Wanna blog? Start your own hockey blog with My HockeyBuzz. Register for free today!
 

Top Prospects: Forwards

November 9, 2020, 4:09 AM ET [80 Comments]
Theo Fox
Chicago Blackhawks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The next three blogs will present the Blackhawks prospect rankings at forward, on the blueline, and in net. The roll-out schedule is as follows:

* Today, 11/9: Forwards
* Wednesday, 11/11: Defensemen
* Friday, 11/13: Goalies

Each blog will feature not only the top prospects but also those who are honorable mentions, who are too early to predict, and who have little to no chance of making it to the NHL at least in Chicago’s system.

Up first: forwards.

--

Little to No Chance

Victor Ejdsell is in his second year playing in Sweden’s top league. While the Hawks still have his rights, he’s plummeting on the depth chart so may need to seek an NHL opportunity elsewhere.

Parker Foo played three seasons at Union College and is now in the KHL playing alongside older brother Spencer. Parker’s NCAA stats were paltry so he’d have to make it in the NHL as a 4th liner.

Brad Morrison -- unless he’s a late bloomer -- is sure to be a career minor leaguer after six seasons in juniors, a mediocre AHL debut in 2018-19, and only 17 ECHL games last season.

John Quenneville is an effective power forward in the AHL but just can’t translate that success to the NHL. He’s okay as an injury fill-in for a few games but just isn’t a long-term solution.

Maxim Shalunov has decent skill and great size but seems noncommittal to cross the pond from Russia. He’s already 27 so I don’t see how or why he fits the Blackhawks youth movement.

--

Too Early to Tell

Matej Chalupa is an industrious winger who competes with his strength and speed. Offensive upside is limited but will be relied upon for a heavy forecheck and grinding style. This season will be his first in North America so let’s see how he fares on the smaller ice.

Mikael Hakkarainen was riddled with injuries in his rookie pro year. He likely tops out as a 4th line defensive faceoff specialist. Think David Kampf with more offensive upside. Let’s start with a healthy season first then see how he progresses.

Cam Morrison reminds me of Bryan Bickell: so-so impact as a power forward over the course of a season but is a clutch scorer in high-stakes games. He’s not as strong of a skater as Bickell. Let’s hope he fares better than Quenneville at translating a power game to the NHL.

Niklas Nordgren quite simply can’t stay healthy. Injury proneness aside, if there’s an Alex DeBrincat clone in the system, Nordgren would be it. Small and stocky yet isn’t shy to go to the rough areas. His skating needs work, though.

Landon Slaggert could end up being a better skating version of Evan Barratt: high compete level, crafty, physical, and aggressive. He’s willing to crash the net. Probably low offensive upside at the pro level but dependable at both ends and on the penalty kill.

Josiah Slavin is a highly coachable grinding power forward who can pressure on the forecheck, work the walls, and drive the net hard. While his offensive ceiling is at a bottom 6 level, he’s a workhorse whose value is in his competitive drive and team-first mentality.

Chad Yetman was passed over in two drafts before being selected a month ago by the Hawks. Excellent skater with speed and scoring ability, Yetman has stand-out compete and reliability in all zones. Possibly an energetic middle 6 forward in the making.

--

Honorable Mentions

Reese Johnson went undrafted yet is asserting himself as a leader on the IceHogs. His NHL ceiling is likely as a 4th liner or just a 13th forward but he plays physical, gets under the opponent’s skin, and supports his mates up and down the ice. Limited offense.

Artur Kayumov has elevated his game so far this season in the KHL. Although he won’t be in Rockford until Fall 2022 at which point he’ll be 24, he’s starting to ramp up his hustle and consistency across 200 feet. He’s able to contribute offensively as a 3W while not hurting the team in their end.

Jake Wise has struggled to stay healthy like Nordgren. However, he has proven to be one of the most talented players at prospect camps: competitive, impeccable work ethic, dynamic skating, and slick puck handling. He also has a defensive conscience so he could be an eventual playmaking 3C.

--

10. Andrei Altybarmakyan

2020-21 Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
On Loan: N/A
Position: RW
Slot Potential: Middle 6, likely as a 3rd liner with ability to play spot duty on the 2nd line
Trajectory: Two seasons in the AHL then be in the mix for an NHL role by 2022-23

Altybarmakyan is a speedy, spirited winger who is adept at scoring from in close. Not a perimeter player, he’s patient with the puck getting the goalie and defense to commit first then using pinpoint accuracy to deposit it through even the smallest of openings.

He could be a fan favorite with his high energy, relentless puck pursuit, and electrifying moves. He’s willing to get his nose dirty by crashing the net and engaging physically to make a play.

--

9. Antti Saarela

2020-21 Team: Ilves Tampere (SM Liiga, Elite, Finland)
On Loan: N/A
Position: C
Slot Potential: Bottom 6, perhaps moved over to wing but solid enough as at least a 4C
Trajectory: Finish this season in Finland then hopefully sign an ELC and start his development on North American ice next year; two seasons in the AHL before knocking on the NHL door in 2023-24

Saarela is fast and agile, rock solid defensively, competitive, and strong on draws. He has a blistering shot and a great transition game starting with his commitment to defense and ability to fluidly jump into plays offensively especially off the rush.

He could be great as a shutdown pivot and PK specialist who plays with an edge. Similar to Hakkarainen, Saarela could be a more offensively inclined version of Kampf.

