NCAA and European prospects make up large portion of Chicago Blackhawks prospect pool

By Brad Gardner

Chris Calnan - Boston College Eagles

Photo: Chris Calnan, a third round selection in 2012, capped off a strong freshman season for Boston College, which will face Union when the 2014 Men’s Frozen Four kicks off on Thursday (courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

The Chicago Blackhawks system includes a deep pool of NCAA prospects as well as a few recent picks from overseas. Five of Chicago’s collegiate prospects will take part in the upcoming 2014 Men’s Frozen Four in Philadelphia.

The center and defensive positions are the focus of the college and European prospect pools. Chicago picked four centers in 2013 that began their college career in 2013-14 along with three Swedish defenseman. Those prospects replenished the depth in this pool as high-profile prospects like Teuvo Teravainen, Kevin Hayes, and Stephen Johns prepare to transition to the Blackhawks organization in 2014-15.

NCAA

Kevin Hayes, C/W, Boston College Eagles (Hockey East)
Drafted 1st round, 24th overall, 2011

Kevin Hayes' junior season at BC ended with injury, but his return for his senior year could not have gone any better. The 6'4" forward skated on perhaps the nation's top line alongside Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) and Bill Arnold (CGY) and set career-highs in every category with 27 goals, 36 assists for 63 points in 39 games. Hayes was one of 10 Hobey Baker finalists and was also named to the Hockey East First-Team All-Stars. The Eagles were upset early in the Hockey East Tournament, but bounced back in the NCAA Tournament to earn a berth in the Frozen Four. Hayes has five goals and seven assists in his last four games going into the team's semi-final game against Union.

John Hayden, C, Yale Bulldogs (ECAC)
Drafted 3rd round, 74th overall, 2013

Chicago's 2013 draft class was full of players headed to the NCAA, with Yale center John Hayden being the first college-bound prospect selected in the third round. Although he did not hit the ground running as some of the Blackhawks other 2013 picks did as freshmen, Hayden has the size and skill to eventually develop into a power forward. He finished the year with seven points in his last nine games, totaling six goals and 16 points in 33 games. With his first year of college hockey under his belt, Hayden should see a bigger role for the Bulldogs as his college career continues in 2014-15.

Vince Hinostroza, C, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Hockey East)
Drafted 6th round, 169th overall, 2012

Vince Hinostroza spent three years in the USHL before finally matriculating at Notre Dame for the 2013-14 season, but it was well worth the wait for the Irish. The 5'9" forward began the season on the team's fourth line, but quickly established himself as one of the team's top playmakers. The freshman finished third on the team with 32 points in 34 games and finished the season as the team's third line center and a power-play contributor. He also skated for Team USA at the 2014 World Junior Championships and had three goals, two assists in five games. Size will of course be a factor when Hinostroza eventually transitions to the pro game, but the 19-year-old center proved he could make quick work of the NCAA.

Luke Johnson, C/RW, University of North Dakota (NCHC)
Drafted 5th round, 134th overall, 2013

North Dakota continued to reload in 2013-14, playing their best hockey at the right time and earning a spot in the 2014 Frozen Four. Freshman Luke Johnson stepped into a top-six role for the club and scored eight goals, 13 assists in all 41 games for UND. Skating mostly on the right wing with the team's leading scorer, Rocco Grimaldi (FLA), Johnson ranks second on the team in both shots on goal (103) and power-play goals (5). The line will leaned on heavily in the team's upcoming semifinal game against Minnesota, and Johnson's usage should only increase as his college career continues at North Dakota.

Tyler Motte, C, Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)
Drafted 4th round, 121st overall, 2013

Despite big losses on the blue line to the NHL, the Wolverines had a solid third-place finish in the first year in the new Big Ten Hockey Conference. Tyler Motte got off to a quick start with a four-game goal streak early in the season, and despite his freshman status, worked his way up to the team's second line and special teams units by the end of the year, finishing with nine goals and nine assists in 34 games. He is a defensively responsible center that can also set up his teammates in the offensive end and do the little things that help his team be successful.

Anthony Louis, C, Miami (Ohio) University RedHawks (NCHC)
Drafted 6th round, 181st overall, 2013

Chicago's fourth college center drafted in 2013, Anthony Louis had a productive debut for Miami. He finished in the team's top five in goals (12) and points (25) in 36 games. Although it was overall a trying season for Miami, the team ended on a strong note with a long run in the NCHC Tournament. Louis registered four goals and six points in four conference tournament games, including two goals in the RedHawks' loss to Denver in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff Championship game. At 5'7", Louis was able to withstand the bigger players at the NCAA level this year, but he will still need to add strength and improve his game away from the puck through the rest of his college career.

Matt Carey, C/LW, St. Lawrence Saints (ECAC)
Signed as a free agent, March 2014

Chicago signed Matt Carey to an entry-level contract in March after only one season at Lake Superior State, where Carey skated with his older brother Greg, who also recently signed an entry-level contract with Phoenix. Only two years younger than his brother, 22-year-old Matt Carey spent several seasons in Canada's Junior A circuit before going to St. Lawrence. Ruled ineligible for the 2012-13 season, he was a little older than a traditional freshman this season, but he still made an impressive debut with 18 goals and 37 points in 38 games. Carey made his NHL debut in Ottawa after signing with the Blackhawks.

