2015 Chicago Blackhawks Prospect Rankings

Teravainen_2014Nov21_IceHogs“Turbo” Teuvo Teravainen, photo: Rockford IceHogs

By Chris Block

2015 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS PROSPECT RANKINGS

Qualifications for this list include being under the age of 26 on the final day of the 2014-15 regular season. This excluded Scott Darling, Brandon Mashinter (each 26 now) and T. J. Brennan from consideration for these rankings.

The other qualifier is the player must have no more than 25 NHL games played in the current season or no more than a total of 40 NHL career games played at the time of these rankings.

These rankings and short bios were first published on January 16th and are as of January 15, 2015. As you’ll read, the extended bios took a little longer to write and at that point I decided to do a writeup on every Blackhawks prospect who would qualify for this list, even those who fell below the top 25. To me, there was no added value in ranking the players 1-40, so I decided against that.

The rankings are formed by a weighted formula that leans heavily to skill, career potential and probability of impact at the NHL level.  To clear any confusion, how close a player is to playing in the NHL, or being there at times now, does not factor in.

These are my rankings. I’ve watched (scouted, perhaps you could say) each player except where otherwise noted and explained below. There has been some guidance through others but at the end of the process I relied more heavily on what I’ve seen and the notes I’ve taken. I anticipate these rankings and bios will be used as a reference point by some. I only ask that you reference this site and/or link to the post should you choose to do so. Don’t be that guy.

We’ll revisit these rankings in June ahead of the NHL Draft when we’ll provide a more thorough examination of the Blackhawks organization depth, strengths and positional needs as well as grade the Blackhawks drafts from 2009 through 2012.

2015 WINTER RANKINGS 1-15

1 – TEUVO TERAVAINEN [age 20, C, Blackhawks/IceHogs, Drafted-2012-1st #18]

The #86 sweaters have been stocked in the Blackhawks Store almost since his arrival last March. Is it finally Teuvo Time already? Already possesses some of the best hands in the organization. His poise and calmness making plays in traffic and how he effectively uses technique, feet and smarts to win pucks from bigger players near the walls set Teravainen apart. His peripheral vision must be incredible. One defenseman told me, “he was looking me dead in the eyes the whole way down and hit his winger perfectly on the tape all the way over on the other side of the ice. How do you defend that?” Teravainen goads defenders using his patience. Many have pointed out that he needs to add muscle and full body strength, and that is correct. But there’s a misconception that Teuvo is overmatched along the boards. He’s actually very intelligent when it comes to playing the body and winning pucks. It looks bad when he takes a bigger opposing player on shoulder to shoulder or head on. That’s obvious. Teuvo though knows how to use his hips and roll a shoulder. He takes pucks away without taking much physical abuse when he can. And that’s a sign of maturity and hockey IQ that’s well ahead of his age. He can play any forward position but he’s skated mostly at center in Rockford this season. In Chicago, Joel Quenneville has been shy about playing him there, and most of Teuvo’s minutes have come at right wing, which fuels the Patrick Kane comparisons. To me, the better comparison is a young Saku Koivu – which is still pretty damn good. Ahead of his draft, Teravainen had been rated as high as #5 on various expert’s boards. He was certainly pegged to go higher than 18 by essentially everyone. So why did he fall? That’s tough to say. Brandon Saad dropped into the second round the year before for a few reasons, but one because he reportedly didn’t interview well. From talking to Saad when he was in Rockford, I could see that. For Teuvo, that would be hard to believe. Whatever the case, for two consecutive drafts, an incredibly talented player fell into the Blackhawks’ lap. (Although with Saad, the Hawks passed over Saad three times before eventually taking him and none of the three players taken in front of Saad are as talented or have they locked down an NHL spot yet. You could debate had they not had 4 picks in the first two round and another 2 coming up in the third, they may not had even taken Saad at all.) If you look at the 2012 board (the year 8 d-men were taken in the top 10, only forwards were Yakupov and Galchenyuk) and the players that went immediately in front of Teuvo, at #10, Tampa went with defense and a kid who was coming off season-ending shoulder surgery, Slater Koekkoek who’s playing well as a rookie for them in Syracuse now. Next, the Capitals took Filip Forsberg but in their infinite wisdom traded him to Nashville for Martin Erat. Buffalo went with Mikhail Grigorenko, the big Russian center at #12. Dallas at #13 is probably the team you could say screwed up the most. They took Radek Faksa, a Czech winger from the Kitchener Rangers. He’s in the AHL now and not coming along well. I believe the story goes when Dallas took Faksa the Hawks started to think that Teravainen might fall to them. Latvia’s Zemgus Girgensons went to Buffalo (with Calgary’s pick the Sabres traded up for) at #14. So the Sabres added two European scorers at 12 and 14 and Teuvo wasn’t one. At 15, Ottawa went for defense with Cody Ceci. The Caps (picking in their original spot) went again at 16 and went for size and nastiness with Tom Wilson. Then, at 17 the Sharks took Tomas Hertl, which was a great pick when you looked at it last year but he’s stepped backwards in his second year with injuries and inconsistency…. Teuvo has things to work on still. He’s a playmaker and falls into habits sometimes of trying to be too fancy. The criticism that he needs to simplify more and just get the puck to the net more often is a fair one. Aside from some minor details, there’s little for Teuvo to gain at Rockford because he thinks the game at a pace that’s above just about anyone else on the IceHogs.

2 – NICK SCHMALTZ [18, C/W, North Dakota-NCHC, Drafted-2014-1st #20]

If you go by merely skill and potential alone, Nick Schmaltz would be number one on this list. From watching Schmaltz as a freshman this year I’m convinced of that. Where Schmaltz fell behind Teravainen was in the probability of realizing his potential. The scouting reports from Green Bay pre-draft match what I’ve seen so far this year at North Dakota. I see superstar potential in Schmaltz. But I wonder if that’s something he wants badly enough. Over the puck, Schmaltz can do everything. The knock on him going into the 2014 draft was consistency, and, put frankly, his ‘Give a F*ck’ meter without the puck. In that sense, North Dakota was one of the better destinations for this Wisconsin native, as it’s the details in his game that need the most work. Played for the Chicago Mission program before going to the USHL a part of his last year with the Mission. Was the youngest player in the USHL in 2011-12 and remained there for two more full seasons ahead of his draft. When I read some old scouting reports on him from AAA and his first year in Green Bay, it seems that his talents have always been a cut above everyone around him. Maybe he just needs to be in this environment now where he’s challenged every night. For me, his World Junior tournament was a huge disappointment. It seems sometimes he doesn’t know, or think about what he wants to do with the puck until he gets it. That’s a warning sign. Schmaltz’ stick isn’t always in the ready position and his shoulders deflate when he doesn’t have the puck. He’s only a freshman and he’ll presumably get thicker and stronger but at this point he gets knocked off the puck and falls down frequently. His skill is at such a premier level that he’d be better off knocking off the fanciness. The Hawks traded up last June to prevent St. Louis from getting Schmaltz, as the Blues drafted his older brother Jordan, a defenseman (who also plays at North Dakota) in the fist round in 2013. Jordan has top pair potential for St. Louis. He’s that good too. At UND, the Hawks figured Nick will be drilled in the structure he needs. The potential is there for him to be the next Claude Giroux. On the lower end he’s Radim Vrbata. Or, he may not make it with the Hawks at all. Suppose the Hawks felt it was worth the gamble in keeping him away from the Blues. Forget any ideas you might here about the Hawks using Schmaltz in trade scenarios, Schmaltz is perhaps the key young player two or three years down the road as the Hawks completely transition out of the Sharp and Hossa era. Teravainen and Schmaltz are the only forward prospects in the organization that have that kind of potential. So, trading either would need to yield a heck of an undeniable return.

