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News, notes from Traverse City Tournament

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Carolina Hurricanes prospect Sergey Tolchinsky is a big fan of 3-on-3 hockey.

The 5-foot-8, 170-pound wing proved it Saturday when he utilized all the space given in scoring the game-winner 2:56 into overtime to give the Hurricanes a 5-4 victory against the Dallas Stars prospects at the Traverse City Tournament.

"I think 3-on-3 is fun," Tolchinsky, 20, said. "There's a lot of room and you can show your skill. You have more time to think and see the situation. There's a lot of room and you can do whatever you want."

Hurricanes defense prospect Haydn Fleury, a first-round pick (No. 7) in the 2014 NHL Draft, assisted on Tolchinsky's winner. He believes NHL fans will enjoy 3-on-3 hockey.

The NHL will move to 3-on-3 overtime for five minutes this season in an attempt to decrease the number of games that reach the shootout. The overtime format previously had teams play 4-on-4 for five minutes before entering a shootout.

"I think anytime you can get guys like [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin more ice than they already have, I don't think there will be a lot of shootouts," Fleury said. "I think a lot more games will be decided in OT, so it will be exciting."

Mark Morris, coach of Carolina's American Hockey League affiliate in Charlotte, believes the 3-on-3 format will force NHL coaches into tough decisions regarding on-ice personnel.

"Lots of things have yet to be discovered in the way of the 3-on-3 hockey as far as the science behind it," said Morris, who is coaching the Hurricanes prospects in Traverse City. "There's a lot of individual skill and creativity that decides your fate, and our message was to try and create as much crisscrossing as you can. If we do have the puck and someone needed to change, we talked about ragging the puck and buying time for fresh legs to get on the ice.

"There are some things to think about, and as the season goes along I'm sure we'll find more ways and different things that teams are doing to create the end result."

In addition to the 3-on-3 overtime, here are five other storylines that have highlighted the opening two days at the Traverse City prospects tournament:

Bet on Bjorkstrand -- Forward Oliver Bjorkstrand, a third-round pick (No. 89) in the 2013 draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets, is looking to pick up where he left off after being named the Western Hockey League player of the year with the Portland Winterhawks in 2014-15. Bjorkstrand, who scored 63 goals and had 118 points in 59 games last season and led the league with a plus-60 rating, has been playing a top-line role in Traverse City and making the most of his opportunity. He has two goals and a tournament-leading seven points in two games for the Blue Jackets.

Bjorkstrand, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract on Dec. 26, 2013, has been a threat each time he's stepped on the ice.

"I had a good season last year, but now I'm trying to put it behind me now that it's a new season," Bjorkstrand said. "My goal this year is making the team, so I'm trying to work hard and make a good impression in my third year here in Traverse City."

Winging it -- Center Dylan Larkin, a first-round pick (No. 15) in the 2014 draft, is proving to be everything the Detroit Red Wings envisioned. Larkin, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract May 21, is playing top-line center for the Red Wings in the tournament, and through two games, he has two assists and a plus-2 rating. He is tied for the Detroit lead with seven shots on goal.

"I thought Dylan was outstanding," said Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) coach Todd Nelson, who is behind the bench with the Red Wings prospects in Traverse City. "He used his speed and pushed the pace of the game. He was hunting the puck and very noticeable out there. I think he's been our best player on the ice."

Reliable Reilly -- Mike Reilly has looked sharp on the top defensive unit for the Minnesota Wild. Reilly wants to use this opportunity in Traverse City to get loose before the start of training camp. A two-time All-American and finalist for the 2015 Hobey Baker Award at the University of Minnesota, Reilly signed a two-year contract with the Wild on June 26. He had 18 goals and 71 assists in 117 games with the Gophers.

"It's another step in proving to the management and coaches that you can potentially play in the NHL, and I don't know when that will be, but I'm coming in and trying to play my game," Reilly said of the Traverse City Tournament. "I felt pretty good, and it was nice to knock off the rust too. This tournament is a good tuneup before main camp."

Star power on defense -- There's a lot to be excited about for fans of the Dallas Stars.

Defenseman Stephen Johns, acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks as part of the Patrick Sharp trade on July 10, is a 6-foot-4, 235-pound right-handed shot who packs plenty of power. Texas Stars coach Derek Laxdal called Johns a "beast." Johns, who had four goals, 21 points and a plus-30 rating in 51 games with the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate in Rockford last season, looked comfortable in his Stars debut.

Defenseman Julius Honka, a first-round pick (No. 14) in the 2014 draft by the Stars, has also looked impressive along the blue line. Honka had eight goals and 31 points in 68 games for Texas in 2014-15.

Feeling Fab-ulous -- St. Louis Blues right wing Robby Fabbri, who had four goals and five points in four games in Traverse City last year, said he is healthy and looking forward to training camp. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound forward, a first-round pick (No. 21) in the 2014 draft, had to overcome a shoulder injury he sustained in a preseason game with the Blues prior to the 2014-15 season, and then a high ankle sprain while playing for gold medal-winning Canada at the 2015 World Junior Championship in Toronto.

"The way I think about it, I got [the injuries] out of the way, so I'll try to stay healthy and just try and pick up where I left off last year before the injuries last year," Fabbri said. "I was in St. Louis most of the summer training with the team and taking care of my diet, nutrition. When I'm in the gym, I'm working as hard as I can."

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