--

8. Tim Soderlund

2020-21 Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
On Loan: Almtuna IS (Hockey Allsvenskan, Non-Elite, Sweden)
Position: LW
Slot Potential: Bottom 6, likely as a 4th liner with ability to play 3rd line in a pinch
Trajectory: At least one more full season in the AHL but likely two then be in the mix for an NHL role by 2022-23

Soderlund had part of his rookie pro year derailed by injuries. It also seemed like the Hogs coaches had him play more conservatively. He’s at his best when he's busting tail up and down the ice, snuffing out pucks in all corners, playing physical, and driving up the middle with no fear.

One of Soderlund’s best assets is being able to make plays at top speed. He's no slouch on defense either so it's not like he sacrifices one zone for the other.

--

7. Michal Teply

2020-21 Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
On Loan: Mlada Boleslav BK (Czech Extraliga, Elite)
Position: LW
Slot Potential: Middle 6, likely as a scoring winger with potential to play top 6
Trajectory: At least two seasons in the AHL then be in the mix for an NHL role by 2022-23

Teply is a goal scorer and underrated playmaker. He’s not only a volume shooter but also an accurate one who can fire from anywhere even with heavy defensive coverage. Also, he has been steadily improving his play without the puck. While not slow, he does stand to improve speed bursts.

Similar to Kirby Dach, Teply uses his long reach to his advantage. He has a lanky frame for a finesse goal-scoring winger who has you wanting to see more physically given his size.

--

6. Evan Barratt

2020-21 Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
On Loan: N/A
Position: C
Slot Potential: Middle 6, likely as a 3rd liner and possibly moved over to wing
Trajectory: At least two seasons in the AHL then be in the mix for an NHL role by 2022-23

Barratt brings a package of offensive ingenuity along with sandpaper, relentlessness, and defensive awareness where the sum of his parts may negate any skating weaknesses. He thinks the game fast which helps him maneuver and execute with little time and space.

Just like Andrew Shaw and Drake Caggiula, Barratt may excel at being an all-terrain forward who can play on any line and make an impact.

--

5. MacKenzie Entwistle

2020-21 Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
On Loan: N/A
Position: C
Slot Potential: Bottom 6, likely as a 4th liner with ability to play 3rd line if his offense picks up
Trajectory: Capable of earning a cup of coffee this season then be in the mix for a full-time NHL role in 2021-22

Entwistle is a foot soldier willing to do what it takes to win and is reliable in key defensive situations. There are few forward prospects who bring the same heavy, cycling style as Entwistle. A beast in 50/50 battles, he dominates the boards and plays physical if the game demands it.

A criticism that Hogs head coach Derek King has pointed out is Entwistle doesn't show off his offensive gifts enough. As such, he could possibly play the bumper role on the powerplay.

--

4. Pius Suter

2020-21 Team: Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
On Loan: GCK Lions (Swiss League, Non-Elite)
Position: C/LW
Slot Potential: Middle 6, likely as a winger at least to start his NHL career
Trajectory: Strong chance to crack the Hawks roster right away but wouldn’t hurt to start off in the AHL if needed before a mid-season recall

Suter competes over the entire ice, goes to the dirty areas, and scores in bunches from the slot. Compared to the Euro imports before him, Suter has a killer instinct that Dominik Kahun lacks and is more of an impact player without the puck compared to Dominik Kubalik.

Even though he has pivot experience, Suter is likely best as a winger as he may not have the tools to drive an entire line as a center. Either way, he’s a dark horse candidate for the top 6.

--

3. Brandon Hagel

2020-21 Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
On Loan: Thurgau (Swiss League, Non-Elite)
Position: LW
Slot Potential: Bottom 6, likely as a 4th liner with ability to play 3rd line due to greater offensive talent compared to other bottom 6 prospects
Trajectory: Capable of earning a cup of coffee this season then be in the mix for a full-time NHL role in 2021-22

Hagel has an identical playing style as Matthew Highmore: relentless motor, fearless compete, and blazing speed. However, Hagel has greater offensive upside to be more than a 4th liner. The puck always finds Hagel as he’s constantly buzzing to stay involved at both ends.

Like Marcus Kruger, Hagel is also a tenacious agitator who plays to the whistle by hanging out in the crease, jabbing at the puck, laying on the puck in scrums, etc.

--

2. Philipp Kurashev

2020-21 Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
On Loan: Lugano (Switzerland National League, Elite)
Position: C/LW
Slot Potential: Middle 6, likely as a 3rd line center with opportunity to play 2nd line as a winger
Trajectory: Capable of earning a cup of coffee this season then be in the mix for a full-time NHL role in 2021-22

Kurashev is sneaky good with his playmaking, underrated strength, and ruggedness to truck through the tight checking by physical teams. He isn't going to wow you with lightning speed or highlight reel plays. Instead, he makes fundamental plays with his hockey IQ and smooth skating.

As a natural center, Kurashev is incredibly dependable at supporting his mates in all zones. Some criticize him for not pushing the pace enough but I find that unwarranted if you watch closely.

--

1. Lukas Reichel

2020-21 Team: Eisbaren Berlin (DEL, Elite, Germany)
On Loan: N/A
Position: LW
Slot Potential: Top 6, at least 2nd line to start his career then potential as an eventual 1st liner
Trajectory: At least one more season in the DEL then a season in the AHL before pushing for a spot in 2022-23

Reichel is a stellar three-zone player who is diligent in the rough areas and uses his endless motor to forecheck and backcheck equally well. His game is intelligent with quickness and agility in all directions. He’s also resilient in that he will bounce back after taking a jolt and keep motoring.

For Reichel, his timeline to reach full potential might be twice as long as others taken in the 1st round but his ceiling could end up being higher than most when all is said and done.

--

See you on the boards!

Join the Discussion: » 80 Comments » Post New Comment
More from Theo Fox
» Why Stop There?
» Free Agency: Day 1 Review
» Free Agency: Madness
» Free Agency: RFA QOs
» Free Agency: Preview