Johns_Stephen_IceHogs_2015Jan16_500x438Stephen Johns, photo: Rockford IceHogs

3 – STEPHEN JOHNS [22, RD, Rockford IceHogs, Drafted-2010-2nd #60]

Returned to the IceHogs’ lineup in mid-January from a concussion that has sidelined him since Nov 26th, only to be sidelined again by a left knee sprain on January 19th in Rockford that put him out another three weeks. By Johns’ own admission, the concussion was the first he’s ever had. Johns’ arrival on the west side could come in the fall. He’s huge, plays heavy and is a strong skater. Best open ice hitter the organization has had in two decades. In a perfect world, the Hawks wouldn’t have so many defensemen in Rockford and Johns would be playing 26-28 minutes a night in all situations. But that’s not case as T.J. Brennan, Adam Clendening, Klas Dahlbeck and Ville Pokka all require primary ice time as well. Whether by trades or call ups, Johns should see his minutes increase as the season runs through March and April and that’s when we’ll get an accurate barometer of how far off he is from securing the NHL spot he seems destined to solidify soon enough.

Clendening_Adam_IceHogs_2014Nov08_500x416Adam Clendening, photo courtesy of Rockford IceHogs

4 – ADAM CLENDENING [22, RD, Rockford IceHogs, Drafted-2011-2nd #36]

No IceHogs’ skater is facing a more crucial second half than this third-year pro. His offensive production is way down from last season. Last year the power play ran through him while this year he shares those duties with T.J. Brennan. While that’s hurt him somewhat, Clendening is strong enough of a competitor and needs to find a way to finish this season strong and stay in the picture for a Hawks’ roster spot in the fall. The biggest issue right now for Adam is his first two steps and how that seems to cause problems for him, especially in his own end as it seems that causes some indecisiveness when it comes to when and how he plays or chases loose pucks. He could be more nimble on his skates too. In a puck possession sense, he struggles in his own zone because of that lack of power in his first two strides. But he does counter that once he does have the puck by making a good first pass and being a good puckhandler overall. As a shooter, he gets pucks through effectively and knows too when to just wing it low off the end boards. I like that he has a bit of a mean streak in him and he’s stronger than you’d figure looking at him. Clendening has put in a lot of work after his first two pro seasons, improving his strength and skating. So there’s no reason to think he can’t crank it up a little more before next season. From where he started in 2012, his skating really has come around but there’s still ground left to cover. Given time, I liken him to Kevin Shattenkirk as a comparable. Clendening will turn up in the NHL somewhere and contribute. It just may take him some time to settle in and find success at the next level. This is a player some experts felt the Hawks reached for at the 2011 draft. Clendening was another player whose stock dropped going into that 2011 draft (Saad). A year beforehand he was talked about going in the mid-first round, but then a bad pre-2010 season NHL research camp hurt his stock. He was also cut from the World Junior team in Buffalo his draft year (Leddy and Morin played on that team) which is near his home town. In spite of all that he’s rebounded to disprove some of his doubters. Clendening’s a good competitor who wants the puck on his stick and sees the ice very well. If he shores up that skating some more he’ll be a solid second pair guy in the NHL.

5 – JOHN HAYDEN [19, RW, Yale University-ECAC, Drafted-2013-3rd #74]

This Chicago born, but Greenwich, CT native just served as an alternate captain for Team USA at the World Juniors. Hayden’s game is all power. He wins 50/50 battles and takes pucks away from opposing players all night long. He’s a beast along the walls and around the net. His skating needs some refinement, though he gets up and down the ice adequately. From watching him the past two seasons at Yale, the only thing that probably kept him out of the first, or high second round was his skating. His first two steps are okay, however. It’s the fluidity and second gear that need some attention. Should he sign with the Hawks on turning pro (that’s a thing now, thanks to the Kevin Hayes’ defection) I’d see him spending a year in the AHL first, but as long as the skating improves year to year, it’d be hard to see him being held back for too long. Now in his sophomore season at Yale, Hayden was drafted with the pick the Hawks got in return for trading Michael Frolik.

6 – TREVOR VAN RIEMSDYK [23, RD, Chicago Blackhawks, College UFA 3/24/2014]

Back-to-back serious injuries raise concern that this year’s surprise of training camp may not be durable enough to handle a serious NHL workload. First it was a broken ankle and now a shattered knee cap, which is not an easy thing to return from. He wasn’t the best skater to begin with. TVR’s junior season ended at New Hampshire last January when his left ankle fractured when he was checked into the boards against Union College on January 18th. TVR amassed 4 goals, 19 assists in 26 games prior to his season and college career ending injury. 14 of his 19 helpers were primary assists. Two months after breaking his ankle, van Riemsdyk officially left college hockey by signing a free agent contract with the Hawks. His emergence as a would-be fixture in the Blackhawks top six helped soothe the sting of Kevin Hayes’ decision for not sign with the Hawks and subsequent making the New York Rangers NHL roster. Could be headed to Rockford once he is medically cleared come March.

Pokka_2014Nov21_IceHogs_500x453Pokka Party (They don’t speak Finnish in RockVegas, apparently) – IceHogs

7 – VILLE POKKA [20, RD, Rockford IceHogs, TRADE-NYI-10/4/2014]

Pokka was drafted #34 overall by the Islanders in the 2012 draft, a year that saw 13 defensemen taken in the first round (8 in the top 10). Pokka was the 14 defenseman selected in that draft class. The Hawks claim to have had their eyes on Pokka that year and they did go with D-Dillon Fournier fourteen picks later at #48. To appreciate Ville Pokka, you really do have to watch him play night after night. He performs well in every situation he’s put in, but he’s also not particularly outstanding in any phase of the game either. Pokka’s poise is easily detected. His passes are good and he doesn’t do anything high-risk. His shot is good but not anything close to outstanding. He’s not physical back there either. Could still be room to grow. A year from now he’ll either be in the top three on this list or he’ll drop out of the top ten. He’s a longshot for next year’s Hawks roster as van Riemsdyk already has his foot in the door and the Hawks invested a lot in Johns, who also has an NHL-ready body and physical game. Pokka could stand to get into a strict off season workout regimen. He’s not out of pro shape, but he could stand to be stronger for his frame. I see him being slotted as the number one defenseman in Rockford next year, playing in all situations. But, again, there’s an outside shot the Hawks rush him as there are people who are really high on him and there’s always that element of proving they didn’t get their pants melted off by waiting until the last possible minute to put Nick Leddy up for auction.

McNeill_HatTrick_IceHogs_2014Nov08_472x500Mark McNeill celebrates 1st career hat-trick, Nov 8, 2014 in Rockford

8 – MARK MCNEILL [21, RW, Rockford IceHogs, Drafted-2011-1st #18]

The Blackhawks went to McNeill’s junior coach after they selected him 18th overall in 2011 and requested he strictly be played at RW. Sometimes I wonder if that’s been a mistake. The Hawks want McNeill to go to the net harder, be more physical and engaged shift-to-shift. He has the frame and NHL body now, and his skating has never been an issue. He and Phil Danault are first over the boards on the IceHogs’ penalty kill, and McNeill has excelled in that role in his second pro season. He’s a fearless shot blocker and knows how to get to the lanes properly to deter shots so he isn’t blocking as many. Though, after a game you typically see McNeill sporting an icepack somewhere on his body. He’s either on the verge of a breakthrough or watching others pass him by. Turns 22 on February 22.

