cup of Hockey, and losing Haydn Fleury in overtime of the opener to a lower body injury. Spencer Smallman, who Hurricanes writer Michael Smith said took a puck in the mouth in Game 2 against the Wild, missed the last two games as well, but both he and Fleury are expected to be ready for the opening of training camp.Both of the Hurricanes’ 2016 first-round picks scored goals in the title game, with Jake Bean notching his only tally of the tournament and Julien Gauthier getting both his Traverse City goals in quick succession, the first shorthanded. Sergey Tolchinsky, in his fourth Traverse City tournament, Valentin Zykov and Andrew Poturalski joined Gauthier and Lorentz as Carolina players with multiple goals over the four-game tournament.The team, captained by defenseman Roland McKeown, was awarded the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup named in honor of the CapGeek.com founder who died in 2015 and heads into training camp with a boost in confidence.
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