So instead of us spending some extra time gloating and being extra insufferable, it’s time to start talking about how the Blackhawks can get back to being kings of the mountain. Like last year, I’m here to offer you a listing of who I think are the Top 10 prospects currently in the Chicago Blackhawks system.
Now, before we get started…You won’t find Kevin Hayes on this list, since he’s made his intentions pretty clear that he wants no part of the Rockford Olive Garden. So I’m not including him. His name will probably pop up when we preview the Calgary Flames or something.
Also, I thought about Joakim Nordstrom & Jeremy Morin. They’re both going to be Blackhawks or outside the organization come Opening Night, so we’ll cover them later.
Mind you, these are my own observations. There are certainly guys I didn’t see as much of, and maybe that kept them off the list. But this is by no means meant to be a definitive list anyway.
Now then, on to the show…
1. Teuvo Teräväinen (C/RW) – ranked #1 on last year’s list – Know what would be awesome? Driving a Ferrari. Know what would be not quite as awesome? Trying to drive a Ferrari before all the nuts and bolts are tightened. See where I’m going here?
The Hawks’ front office loves this kid. Joel Quenneville loves this kid. Makers of prospect lists too, I suppose. You can clearly see top-end talent here. His skating, on-ice vision, hands, passing, even his forechecking and backchecking look NHL-ready. But like a lot of European players, he still needs to adjust to the North American style of putting pucks and bodies to the net, along with his ever-present need to add some size to his lanky frame. Both in Chicago and with the Rockford IceHogs, you could see him get a shooting lane, or skate past the guy who was covering him, only to pass. He’s got a pretty nice shot, from what I saw. He has to start using it. He’ll get a good look both at Prospect Camp and in Training Camp. If he makes the big club, putting him between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa would give him the opportunity to use his considerable puck distribution skills, while he develops his confidence with shooting. Otherwise he’s in Rock Vegas, looking over at Mark McNeill.
2. Stephen Johns (D) – ranked #10 on last year’s list – Like Kevin Hayes, a lot of the discussion around Johns all year was will he/won’t he sign. He signed, and looked really good in the few games he had as an IceHog. He’s got great size and strength, and knows how to use both. He really takes the body well. He also looks like he pretty much knows what he’s doing out there, although he could use some polish working the PK at the pro level. The Hawks being able to sign him and get him playing in Rockford this spring probably took a lot of work. Were certain promises made for this year? Guess we’ll see where he is in Opening Night.Either way, he’ll be a Blackhawk pre
3. Ryan Hartman (RW) – not on last year’s list – I do these prior to the draft, mainly because I think it’s a decent way of showing where I think think the organization sits before it gets additions. LOCAL GUY RYAN HARTMAN was the Hawks’ first round pick in the 2013 draft. After looking very impressive in the World Juniors for Team USA, he had a solid year in Junior before joining Rockford in the spring. Holy crap, can this kid skate. He also plays larger than his 5-11ish size. He’ll need at least a season in Rockford to get work on special teams, along with working on his three-zone game. But it will be fun watching him play alongside his likely center Philip Danault.
4. Mark McNeill (C/RW) – ranked #4 on last year’s list – Still a fan. He had a solid season in his first year of pro hockey in Rockford, notching 18G and 19A. He looks like a (only slightly) smaller version of King Kong Bundy, and he plays a nice power forward’s game. Good on-ice awareness, solid in all three zones. His play in Rockford makes the re-signing of Brandon Bollig all the more confounding. He’ll probably be back in Rockford, simply because there’s no room at the inn on RW.
5. Klas Dahlbeck (D) – not on last year’s list – You know, every time I see Dahlbeck I like him more. He’s added a little offense to his already-sound defensive game, even if it seemed that half his 10 goals were empty-netters. It’s easy/lazy to compare a young Swedish defenseman to Niklas Hjalmarsson, but here we are. I watched him block a couple shots last year where I Wasn’t completely sure Jelly hadn’t slipped into Dahlbeck’s gear. The Hawks have to make room for him this fall. He’s ready.
6. Michael Paliotta (D) – not on last year’s list – Thank God for college hockey on TV. Paliotta had a very solid Junior year at the University of Vermont, notching 5G 22A in 37 games. But getting a chance to watch him play a couple times, you can see he’s a physical defenseman with good size and a developing offensive game. He’ll probably play his senior year in Vermont before becoming a regular at the Rockford Olive Garden.
7 & 8. Alex (C) & Terry Broadhurst (LW) – neither on last year’s list – At the beginning of the season, Alex looked like he was going to be the “good Broadhurst”, but both he and Terry showed a lot of improvement this season in Rockford. It showed on the stat sheet as well, 16G 29A for Alex, 16G 28A for Terry. Alex even had one glorious day where he got called up to the Hawks when Michal Handzus went on Injured Reserve, only to get sent back down before getting a chance to suit up in a game, as the Hawks went out and got Kris Versteeg. Still, two more guys who play larger than their bodies with no shyness about getting to the net.
9. Adam Clendening (D) – 5th on last year’s list –
You know how I said I like Dahlbeck more each time I see him? The exact opposite is happening with Clendening. His puck skills are good, but I can see him getting bumped off the puck a lot at the NHL level. His play in his own zone leaves something to be desired as well. I keep thinking of him as a “less-good Sergei Zubov”, but I’m starting to get more of a Brian Connelly vibe from him.
10. Philip Danault (C) – 3rd on last year’s list – At one point, I actually was seeing a baby Jonathan Toews in Danault. He certainly has a 200-foot game, but his offense hasn’t really kept up. This year in Rockford, he only managed 6 goals on under 5% shooting. His offensive game certainly picked up once he had Ryan Hartman on his wing, so hopefully the two of them skating together starting the AHL season will help his offensive game get to where he can get to Chicago.
Yeah, kids. No goalies on the list. This may very well get addressed on Draft Day, especially if Boston College’s Thatcher Demko is still on the board when the Hawks pick. Although, I still have my eyes on Mac Carruth. Brandon Whitney was on my list last season, but he missed a couple months this season after being hit in the throat with a puck. He suffered four fractures near his larynx, and although he returned late in the season, the Hawks have released his rights.
Also just missing the cut were Dillon Fournier, Vince Hinostroza, Matt Carey, Justin Holl (it feels like he’s been in college 10 years), and John Hayden.