Hartman_Ryan_2014Oct11_IceHogs_500x462Ryan Hartman

9 – RYAN HARTMAN [20, RW, Rockford IceHogs, Drafted-2013-1st #30]

Hawks’ 2013 first-rounder (30th overall) is having trouble finding his offense so far in his rookie season. Hartman is a gamer. There are nights when you know he’s been one of the best players on the ice, but he doesn’t show up on the score sheet. Other nights you don’t notice him at all until he pots the game-winner. Put simply, Hartman finds a way every night to impact the game. And that has to be why the Hawks went for him with the 30th pick in 2013. A lot has been said about his offensive upside, but that really hasn’t been evident, at least to this point in his first pro season. Whatever the explanation, he’s had a rough-go burying his chances. Most underrated aspect of his game is his passing. He has a knack for being patient enough to hold a puck an extra half second to allow a passing lane to open so he can hit a teammate in stride. He excels when games get physical. He can wreak havoc skating up and down the wing but accomplish it within the play too, not just in finishing checks behind the puck. His ability to bounce off checks and keep his balance is impressive for a smaller guy (5-11) who challenges all comers. Plays a tough, agitating game but goes overboard at times and must learn to control that. Eventual replacement for Andrew Shaw.

Danault_2014Nov26_IceHogs_398x500Phil Danault, photo courtesy of Rockford IceHogs

10 – PHILLIP DANAULT [21, C/LW, Rockford IceHogs, Drafted-2011-1st #26]

This Quebec native’s two year mission to “Be a Kruger” is now going according to plan. And Phillip Danault very well may wind up getting his opportunity to fill Marcus Kruger’s fourth line skates next fall. Danault hunts the puck like no other forward on the IceHogs, he’s Toews-like in that capacity. But Danault doesn’t have the touch offensively to warrant anything above third line minutes. Prior to being drafted by the Blackhawks, Danault, at 17, was the youngest captain in all of Canadian major junior when he held the captaincy for Victoriaville, his hometown team. Phil has worked a lot on his leg and upper body strength. When he first turned pro, he committed a lot of stick penalties because he just didn’t have the strength to compete with older players one on one. He’s outmuscling opponents in the 50/50 puck battles more now. He’s also working on his wrist shot. A fierce competitor who hates to lose, Danault will be another Hawks prospect who makes it. Just don’t expect to see him in a top six anywhere.

Carl_Dahlstrom_PCarl Dahlstrom, Linköping

11 – CARL DAHLSTROM [20, LD, Linköping-SHL, Drafted-2013-2nd #51]

Perhaps being looked at as a replacement for Niklas Hjalmarsson down the line, this six-four, smooth skating blue liner is acquitting himself quite well in his first full season in Sweden’s top league by all accounts. Offensive upside is thought to be limited by those who scouted him ahead of his draft year. Yet, the Hawks went for Dahlstrom in the 2nd round and have high hopes for him. Watching him play right now in Sweden you can easily compare him to Klas Dahlbeck when he first came over, and Dahlstrom is only just turning 20 on January 28. Dahlstrom is a good passer and breaks up a lot of would-be plays with a long reach and the proverbial ‘active stick.’ Dahlstrom projects out as a Nicklas Grossman (Dallas, Philadelphia) type on the low-end should he make steady progressions year to year – which would be a solid #5-plus on the Blackhawks. Probably one more year in Sweden before we see Dahlstrom in the American Hockey League.

Raanta_Antti_30_IceHogs_2014Nov16_500x496Antti Raanta wears #30 for one night only with IceHogs, Nov 16, 2014

12 – ANTTI RAANTA [25, G, Chicago Blackhawks, UFA-Europe 6/3/2013]

Raanta is not likely to ever be a number one, but he could make a decent living for a handful of years as an NHL backup and eventually into coaching. The Hawks love Raanta’s positive attitude and personality. No one doubts his athleticism and ability to stop pucks. His lack of size hurts him in Joel Quenneville’s eyes and you can already sense the Blackhawks’ coach has his mind made up that the 6’6” Scott Darling will be his guy (over Raanta) going forward. Since Raanta’s under contract next year on a one-way deal, that may make him expendable in the Hawks eyes and that year at a bargain price could make Raanta trade bait this summer.

Olofsson_Fredrik_vsUSA_ChicagoSteel_MJB_Images_C_800x541Fredrik Olofsson, photo courtesy of Chicago Steel, MJB Images

13 – FREDRIK OLOFSSON [18, LW, Chicago Steel-USHL, Drafted-2014-4th #98]

This Swedish born, Colorado raised slick-skating winger the Hawks picked up in the 4th round in Philly last June could wind up becoming the best pro of all those Hawks picks that weekend. Fredrik de-committed from Colorado College after his older brother Gustav signed with the Minnesota Wild after one year at CC and will now join Nebraska-Omaha in the fall. There, Olofsson will be under the guidance of two-time NCAA National Champion coach Dean Blais (a one-time Hawks’ draft pick himself) and play alongside fellow Hawks’ 2014 pick, Luc Snuggerud. Dave Bolland fans should know the picks received in his trade to Toronto netted Dahlstrom and Olofsson.

Ross_Garret_IceHogs_2014Nov16_447x500Garret Ross, photo courtesy of Rockford IceHogs

14 – GARRET ROSS [22, LW, Rockford IceHogs, Drafted-2012-5th #139]

Taken by the Hawks at the 2012 draft with the same exact pick the team used the year prior to select Andrew Shaw. He’s a lot like Shaw but Ross’ offensive touch drifts comparisons more towards Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins. Ross is a yapper on the ice and tries to get under the opposition’s skin every night. Ross is one of the harder guys to rank because now he’s 22, he’s still six-foot-nothing and little about his game is exceptional. But he is all around solid and a very good AHLer and one of many potential fourth liners the Hawks have coming up in the system.

15 – LUC SNUGGERUD [19, LD, Nebraska-Omaha-NCHC, Drafted-2014-5th #141]

Went to the same high school as Nick Leddy and the comparisons between the two won’t end there. Snuggerud was a finalist for the same Minnesota state “Mr. Hockey” award Leddy won in 2009. Snuggerud projects out as an excellent skater with great acceleration bursts. He shows glimpses of what can be now, but I’d say his skating is a little clumsy still at this point. He’s responsible in his own zone but his greatest asset is his puck-moving ability. His backwards skating can use some refinement though, it’s panicky at times. His gap work is a work in progress, but he competes and plays hard on his man. So, you take the good with the bad at this point and know that he’ll improve. Needs to get stronger but bypassing a buffer year in the USHL and making the immediate jump to the NCAA is a good sign. Snuggerud is listed still in some places as 5’11 and 170 pounds, but he measured 6-foot and a quarter inch at the 2014 NHL scouting combine and weighed in at 180, so he has decent size for a 19-year old. Has 2 goals and 12 points in 24 games thus far as a freshman [1g 6a on the power play.] Will be joined by fellow Blackhawks’ 2014 draft pick Fredrik Olofsson in Omaha next season, and UNO is sizing up to be a powerhouse in another couple years. I could see the Hawks trying to lure Snuggerud out of college early, perhaps even after his sophomore year. Don’t see him coming out after one year as Leddy did. I suspect Snuggerud will rise closer to the top 10 of these rankings when we revisit them in June as Teravainen, Raanta and a couple others likely fall off due to trades or different forms of eligibility. A year from now I wouldn’t be shocked if I do these rankings again and Snuggerud is closer to the top 5.

