I love prospects. There, I said it.
I'm going to jump the gun and pretend that we're at July 21st of 2018. The Chicago Blackhawks prospects development camp has just end (runs July 16-20) and we're all on the messages boards and reading the twitter about who the most impressive players are in the system.
What I'm going to do in the below is select a 1st All-Star team, followed by (you guessed it), a 2nd All-Star team. These teams are not based on long-term potential or how many goals they score in the scrimmage from July 16-20, but more who left the biggest impact with the media, Blackhawks executive and coaching staff. Essentially, who are you going to hear is the next big thing coming up for the Chicago organization.
Typically, you see 2 different types of people stand out at this gathering. I'll use 2 examples from last year – 1) older players (Dylan Sikura) and 2) elite talent (Alex Debrincat).
So with that in mind, I'm not saying Lucas Carlsson will have more points in his career than an Ian Mitchell. To reiterate, I am selecting these teams based on those who will be "most talked about" with an "ooooo what a goal" or "wow that guy is such a smart hockey player, the coaches are raving about his heady 2-way play."
Fun fact before we start; the following players are entering their 4th(!) prospects developmental camp. That's not the best sign, but it's not completely the kiss of death: Radovan Bondra, Liam Coughlin, John Dahlstrom, Fredrik Olofsson, Beau Starrett, Ryan Shea, Joni Tuulola.
Check out the full roster HERE
for all the details.
Then, let's begin:
1st All-Star Team
C – Jacob Nilsson
LW – Tim Soderlund
RW – Mattias From
LD – Lucas Carlsson
RD – Adam Boqvist
G – Wouter Peeters
is the oldest player on the development roster at 24 years old. He was bumped up from the Swedish Jr. league to the SHL in 2017-18 and held his own. Playing against men and being the older at camp is going to give him an advantage. He can also play C or W and will be excited to be reunited with his old coach Jeremy Colliton. Expect Nilsson to be in Rockford for most, if not all of next year but could get a sniff at NHL play if he performs.
looked great in the World Junior Championships last year for Sweden and man, is his style ever what the Hawks need right now. I have a soft spot for players that are super smart, can play in all situations and have a high-end motor – even if there isn't a ton of offensive flair (ie. Marcus Kruger, Phillip Danault types). Soderlund has yet to sign an NHL contract, but expect him to do so in the summer of 2019.
is entering his 3rd prospects camp. He was signed to a PTO with Rockford late last season to get a taste of North American hockey but didn't get into any games. This Great Dane and former 5th round pick in 2016 has bounced around from the Swedish Jr. and SHL and is ready to prove himself. I love this line from Elite Prospects about his play, "Mathias From is a multidimensional buzzsaw that has the drive and skill to net wins and contribute in multiple areas of the game." I'll take that any day on this Hawks team. Unfortunately, From is 2-3 years away still but a great asset to have in the system. I can see him make the move to the AHL for 2019-20.
could be a real gem, lost in this Boqvist/Jokiharju/Mitchell fantasy haze. After 4 seasons of play in the SHL, playing against men, he's making the move to Rockford to suit up with the IceHogs. Could he challenge for a role with the Blackhawks this year? I think he would have been able to if the depth in left-handed shot defenders wasn't so abundant above him. Look for him in a Hawks jersey as early as 2019-20 and could allow Stan to part with a guy like Forsling or Gustafsson in the future if the Hawks are impressed with Carlsson.
will only be 17-years old when this developmental camp kicks off but he would fall into the "elite skill" level a la Debrincat in my categories above. I say they partner him with his "old" partner above (Lucas Carlsson) from the SHL last season and let him open up. It will be exciting to see the talent level of "Karlsson-lite" vs. players 1-7 years older than him. After getting a taste in the SHL last year, he should be ok there, he'll just take a little time getting used to the small ice surface.
is the most experienced Hawks goaltending prospect to be at this camp. He looked strong last year during this time and I expect him to rise as the top goalie for the 4 days.
