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Sean Dhooghe a fan favorite after prospect scrimmage, but may never play for Sharks

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Dhooghe dazzled in Thursday’s prospect scrimmage, but a future in San Jose is anything but certain.

CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Sean Dhooghe’s name stood out when the San Jose Sharks released the roster for their annual development camp a week ago.

Well, he stood below, not above the rest of the prospects in attendance. The 18-year-old was listed as 5-foot-3, 140 pounds, five inches shorter and 25 pounds lighter than any of his fellow participants.

He may be small in stature, but his game was anything but during Thursday night’s prospect scrimmage at SAP Center, according to those in attendance.

Dhooghe even led the Mercury News’ Paul Gackle’s story on the scrimmage:

The soon-to-be freshman at the University of Wisconsin stole the show at the Sharks fifth annual prospects scrimmage Thursday, endearing himself to the roughly 3,000 fans in attendance at the SAP Center by using his diminutive stature to weave in and out of traffic and create space for his teammates.

The 5-foot-3, 140-pound forward — his name is pronounced Doogie — used his speed, elusiveness and vision to set up the opening goal in Team Ricci’s 7-4 win over Team Marchment, and even though his squad came out on the losing end, Dhooghe got carried off the ice by his teammates at the end of the game.

Dhooghe was invited to the Sharks development camp as an undrafted free agent. He led the gold medal-winning American squad in scoring at the U18 World Championships with scoring with nine points (three goals, six assists), and tied with Sharks seventh-round pick Ivan Chekhovich, among others, for third in scoring among all players. He scored 37 in 65 with the U-18 team all year, but his name was not called at the NHL Draft in Chicago, just over 40 miles from his hometown in Aurora, Illinois, two weeks ago. This was likely in large part due to his size.

He told the New York Times in June that worries about his size have followed him at every level, even as he’s succeeded:

“The first thing they see is ‘Wow — that kid is really small’ and it’s been the same my whole life,” Dhooghe said. “At Squirt, Squirt Major — ‘They’re going to start hitting next year. He’ll never be able to handle the hitting.’ I handle the hitting. ‘He’ll never be able to handle when they combine two birth years,’ and I handle it just fine. Junior hockey – ‘he’s not going to play in the U.S.H.L. and compete.’ It’s going to be the same next year in college — ‘He’s not going to be able to handle it.’”

As Gackle mentioned, Dhooghe is bound for the University of Wisconsin this fall, where he’ll play for former Shark Tony Granato. He still has two more years of draft eligibility, and the Sharks will have chances to select Dhooghe and bring him into the organization beyond a tryout basis. Of course, 30 other teams will, too.

And therein lies the Sharks’ Dhooghe dilemma: they’ve gotten a firsthand look at his capabilities by having him into camp this past week, but will now have to fend off the rest of the league if they want him in San Jose beyond that. His size may limit other teams’ interest, but a good freshman season at one of the NCAA’s most storied programs would only alleviate a lot of concerns.

The diminutive Dhoogee’s development camp dominance is an awesome story, and could become an even better one, as he seeks to become the shortest active NHL player since 1937, according the New York Times. Whether or not the rest of it will be written in San Jose remains to be seen.

But, at least for one night, Dhooghe was a favorite among Sharks fans, and he stood above his peers at 5-foot-3.