PROSPECTS 16 – 25

Dahlbeck_Klas_IceHogs_2014Oct11_500x469

16 – KLAS DAHLBECK [23, LD, Rockford IceHogs, Drafted-2011-3rd #79]

The Hawks’ depth at the defense position cause Dahlbeck to slide out of the top 15. Still a solid NHL prospect given the opportunity. I’d like to see the Hawks give him at least ten to fifteen games in the NHL lineup before the season is over or they choose to give up on him. Dahlbeck is a gym rat, so you don’t ever have to worry about him falling out of line or doing the wrong things. He’s universally respected in the IceHogs locker room and conducted himself like a true professional from the day he stepped foot into Rockford. Dahlbeck says he modeled his game after Niclas Havelid, who was more of a defensive-minded blue liner who played 628 games in the NHL, mostly with Anaheim and Atlanta before finishing up his NHL career with New Jersey in 2009. Dahlbeck played with Havelid in Sweden for two years (2010-12) in Linkoping before Dahlbeck joined the IceHogs in 2012-13. With the trading of Jeremy Morin in December, Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck are the current longest-tenured Rockford IceHogs and the only players remaining in Rockford from that 2012-13 IceHogs team. Being the longest-tenured IceHog hasn’t worked out well for many guys. Only Corey Crawford and Ben Smith have spent that much time in the Hawks’ system and eventually made it on the NHL roster.

17 – TYLER MOTTE [19, LW, University of Michigan-Big Ten, Drafted-2013-4th #121]

Motte goes hard to the net, and then hangs around in positions to score. Plays in all situations. Michigan is still listing this sophomore at 5’9” and 193lbs, but I have to think he’s at least 5-10. Turns 20 on March 10th. If you haven’t seen Tyler Motte play and want to imagine what you get from this St. Clair, Michigan native – think Zach Parise. It’s unfair to expect Motte to develop into a Parise level NHLer, but that’s the style of game Motte most emulates. There is an outside chance he could develop into a poor man’s Parise. I wouldn’t rule that out but for now let’s look at him as a left-shooting Ben Smith. Motte was one guy on this list I went back and forth on. He rated in the 11-13 range in doing my initial rating system. I dropped him a little after seeing more of Snuggerud and adjusting for bias, since I’ve seen a lot of Motte, really appreciate his game and enjoy watching him play. So, there’s a concern I had after examining the rating formula results that I was overrating him a bit. He plays with some great offensive players at Michigan too. If he were on a less talented squad, I don’t know that he’d be as effective as he is. Which is important because I tend to see him as more of a 3rd or 4th liner than the 2nd line minutes he’s entrenched in on the Wolverines. Michigan has some crazy skill at forward and can outscore just about any team in the NCAA. A safe bet would see Motte turning out a lot like a Ben Smith or Joakim Nordstrom. Both guys were, or are really good at the AHL level but they get stuck in a fourth line role in the NHL because their offensive game just doesn’t translate for one reason or another when they go up. Motte is a relentless forechecker and hard on the puck once he’s in on it. Like Smith, he’s hard to knock off the puck due to a strong base and even if you do, he’s still not that easy to shake. Because of that, he draws additional attention and a second defender inside the offensive zone, creating more space for his linemates to work and time to find scoring positions. With good offensively skilled linemates, that means he’s helping to create scoring chances, on a fourth or a bump line, Motte’s game extends opponent’s shifts and pins them deep in their zone but doesn’t add much offensively. That’s what makes Motte such a key part of Red Berenson’s top six forwards. Motte isn’t a great finisher. And I wonder if he has the closing or separation speed to be a true force at the next level. He has time to work on that, but if it doesn’t come along, then he probably projects out more as a Ben Smith type at the NHL level. Motte carries a football around in his hockey bag and likes to throw the football around on game days. So he’s somewhat of an anti-soccer guy. Another reason, perhaps, to like him too.

Nordstrom_Joakim_IceHogs_2014Nov08_393x500Captain Nordy, photo: Rockford IceHogs

18 – JOAKIM NORDSTROM [22, LW/C/RW, Blackhawks/IceHogs, Drafted-2010-3rd #90]

The captain of the Rockford IceHogs may wind up being a trivia answer some day (for people who specialize in American Hockey League trivia) as the IceHogs’ captain with the shortest reign. Nordstrom was elected Rockford’s captain on October 28 and has skated in just 10 games as an IceHog since (as of these rankings) as he’s been on recall with the Blackhawks. As a coach you know you can rely on effort and consistent play from this soon-to-be 23-year old (February 25) Stockholm, Sweden native. Unfortunately, Nordstrom slides out of the top 15 because he’s not shown any offensive potential in his NHL stay as of yet. I think he can have an NHL career, not unlike Ben Smith, but Joakim has a lighter temperament to him. Smith can get feisty and he is harder on the puck than Nordstrom. I could see the Hawks giving Nordstrom a shot at Marcus Kruger’s fourth line center spot next year, should that position open. Nordstrom and Danault would make the most sense for that role should the Hawks be unable to sign Kruger or he ask for a trade to a team where he can play an expanded role. Taken 90th overall in the 2010 Draft, Nordstrom A two-way forward who’s value is in his versatility (in being able to play all three forward positions capably) more than his potential upside.

19 – CHRIS CALNAN [20, RW, Boston College-HockeyEast, Drafted-2012-3rd #79]

A Jimmy Hayes for when there is no Jimmy Hayes no more. The nephew of Jeremy Roenick, this sophomore has stepped up this year under an increased role for coach Jerry York at Boston College. Calnan is an extremely intelligent player. He’s not the best skater but he moves well enough under his 6’3 frame. Has a good stick. Calnan uses his size economically. Sees himself growing into a Troy Brouwer type player. Drafted out of high school, Calnan is now in his sophomore season at BC. York uses Calnan as part of BC’s penalty kill this year, which is an encouraging early development. He skates second and third line minutes for York. Watching him from his freshman season to now, Calnan’s made a dramatic step forward this year.

20 – MICHAEL PALIOTTA [21, RD, Vermont-HockeyEast, Drafted-2011-3rd #70]

A senior year defenseman now captaining the Catamounts, Michael Paliotta is leading his team in scoring as Vermont enters the pivotal back stretch of its Hockey East schedule. Though the majority of his points have come via the power play, 7 goals, 16 assists in 25 games is nothing to scoff at when its accompanied by a team-best plus-7 rating on the squad ranked 5th in the Hockey East standings. Most of my Paliotta viewings predate this season, so I may have him a little low. Or perhaps he’s where he should fall. The Hawks seem to be pretty high on him, but they’re going to say that about most guys. If you’ve attended any Blackhawks prospect camps over the past four summers, Paliotta is the huge right-shooting defenseman who punishes anyone who comes near his goalie’s crease. He’s tone a bit of that nastiness down from what I’ve seen of him at Vermont this year, which isn’t a whole lot. For the couple years around his draft class he was often penalized for the extra rough stuff deep in his own end, so his coaches probably got to him about picking and choosing so he can stay out of the box. The one thing I would caution is expectations for him in terms of points. He’s stockpiling points on the Vermont power play. I could be wrong but I don’t see him getting a lot of those minutes at the pro level. Paliotta is expected to sign with the Blackhawks not long after his hockey season ends in March or April and head to Rockford likely on an amateur try-out deal for the remainder of this season. He’s a big defenseman who is plays hard in his own zone and around his net. Paliotta is listed at 6’3” but may be bigger than that and is built like Stephen Johns. He turns 22 on April 6 and is likely to celebrate that birthday as a member of the Rockford IceHogs.