2nd All-Star Team
C – Evan Barratt
LW – Alexandre Fortin
RW – John Dahlstrom
LD – Chad Krys
RD – Henri Jokiharju
G – Peyton Jones
The thought of Evan Barratt
is exciting. He's that agitating, skillful player that the Hawks would love right now. He scored 11 goals for Penn State last year and maybe be adding the World Junior Hockey Championships to his lengthy international resume with Team USA; he has been invited to their preliminary camp.
Ahhh, the darling of the 2016 prospects camp, Alex Fortin
will hit the scene at the MB Ice Arena looking for redemption. He surprised the coaching staff (and maybe even himself) a couple years ago earning himself a contract with the Blackhawks after going undrafted. He then had a strong training camp and there was talk of the Hawks keeping him on the team to start the year. Since then, Fortin has battled some injuries and hasn't fully hit his stride as a pro. Look for him to come out to impress on July 16th and hone his craft under Colliton this year in Rockford. This is an important year for him to get back on track.
is my selection for the 2nd team RW. His numbers in the Swedish Jr league last year may not jump out but his path has been an interesting one. After being selected with the last pick of the draft in 2015, Dahlstrom has played in multiple levels in Sweden, included stints in the SHL. Then in 2016-17 he came over to the WHL and scored 30 goals as a member of the Medicine Hat Tigers. However, after just one successful season, he opted to go back to Sweden to play in their Jr. league. This will be his 4th prospects camp and it's with that, along with his familiarity with the NA ice, that I feel he will stand out this year amongst the rest of the group.
is another player looking to impress this year. When drafted, his skill was very noticeable, but his overall game needed work. He's been categorized as a "project" and I'm sure he wants to shake that term. He had 27 points in 36 games last year for Boston (NCAA) and will be looking to improve on that, and his 2-way game next year.
is obviously going to have a lot of eyeballs on him and I don't think he disappoints. The way the Blackhawks roster is constructed now, there would be a shot that if he performs well here and in training camp, he could make the team. I personally don't think that is the best path for him (especially if he can go to Rockford), but maybe it's not the worst idea to have him skate alongside Duncan Keith in the NHL. I love that the young Fin opted to stay in Chicago over the summer and play in the CPHL. This kid is eyeing up a roster spot in the show.
is a free agent invite to camp. If you're waiting for an analysis on him, don't hold your breath. I just picked him for fun. Peeters and recently drafted Alexis Gravel are the only 2 that are Blackhawks properties. Hey, Jones could be the next Colin Delia or maybe we never hear from him again.
That's my breakdown of 1st and 2nd "All-Star Teams" from the future from the Hawks prospect camp. Please keep in mind, those are not lines, defensive pairings, etc. To be honest, there's not even going to be that much hockey play to evaluate; I believe there is only 1 scrimmage on the last day. The rest is drills on and off the ice as the Blackhawks changed up their format last year.
Now on to a quick rumour update
: I heard Stan may have an ace up his sleeve and that's why he's remaining calm in the public eye as most teams around him have improved during this off-season.
I was told that there may be a couple things he's sitting on / verbally agreed to with other teams/players.
Watch for a trade as the convention nears. Justin Faulk's name is still out there but sounds like Carolina is trying to drive up the price. It's been rumoured that the Hawks, Leafs and Islanders are interested.
Also, Stan hasn't had much success trading the Hossa contract (he's been exhausting a lot of options). At the end of the day, he doesn't want to mortgage a bigger future asset which teams have been asking for to take on the $5M+ contract.
Heard from someone the other day that said if Stan can't trade Hossa, he will look to utilize the space better than he did last year with an in-season signing.
Maybe a guy like Rick Nash would make sense if he decides to return next year. He would be looking for a 1-year deal and a shot to play with former Team Canada teammates Toews, Keith, Seabrook and Crawford could be appealing.
A signing like that would have to take place on Day #2 of the season like Cody Franson's situation last year.
So, as the season nears, and you see any rumours of a bigger name getting a PTO to the Hawks camp, there would be the assumption that a verbal deal is in place.
See ya out there!