GOING PROSPECTING: Future Hawks in the Pipeline
As the Hawks' regular season is winding down, the only thing left is to see whether or not QStache keeps his foot on the gas until the Presidents Trophy is clinched(SPOILER ALERT: No.). So there's this kind of state of limbo that we're in, knowing the Hawks are playing the 8 seed in the West, but probably not knowing exactly who that will be until the season's done.
So let's see which guys are going to make some noise in Prospect Camp, or even have shirseys for sale in Hawkquarters next fall:
1. Teuvo Teräväinen (C/RW) - Last year's first round pick has huge talent in a small body. He was a monster in this year's World Juniors, racking up 11 points in 6 games. His game is all about being shifty, and having great vision all over the ice, and great playmaking instincts. Comparisons to Patrick Kane have been made, with good reason. This kid looks like #88 before he fell in love with the gym. He's spent a decent amount of time now in the SM-liiga league in Finland, playing with men - managing 49 points in 84 games. He still won't turn 19 until September, so my guess is that while he will tantalize everyone in the Prospect Camp, he'll get another year in Finland. This is good, since the most significant things for him this season was getting some serious burn in International play, and learning how to play at Center. If he can hold down the pivot with his playmaking abilities, he'll make everyone in Chicago giddy. But for now, the first time the Hawks would play Detroit, Niklas Kronwall would try knocking him into next week. If he could catch him.
2. Jeremy Morin (RW/LW) - One of the benefits of the Salary Purge of 2010, Morin managed to get a full healthy season under his belt. He got one callup this season due to injuries on the big club, and scored a goal against Detroit. He has 3 goals in 14 NHL games, and this season in Rockford he had 30 goals in 67 games. He's got size, skill, and a mean streak. He's NHL ready, and he's the real McCoy.
3. Philip Danault (C) - During the 2011 draft, when Stan Bowman traded Troy Brouwer to Washington for their first round pick, I honestly thought Brandon Saad was on his way to the podium. Instead the Hawks took Danault. I originally compared him to Andrew Ladd, but his play at center is making him look a bit more like...well, maybe a poor man's Jonathan Toews. Which is great, since we've already got the rich man's one. He's got a very solid two-way game, and he was Captain of the Victoriaville Tigres at age 17. Maybe he dazzles at training camp next September and makes the Hawks, but I see him enjoying the Rockford Olive Garden for a year with...
4. Mark McNeill (C) - Where Teräväinen has a well-developed game, but needs his body to fill out, McNeill is a big boy who needs to fine-tune his game. A true power forward (like Morin), he's always shown a decent scoring touch at Prince Albert in the WHL - not exactly a big scorer's league. He's not afraid to drop the mitts when the going gets tough either. He saw time on the checking line and penalty kill for Team Canada in the World Juniors, and is solid in his defensive end. If he progresses well in the AHL next season, look for him on Opening Night 2014.
5. Adam Clendening (D) - A puck-carrying defenseman, Clendening was the talk of the 2011 Scouting Combine, where he left the weight machines trembling. He's put up a more-than-respectable 46 points (9G 37A) in Rockford this season. Look for him to spend at least half of next season in Rockford, as the Hawks are going to try to be more cautious with him than they were with Nick Leddy. Of course, one injury and he'll get the call like Leddy did.
6. Ben Smith (LW) - Smith has had bad injury luck, same as Morin. He had the team made for the 2011-12 season, before Brendan Smith caught him with a flyby elbow to the head in a preseason game. Then this season, he was inexpicably not invited to the Hawks' short camp following the lockout, and wound up breaking a finger. Now he's healthy, and having a very solid year in Rockford, with 47 points (27G 20A in 54 games). He'll either join Morin and Andrew Shaw on the third line next season, or he'll be a fourth line energy guy. Either way, his Rockford days are over.
7. Jimmy Hayes (LW/C) - You know, there are a lot of people both in the Blackhawks organization and fanbase who keep waiting for Jimmy Hayes to happen. He's got a finesse player's game in a power forward's (6'5, 210) body. But I admit I'm not much of a fan. He doesn't use his size to initiate contact, and almost seems as if he has to be dragged into traffic. I'd like to think that once he comes to the Hawks after the IceHogs pack up their gear for the summer that he'll learn how to be a large center from Michal Handzus, but I just don't...Anyway, he's here not because I expect much from him, but because the Hawks are basically going to give him every opportunity. His offensive output picked up significantly once all the NHL players left the AHL.
8. Dylan Olsen (D) - What Hawks' management is to Jimmy Hayes, I am to Dylan Olsen. I keep hoping this kid figures it all out. He's got decent movement for a big defenseman, and isn't flamingoing in front of shots, but his positional play still needs work. He's still young, and the defensive depth at the NHL level buys him another year in Rockford. But he needs to become the shutdown guy next year.
9. Brandon Whitney (G) - Hooray! A goalie! He's a big boy (6'5, 193) who had a .900 save percentage in the run and gun QMJHL. He turns 19 next month, and I think you see him spend another year in Victoriaville before turning pro.
10. Stephen Johns (D) - Another big boy (6'4, 221), he looked pretty good at the 2012 WJC. He loves taking the body, but he's kind of like Kronwall where he'll sometimes give up positioning looking for the big hit. He's still got another year of eligibility at Notre Dame, and he hasn't made his intentions known for next season yet. Strictly from a hockey standpoint, he'd be better served playing against the more experienced players in the AHL. I've got him at 10 here, but if he signs & goes pro, he leapfrogs Olsen.
There are some others not mentioned here - Maxim Shalunov, Mac Carruth, Joakim Nordstrom, Kevin Hayes, Dillon Fournier, Brandon Pirri and Drew LeBlanc to name a few. If I had the ambition to make a Top 20, they'd all get mentioned.
There are a few other guys, Kyle Beach, Shawn Lalonde, Carter Hutton - who are just never going to happen.