Carruth_Mac_TrainingCamp_IceHogs_439x500Mac ‘The Truth” Carruth

21 – MAC CARRUTH [22, G, Indy Fuel-ECHL/Rockford IceHogs, Drafted-2010-7th #191]

A mostly forgettable rookie season saw the organization lose confidence in Mac Carruth enough that they went out and recruited two veteran goalies to play in Rockford ahead of this 2010 late round draft pick. With Kent Simpson a throw-in on the Nick Leddy trade at the end of training camp that opened the door for Carruth to be the main guy in Indianapolis this year. So he at least had that going for him. From all accounts, Carruth has been fine there, but he suffers from playing behind a brutal Fuel defense. That team has come around lately, however, and so has Carruth, who just may be regaining the confidence of those in charge again. He has another year left on his entry-level contract, so we could see him sharing time with another goalie in Rockford next year – either Anders Nilsson, another veteran free agent signing or the outside chance Raanta or Darling wind up in RockVegas next season. Carruth is kind of a cocky kid, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a goalie. He’s more of a battler between the pipes than Simpson was. Carruth posted a shutout for the IceHogs in his first of two appearances for Rockford this season. He won the other game as well.

KHL Season 2014/15Anders Nilsson, KHL

22 – ANDERS NILSSON [24, G, Kazan Ak Bars-KHL, TRADE-NYI-10/4/2014]

Nilsson chose not to re-sign with the Islanders after last season and instead went to Russia. So, all the Blackhawks own at this point are Nilsson’s rights. The word a month or so ago was the Hawks will talk to Nilsson’s agent at some point over the next couple months and should have an answer about whether or not he’s coming over (or if they want him over here) by April. Nilsson will choose between the Blackhawks (read that Rockford) or Sweden, his home country. He’s the number one goalie this year for the Kazan Ak Bars, who are 1st in the KHL Eastern Conference as of this report at 32-11-0-5. Nilsson has the 3rd best GAA in the KHL (1.84) in 30 games. His backup, Emil Garipov, has played 19 games and is 5th at (1.89). Nilsson’s save percentage is 4th-best in the KHL at 93.3% and Garipov trails only slightly behind in that category as well. Nilsson also has posted 3 shutouts. His deal there is a one-year agreement. He was great for Sweden in the World Championships last spring after flaming out in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Nilsson did appear in 19 games in 2013-14 in the NHL with the Islanders. He had a 3.11 GAA and .896 save with the NHL club. Nilsson seems to have looked back at his time with the Islanders as a negative experience, hence why he chose the KHL, but if you look at his numbers in his rookie season (both in the AHL and in 4 games with the Islanders) three years ago, he regressed in each of the two seasons after that. I tracked down a couple Kazan games so I could see Nilsson first hand. He put on an incredible performance in both outings, so my viewings of him stand out probably as the ceiling of what he is as a goaltender. He’s huge. Probably an inch shorter than Scott Darling. I’d say Nilsson is more athletic than Darling, but Darling is more square and plays bigger in his net than Nilsson. One of the more annoying things you’ll see is a 6’5” goalie that crouches down and gives shooters two feet of net to aim for. Nilsson did some of that in the games I saw. It wasn’t just when he was tracking the puck either. This is just a guess, but I’d say Nilsson will look at the Hawks’ having two strong goalies in Chicago and opt to stay in Europe. That being said, I felt he had to be ranked here because should he give North America another try he could be a factor. Aside from Carruth, the Hawks have no other real prospects at this position. However, Boston University goalie Matthew O’Connor is expected to turn pro after his season ends (he’s scheduled to graduate this summer) and O’Connor was a participant in the past two Blackhawks prospect camps and the Hawks are expected to make an offer. But it could be a difficult sell to O’Connor should places like Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto and Arizona up the bidding since those are places with clearer paths to the NHL roster.

23 – ROBIN NORELL [19, LD, Djurgarden-SHL, Drafted-2013-4th #111]

Turns 20 on February 18th. Norell was the only non-American Blackhawks prospect who participated in the World Junior tournament completed earlier this month. I saw two of Sweden’s games. In one, Norell was hardly noticeable. In the other I made it more of a point to focus on him every time he was out there. He made some nice plays defensively and a couple fine up passes. Overall though, I thought he was still pretty raw. He’s not uninclined at taking the body or throwing his weight into a man, so that’s a good sign. Norell gets a lot of second pair minutes playing for Djurgardens in the Swedish Hockey League. His 2 goals, 5 assists and minus-8 rating are respectable for a 19-year old blue liner playing in Sweden’s highest pro league.

Fournier_Dillon_TrainingCamp_IceHogs_500x410Dillon Fournier – IceHogs’ training camp 2014, photo: IceHogs

24 – DILLON FOURNIER [20, LD, Indy Fuel-ECHL, Drafted-2012-2nd #48]

Got a brief two-game call to Rockford early in the season and looked as tentative as would be expected for a young defenseman getting his first real pro experience. Hasn’t been back since but the word from Indianapolis is that Fournier’s game has elevated some recently, as have the Fuel. His plus/minus is an ugly -19, but the Fuel have largely been terrible in this, their inaugural ECHL season. Fournier’s got some length to him (he’s about 6’3”) and his strengths at the junior level were skating and poise handling the puck. Just don’t expect him to be physical. The d-zone hasn’t always been kind to him since his draft but, like Clendening, that’s not where he butters his French toast either.

Iacopelli_Matheson_2014Dec_MuskegonLumberjacks_C_800x533Matheson Iacopelli, photo courtesy of Muskegon Lumberjacks

25 – MATHESON IACOPELLI [20, RW, Muskegon Lumberjacks-USHL, Drafted-2014-3rd #83]

Mark Kelley and Stan Bowman went swinging for the fences with this 2014 3rd round selection. Taken with the pick the Blackhawks got as the return in the Brandon Bollig trade to Calgary (the pick originally was traded from Pittsburgh for Lee Stempniak) at the 2014 draft, Matt Iacopelli is an intriguing prospect to say the least. Drafted in his 3rd year of eligibility, Iacopelli ripped up the USHL in 2013-14 to the tune of 41 goals and 64 points in 58 games playing for northwestern Michigan’s Muskegon Lumberjacks. Last season he was the league’s leading goal scorer. This year, Iacopelli’s numbers are way down from that pace (15g 6a 21pts: 34gms]. He’s currently sidelined with a concussion he sustained in a game on Jan 17 at Omaha. At the time of Iacopelli’s injury, he was 2nd in the USHL in shots on goal (4.44 per game), so he’s getting his chances and not producing at last season’s rate. Iacopelli is trying to round out his game under head coach Todd Krygier, himself a former NHL player (1989-98) and Chicago Heights native. Next year, Iacopelli is headed to play Western Michigan University, under the guidance of former St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings coach, Andy Murray. So, one way or another, Iacopelli will learn to play a 200 foot game. This year, Iacopelli became the 2nd-fastest player in USHL tier 1 history to reach 50 goals (in his 71st regular season game). He’s a late bloomer and forward is a relatively new position for him. Iacopelli tried out for Muskegon as a defenseman when he was 18 and was cut. The year prior he tried out for an NAHL team, the Texas Tornado, and was cut after he came down with a case on mononucleosis. After getting cut by Muskegon in 2012, he returned to AAA midget major in Detroit and switched from defense to forward. Iacopelli claims to have put on 23 pounds over this past off season, under the guidance of his uncle, former NHLer, Larry DePalma. He measured 6’ 1.5” and 192 pounds at the 2014 Draft combine. Getting used to the extra size could be impacting him this year as well.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

