Brecken Smith finishes strong at 2023 USA Hockey-BioSteel Boys 17 National Festival

‘06 Little Caesars forward helps Michigan District win final three games of the showcase

Craig Peterson

June 28, 2023

Photo from Instagram | @brecken_smith
Photo from Instagram | @brecken_smith

It wasn’t a great start for the Michigan District at the 2023 USA Hockey-BioSteel Boys 17 National Festival in Amherst, New York. The 12-team showcase of top 2006-born prospects from each of the USA Hockey Districts began with three straight losses for Michigan. Some of the top prospects from the district had been quiet, with Teddy Spitznagel, Brecken Smith and Cameron Springer combining to score just one goal.

In fact, the district-versus-district style festival saw Michigan get out-scored 19-5 to begin the six-day event. However, a 3-2 shootout win over the Minnesota District — eventual third-place finisher — turned the tides for Michigan and its top prospects in a big way.

HoneyBaked forward and Georgia native Brendan Tighe scored with three minutes left in the first half to tie the game at 1-1. Then, with the team trailing a second time, Caden Bell forced a shootout with a late power-play goal. After seven shooters failed to score, Tighe found the back of the net for the second time on Monday morning to give Michigan its first win. That propelled the district to a strong finish not just for the team, but its top prospects as well.

Smith factors in on four of the team’s final 12 goals of the Boys 17 National Festival

After scoring just one goal through the first three games of the 2023 USA Hockey-BioSteel Boys 17 National Festival, Brecken Smith finished the showcase strong. He had a hand in four of the team’s final 12 goals of the tournament to end the event as Michigan’s leading scorer. Smith assisted on each of the first two goals in the team’s 7-1 win over the Central District. He followed that up with a goal and an assist in the 11-v-12 matchup in which Michigan defeated Northern Plains 5-3. 

The former fifth round pick of the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms, Smith was able to finish the prospects showcase on a high note. While Smith led the Michigan District in scoring, Cam Springer may have been the team’s most consistent player. The Compuware forward recorded a point in five of the team’s six games, including two on the power play. This comes after Springer’s busy spring in which he was selected in the USHL Draft, NAHL Draft and NCDC Draft. 

Teddy Spitznagel entered the festival as arguably Michigan’s top prospect in the event. The University of Michigan commit played 24 games in the USHL this past season and was one of HoneyBaked 16U’s top scorers as well. In the showcase, however, offense was a bit tough to come by. Spitznagel produced three of his four points in the final days of the showcase, and subsequently helped Michigan pick up consecutive wins in the process. 

Lukas Fischer and Luke Osburn among 38 invitees to 2023 USA Hockey Hlinka-Gretzky Cup Camp

While the 2023 USA Hockey-BioSteel Boys 17 National Festival was a team-style event, the purpose of it was much different. USA Hockey evaluators were assessing individual prospects in consideration for the 2023 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup this August. Out of this initial 12-team, 216-player festival, 38 of the top performers received invites for the second phase of the evaluation process. Among those invitees were a pair of Michigan District defensemen in Lukas Fischer and Luke Osburn.

A Compuware defenseman, Fischer spent more than 60 games this season in the OHL. The 6-foot-3 Fischer is one of the biggest defenders among the 16 to advance to Hlinka-Gretzky Cup Camp next month. While both Fischer and Osburn are left-handed defensemen, they’re likely competing for two very different roles. Fischer’s aforementioned size and defensive prowess varies greatly from Osburn’s offensive skills and puck-moving ability. 

Fischer comes from a good pedigree and junior hockey resume. Osburn has a unique skill set with high-end potential. Both could significantly factor into the roster conversation for USA’s Hlinka-Gretzky Cup team right up until the final day of camp next month. 

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