BEAU STARRETT [19, C/W, South Shore Kings-USPHL, Drafted-2014-3rd #88]

I can’t honestly rank Starrett since I’ve never actually see him play a real game myself. Others would probably have Starrett ranked and it would be difficult to read the scouting reports on Starrett and not get intrigued by the potential of this kid. But since I haven’t seen anything other than video clips, it would be irresponsible of me to do so. It’s been a tough-luck year for the Hawks’ 2014 3rd round pick. Starrett took this year off from school to focus on hockey before heading to Cornell in the fall. He missed the first 12 weeks of this season after dislocating his shoulder in the Kings’ final preseason game. He returned after Thanksgiving and had 5 points in 7 games before reinjuring himself on December 17. He’s since had season-ending shoulder surgery. Starrett has a unique blend of size (6’5”) and skating skill and is worth keeping two eyes on when he gets to Big Red in the fall.

Press_Robin_Sodertajle

ROBIN PRESS [20, RD, Sodertalje-Sweden Tier 2, Drafted-2013-7th #211]

Leading Sodertalje in scoring [11g 16a 27pts, -2, in 42gms] and shooting at a 12.64% clip at the time of these rankings. It’s really impossible to rank Press amongst the top half of this Blackhawks’ prospect class without first seeing how he does against top competition in Sweden. Sodertalje is a team in Sweden’s Allsvenskan league, a level beneath the former Swedish Elite League, now SHL. He leads his team in scoring and ice time. He handles big minutes for them. No one on the team is even close to Press in on-ice scoring events. He leads all defensemen in Allsvenskan in goals and is 3rd in points among d-men. Press is teammates with former Chicago Blackhawks’ draft pick, and Rockford IceHogs defenseman (09-10), Jonathan Carlsson, who the Hawks picked seven spots in front of Ben Smith at the 2008 draft in the sixth round. Press is also teammates with Carl Dahlstrom’s cousin, Jacob, who is a forward.

OTHER ‘HAWKS PROSPECTS
(In No Particular Order)

VINCENT HINOSTROZA [20, C, Notre Dame-HockeyEast, Drafted-2012-6th #169]

I’m admittedly skeptical of this player’s potential. Hinostroza’s been reluctant to pull the trigger on his shot in the Irish games I’ve seen the first half and more of this season (they seem to be on TV every weekend) which is odd because the one thing he does have is a pretty good wrist shot. He’s been overpassing too. But those are not the biggest things that have stood out to me this year. In a couple of games, Hinostroza’s body language has been troublesome.   When he doesn’t get the puck when, or where he wants it he’s thrown his arms in the air or slumped his shoulders and shook his head at teammates.   Maybe these were isolated incidents, and I just happened to witness them. Even if so, they’re unacceptable. Hinostroza can really skate. Once Hinostroza gets going, his speed can create problems for defenseman as he gains the zone.

Broadhurst_Alex_IceHogs_2014Nov21_500x377Alex Broadhurst, Nov 21, 2014 in Rockford

ALEX BROADHURST [21, C, Rockford IceHogs, Drafted-2011-7th #199]

A disastrous year for Alex Broadhurst… Scratched a handful of times early on this season and then suffering a broken arm on Black Wednesday when he was hit by Curt Gogol of Iowa, this has been a 2nd-year season to forget so far for the younger Broadhurst brother. Being out of sight, out of mind may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Alex. He could use a reset button after fading into the doghouse early on this season. He figures to be back sometime around mid-March and the IceHogs could really use a resurgence once he is back because any additional offense that team can find is desperately needed.

Carey_Matt_IceHogs_2014Nov16_367x500Matt Carey, photo courtesy of Rockford IceHogs

MATT CAREY [22, LW/RW, Rockford IceHogs, College UFA 3/20/2014]

After a called-third strike the 2013 signing of Drew LeBlanc quickly turned into, the Blackhawks stepped in for another crack at the college free agent sweepstakes when they lured Matt Carey out of Saint Lawrence University after just one season there. Considered a late bloomer, Carey will turn 23 on February 28th despite leaving college after only one year. The Hawks front office sent the Calvary to impress and convince Carey to sign with them over his other NHL suitors. The front office’s anxiousness to add Carey to its prospect depth chart was prescient to the Kevin Hayes defection, which the Blackhawks were well aware of when they were pursuing Carey. But really the Hawks got Carey because they agreed to burn a year of Carey’s entry-level contract by putting him in a Hawks’ uniform for a couple of games at the end of last year (and getting him a couple weeks of NHL pay), as they did with LeBlanc the year prior. And you wonder why some prospects have been disgruntled at times. Carey is a nice AHL hand, but hasn’t proven to be much more. He skates mostly third line on an IceHogs team that struggles to score two goals per game. At times his game has kind of resembled a young, raw Andrew Ladd. But Carey doesn’t have anywhere near the hands or touch around the net that Ladd has. Considering limited alternatives, I don’t see why the Hawks would give up on him just yet. He’s another guy who was a center who hasn’t played much center at all in Rockford. In preseason with the Hawks and for the first month or so in Rockford he was all over the ice positionally from shift to shift and you could tell even his linemates half the time didn’t know where he’d be.   I liken Carey a little to Evan Brophey, who was a scorer in junior but that didn’t translate to the pro game. Brophey had to completely alter his style and mindset in Rockford and eventually became a good AHL checking center. Carey was known for being more a hands guy, but he’s playing an up and down, grinder role in Rockford. You get an honest effort from him most nights, but I don’t sense that he’s impressing anyone so far.

Rasmussen_Dennis_IceHogs_2014Nov16_500x463Dennis Rasmussen, photo: Rockford IceHogs

DENNIS RASMUSSEN [24, C, Rockford IceHogs, UFA-Europe 6/10/2014]

Hawks signed Rasmussen to a one-year contract last summer. He’s very tall (at least 6’4”) and plays best in a mindful, check-first role. He’s not going to create much offense for you, but he can cash in some rebounds around the net and in the low slot. Outside of that area he’s not dangerous with the puck. The Hawks called Rasmussen up at the end of January to be an extra body on their annual, long winter Ice Show road trip but he wasn’t expected to play. That would seem to indicate he’s not in their plans. Everyone who gets called up gets some kind of look, but he didn’t. Rasmussen’s a good AHL player and it can’t be overlooked how his presence down the middle in Rockford has helped the IceHogs become one of the better defensive teams in the AHL.

ANTHONY LOUIS [20, C, Miami(Ohio), Drafted-2013-6th #181]

A Winfield, IL native. Louis, Tyler Motte and John Hayden all played together on the U.S. National Development team prior to their 2013 draft. Louis is the most naturally skilled of that trio, he’s just terribly undersized. At 5’7” and 158 pounds, this Miami RedHawk sophomore has the hands and quickness to compete at the next level, but not the size. The one thing I have seen from him at college is a sensibility to drift into traffic areas at the opportune moment. He’ll lurk around and swoop in when a loose puck is dancing around the high traffic areas. That said, he’s more of a perimeter player. Louis is more of a passer than he is a shooter and because of that his goals are more likely to come from the high percentage scoring areas. And again, to his size, the question at the next level is can he get to those areas in the AHL and execute enough to be effective. Played a penalty killer role for the U.S. at this year’s World Juniors, which was a role he wasn’t accustomed to. Amongst a level and group of players that should be considered his peers, Louis did not stand out.

KHL Season 2013/14Ivan Nalimov, KHL

IVAN NALIMOV [20, G, Vladivostok Admiral-KHL, Drafted-2014-6th #179]

A big goalie [6’4” 215]. Shares the goaltending duties in Vladivostok, a team with a 22-23-0-2 record in the KHL East as of this writing. Nalimov has a 2.83 GAA and 89.4% save with that club. Blackhawks say they like him, but they also claim to like every single one of their prospects, which is a reach. Nalimov plays for Admiral Vladivostok, in Primorsky Krai. Their home rink is Fetisov Arena, named after Viacheslav Fetisov for no particular reason other than Fetisov represents this maritime province in far southeastern coastal Russia on the Russian Federal Assembly. Fetisov, who is close friends with Vladimir Putin, was raised and played his pre-NHL hockey in Moscow, which is a nine hour flight from Vladivostok. The Blackhawks selected this Russian believing he is motivated to play in North America, so we could see Nalimov in Rockford in 2016. Nalimov has one more year left on his KHL contract.

Svedberg_Viktor_IceHogs_2014Nov22_500x405Viktor Svedberg battles in front of Scott Darling, photo: Rockford IceHogs

VIKTOR SVEDBERG [23, LD, Rockford IceHogs, UFA – 10/19/2013]

Blackhawks brought this 6-foot 9-inch defenseman over from Sweden on an AHL deal two off seasons ago, then quickly inked Svedberg to an NHL contract after watching him in NHL training camp and in a couple games with the IceHogs. Svedberg’s season ended prematurely last season due to shoulder surgery. He’s a surprisingly decent skater considering his freakish length and he’s attempting to play to that size, to some success. Given his height, reach and skating, Svedberg will get looks average sized prospects with average skills entering their mid-20s may not be offered. Svedberg turns 24 Memorial Day weekend. He’s proving to be injury prone, which won’t help his cause much when it comes time to decide whether or not to re-sign him this summer. I could easily see another team giving him a shot and Svedberg playing elsewhere in the AHL next year should the Hawks not make him an offer.

NICK MATTSON [23, LD, North Dakota-NCHC, Drafted-2010-6th #180]

Impressed me more this year than he has any other year at North Dakota. Mattson has grown into a 6’1” 189lbs frame. He’s good along that left wall for ND coach Dave Hakstol. Mattson makes a lot of little plays along the wall. He pinches down very well to keep a play alive or hold the puck in the offensive zone. His shot is okay, not a big one. He skates on the second pairing for UND. I wonder just how much being a 23-year old senior has to do with his apparent increased confidence and poise, though. Will that carry with Mattson to the pros? I’m not sure. We’ll wait and see what the Hawks think about that first. North Dakota is one of the best teams in the country and figure to be in the mix for the Frozen Four, but should their playoffs end prematurely, we could see Mattson get an ATO stint with Rockford in April. I suppose that could depend too on how many d-men Rockford has rostered at that point too as Michael Paliotta is more of a priority than Mattson, for sure.

LUKE JOHNSON [20, C/RW, North Dakota-NCHC, Drafted-2013-5th #134]

Johnson was selected with the other pick had from Winnipeg in the Michael Frolik deal. Johnson is kind of a jack-of-all-trades for North Dakota. He plays in all situations. He plays smarter than his individual skills, battles along the walls and in the corner. Another undersized forward from that 2013 Hawks’ draft, Luke Johnson stands 5’11” and 180 pounds. He’s an average skater but it’s effective for him. For as much as he plays, he’s not good on face offs. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how he pans out. His junior season next year will be the tell. There is a red flag I have about this player that may be unfair, but at the very least it’s a discussion point. Luke Johnson has never left the nest, so to speak. Johnson played high school hockey in his hometown of Grand Forks, ND until the age of 17 when he moved the seven hour drive south to Lincoln, Nebraska to play USHL with the Lincoln Stars for two years before college. But there, Johnson wasn’t alone. He played alongside his cousin, Paul LaDue, a defenseman who also now is a sophomore at North Dakota. The coach of the Lincoln Stars at the time was Johnson’s uncle, Chad Johnson. LaDue is a Kings’ draft pick. Luke’s father and uncle both played hockey at North Dakota as well, so I understand wanting to play there, but I wonder how Johnson will respond once he has to leave his comfortable, familiar environment and transition to being a professional… Phillip Danault had a somewhat similar experience, but he did leave the nest for a period prior to turning pro. Coming up through junior, Danault played almost entirely in his hometown of Victoriaville, Quebec. Danault’s father was even the PA announcer at Victoriaville games. Danault was in a comfort zone. Until his final year of junior, when he was traded to Moncton and played a half season there. I can’t speak for Danault, but I would think he’d say now that experience was pretty valuable to him in hindsight for when he turned pro and moved to Rockford, Illinois (the gateway to Janesville).

LeBlanc_Drew_IceHogs_2015Jan13_500x333Drew LeBlanc, photo courtesy of Rockford IceHogs

DREW LEBLANC [25, C/LW, Rockford IceHogs, College UFA 4/12/13]

LeBlanc should really be in the ECHL but he Hawks invested a two-year contract in LeBlanc after they lured the 2013 Hobey Baker Award winner with an NHL contract and a promise to burn his one-year (age determined) entry-level contract by skating LeBlanc in 2 NHL games at the end of the 2013 season even though LeBlanc would not qualify for the NHL postseason. LeBlanc did show that he had a nice set of hands on him. If his feet were half as fast as Stan Bowman was at qualifying and re-signing LeBlanc to a 2-year contract, the Hawks would have had a good prospect on their hands. But they’re not. LeBlanc is an incredibly nice guy and great to deal with by all accounts, but he’s just not an NHL prospect. I’d have to believe the Hawks felt they’d work extensively with him on his skating and that it would get to a level where he’d give Brandon Pirri a run for NHL playing time. That never came close to coming to fruition. LeBlanc’s making NHL money this year ($600,000) and Rocky Wirtz must be thrilled.

MATHIEU BRISEBOIS [22, RD, Indy Fuel/ -ECHL, TRADE-PHX 3/4/14]

The answer to the trivia question (should you ever find yourself in a pub trivia night contest where this might be asked) of who scored the first goal in Indy Fuel franchise history, the season was essentially all downhill from there for Mathieu Brisebois. The other player Stan Bowman acquired along with David Rundblad for the 2014 2nd round pick the Hawks will never get back (Coyotes selected London Knights forward Christian Dvorak), Brisebois has since been whacked by the Fuel, the Hawks’ ECHL affiliate. In 31 games in Indy, Brisebois scored 2 goals, 12 assists and had a whopping team-worst minus-29 rating. After the turn of the New Year, the Fuel removed Brisebois from their defense and nurtured him at right wing. After a couple weeks of that, the Blackhawks pulled Brisebois from the Fuel and re-loaned him to the Rapid City Rush, which is not a basketball team, nor is it an anagram for Hairy Pit Curds (though, it is.) but one of seven teams that was folded into the ECHL right before the start of this season. There, Brisebois has appeared in 5 games, posting 1 goal, 1 assist and is a minus-3. One more year remains on the Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec native’s NHL entry-level contract.

MATT TOMKINS [20, G, Ohio State-Big Ten, Drafted-2012-7th #199]

This college sophomore at OSU has lost the Buckeye’s starting job to fellow second-year netminder, Christian Fey, who wasn’t even enrolled at OSU at the start of Tomkins’ freshman season. Neither goaltender has been particularly good this year though, but Tomkins’ has faired much worse. But that OSU defense isn’t much better. Tomkins was lit up by Michigan on Jan 16 for 7 goals on 23 shots. Tyler Motte cranked 2 by Tomkins that night. Tomkins has trouble with rebound control and seems to have no idea where the puck is headed after it hits him. The OSU defense isn’t much to talk about either, so it’s a recipe for bad, which Ohio State is.

SAM JARDINE [21, LD, Ohio State-Big Ten, Drafted-2011-6th #169]

Now in his junior season at Ohio State, there’s a foundation to this B.C. native’s game that’s something he can build out from, but I just haven’t seen that yet. A left-handed shot playing the left side, the biggest issue I see in Jardine’s game is that he needs to develop a better awareness of who’s on the ice. His game is average all around. Elected alternate captain this year of the Buckeyes. The captain, senior forward Tanner Fritz is a veteran of Chicago Blackhawks summer prospects camps as well. Sam’s brother Clayton is an undrafted senior at Merrimack College. Jardine’s cousin is Macgregor Sharp, who was a senior season standout at Minnesota-Duluth in 2009. Sharp signed with the Ducks coming out of college and bounced around the AHL a bit before winding up in Europe where he is now.

DYLAN SIKURA [19, LW, Northeastern-HockeyEast, Drafted-2014-6th #178]

Aurora, Ontario native and freshman at Northeastern, Dylan Sikura is a player with a skillset along the lines of Anthony Louis (drafted the 6th round and three picks later than Sikura the year before] just with more height. Sikura was drafted at 5’11” and 149 pounds. He’s more of a puck distributor than a scorer as well. Figure we’ll have a much firmer understanding of Sikura’s potential when we see him as a sophomore.

JUSTIN HOLL [23, RD, Indy Fuel-ECHL, Drafted-2010-2nd #54]

Friends with former Blackhawk, Nick Leddy, this four-year Minnesota Golden Gopher product has spent this entire season so far in the ECHL with the Indy Fuel, the Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs’ minor league affiliate. Holl signed a one-year AHL contract with Rockford after turning pro. The Blackhawks control every player who goes in and out of Rockford, so I would still consider Holl a prospect over theirs even though they passed on giving him a contract. If you recall, Andrew Shaw didn’t get an NHL contract initially either. Not suggesting Holl will follow a similar path, only that since the Blackhawks did bring him in on an AHL deal that warrants inclusion in these prospect rankings for now. Holl spent a large part of his junior season skating at forward. In his senior year he returned to his natural defense position. Holl is a right-shooting defensemen who has some height (6’3”) and he can wheel. We’ll have to see if the Hawks bring him back next year. It’s been the best thing for Holl’s development to be playing big minutes in Indy this year as he would’ve been lost in the shuffle in Rockford like Zach Miskovic and even Viktor Svedberg have at times. The pick the Hawks used to draft Holl originally belonged to New Jersey. Chicago wound up with another Devils pick, both acquired from Atlanta in the big Dustin Byfuglien trade that the Blackhawks used to take Kevin Hayes. New Jersey traded those picks, along with Johnny Oduya and others, to Atlanta for Ilya Kovalchuk the February preceding the 2010 NHL Draft.

Soderberg_Andreas_SkellefteaAndreas Soderberg, Skelleftea

ANDREAS SODERBERG [18, LD, Skelleftea-Junior20U, Drafted-2014-5th #148]

Taken in the draft one pick after Donald Audette’s son Daniel was selected by Montreal, this is another big Swedish defenseman the Blackhawks now have under their banner. Not much is known over here about this lanky, left-handed shooting blue liner.

JACK RAMSEY [19, RW, Penticton Vees, Drafted-2014-7th #208]

Selected in the third-to-last position of 2014 draft, this could be linked to Scotty Bowman. Jack Ramsey is the son of long-time NHL defenseman, and 1980 US Olympian, Mike Ramsey, who got his start in the NHL under Scotty Bowman in his first season behind the bench at Buffalo after Ramsey won gold in Lake Placid. Ramsey went on to play and eventually captain the Sabres until his departure from that team in 1993. Where did he wind up? – Back with Scott Bowman in Pittsburgh. Then, when Scotty moved on to Detroit, he brought Mike Ramsey along with him as Ramsey was finishing up his career in two final seasons with the Red Wings before calling it a career in 1996. Despite all those years with Bowman, Mike was not apart to a Cup winner, having joined the Penguins after the 1992 Final and retiring in the season Bowman won his first Cup in Detroit. Jack Ramsey is a right-shooting 6’2” winger who’s joining the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the fall, also where his father attended for one year before turning pro in Buffalo. Jack went to Minnetonka High School in Minnesota with St. Louis Blues’ draft pick, right-handed shooting defenseman Tommy Vanelli, who the Hawks likely had their eyes on. Vanelli went to the Blues four picks head of where the Hawks would take Carl Dahlstrom in 2013. Jack finished 8th in team scoring on Penticton last season and sits 6th on the Vees with 10 goals and 25 points in 35 games this year as of this writing. Minnesota Wild draft pick Mario Lucia (son of Golden Gophers coach Don Lucia) passed through Penticton on his way to Notre Dame. Beau Bennett (Pittsburgh), of Gardena, California, also played there before going to the University of Denver for two seasons. Jack’s older sister Rachel is a senior blue liner for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and was a first-team All-American and Defensive Player of the Year in the WCHA last season.

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2015 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
PROSPECT RANKINGS

TOP 25

1 – Teuvo Teravainen [C/W, 20]
2 – Nick Schmaltz [C, 18]
3 – Stephen Johns [RD, 22]
4 – Adam Clendening [RD, 22]
5 – John Hayden [RW, 19]
6 – Trevor van Riemsdyk [RD, 23]
7 – Ville Pokka [RD, 20]
8 – Mark McNeill [RW, 21]
9 – Ryan Hartman [RW, 20]
10 – Phillip Danault [C, 21]
11 – Carl Dahlstrom [LD, 20]
12 – Antti Raanta [G, 25]
13 – Fredrik Olofsson [LW, 18]
14 – Garret Ross [LW, 22]
15 – Luc Snuggerud [LD, 19]
16 – Klas Dahlbeck [LD, 23]
17 – Tyler Motte [LW, 19]
18 – Joakim Nordstrom [LW, 22]
19 – Chris Calnan [RW, 20]
20 – Michael Paliotta [RD, 21]
21 – Mac Carruth [G, 22]
22 – Anders Nilsson [G, 24]
23 – Robin Norell [LD, 19]
24 – Dillon Fournier [LD, 20]
25 – Matheson Iacopelli [RW, 20]

TOP 25 BY POSITION

Forwards – 12
Defense – 10
Goaltenders – 3

TOP 25 BY DRAFT

2010 – 3
2011 – 5
2012 – 4
2013 – 5
2014 – 4

UFA – 2
TRADE – 2

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ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com
Twitter.com/ChrisBlock

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