Chris Calnan, RW, Boston College Eagles (Hockey East)
Drafted 3rd round, 79th overall, 2012

Calnan has played sparingly as a freshman at Boston College, finishing the season with four goals and 12 points in 36 games. The winger has settled into a third line role alongside Adam Gilmour (MIN), a former teammate at Nobles Prep. A strong and athletic prospect, he will have as much time as he needs to develop his powerful game at the college level. The Blackhawks have had great success with BC products in the past, and Calnan's role will increase as he progresses through his college career.

Stephen Johns, D, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Hockey East)
Drafted 2nd round, 60th overall, 2010

As a senior at Notre Dame, Stephen Johns established himself as a stalwart defensive player and proved he can contribute in the offensive end as well. The blueliner scored a career-high eight goals and 20 points in 40 games in 2013-14, earning a spot on the Hockey East Second-Team All-Stars. Never really known for his offense, Johns showed as a senior that he could contribute at both ends of the rink. He finished second on the Irish with 63 blocked shots while maintaining his physical style of play. The 21-year-old blueliner signed his entry-level contract with Chicago shortly after Notre Dame's season ended and made his professional debut with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs.

Michael Paliotta, D, Vermont Catamounts (Hockey East)
Drafted 3rd round, 70th overall, 2011

The University of Vermont took another step forwarded in 2013-14. Michael Paliotta played a key role, drawing the toughest assignments that the opposition had to offer each night while still contributing for the Catamounts in the offensive end. Paliotta uses his size and strength well in his own end, while also possessing the hockey instincts to anticipate the play and move the puck. He earned an honorable mention for the Hockey East All-Star teams. The blueliner is likely to return for his senior season in 2014-15.

Justin Holl, D, Minnesota Golden Gophers (Big Ten)
Drafted 2nd round, 54th overall, 2010

Another senior defenseman wrapping up his NCAA career, Justin Holl was selected a few picks ahead of Stephen Johns in 2010. While Johns has long been considered among Chicago's top defensive prospects, Holl has developed his game at the University of Minnesota in relative anonymity. Gophers coach Don Lucia employs a tight defensive system that has helped Holl's game improve in his own end, and the defenseman has become one of the more defensive-minded players on the blue line for the club. He is still capable of pushing the pace and moving the puck up ice. With a 6'2" frame and speed to burn, Holl is a likely candidate to earn a pro contract, whether it be with Chicago or a club with more openings at the pro level.

Nick Mattson, D, University of North Dakota (NCHC)
Drafted 6th round, 180th overall, 2010

Mattson continued to see steady ice time for North Dakota in 2013-14 and was one of the elder statesmen on the blue line for the club. Mattson is currently tied with Jordan Schmaltz (STL) for the lead in defensive scoring with 23 points in 39 games. His plus-nine rating and 45 blocked shots are each among the top three for the defensive unit as well. He has recently logged top-four minutes alongside freshman Paul LaDue and has shown a fair bit of discipline with only three minor penalties all year. Mattson and UND will reignite an old WCHA rivalry with Minnesota in their semi-final game at the Frozen Four.

Sam Jardine, D, Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten)
Drafted 6th round, 169th overall, 2011

In his sophomore year at Ohio State, Jardine scored a goal and 12 assists in 36 games. A well-rounded defenseman with good size, Jardine skated mostly in a second and third pairing role with some power play time for the Buckeyes in 2013-14. He is a blueliner that can get the puck moving in the right direction, and his offensive totals could expand with his role going into his junior season in 2014-15.

Trevor van Riemsdyk, D, New Hampshire Wildcats (Hockey East)
Signed as a free agent, March 2014

Chicago's second free agent signing out of the NCAA so far this spring, Trevor van Riemsdyk contributed to a productive blue line corps in his three-year career at New Hampshire. Limited to 26 games as a junior, he still scored 23 points and led the Wildcats blueliners with a scoring average of 0.88 points per game. He could stand to add strength to his 6'2" frame and his defensive game is a work in progress, but the addition of van Riemsdyk adds an offensively-gifted blueliner to the mix at the minor league level.

Matt Tomkins, G, Ohio State Buckeyes (Big Ten)
Drafted 7th round, 199th overall, 2012

The Blackhawks goaltending pipeline is not quite as deep as the other positions at the college level with Ohio State goalie Matt Tomkins the only player between the pipes. Tomkins earned a 6-7-2 record in 17 appearances as a freshman, earning a 2.78 goals against average and .911 save percentage. Tomkins stood to see an increased role after Collin Olson (CAR) left the program in November, but he was injured shortly after Olson’s departure and kept out of the lineup for two months. Christian Frey was added to the Buckeyes roster in December and finished the season with slightly more overall ice time than Tomkins. Tomkins will have time to develop and should continue to get an opportunity to earn starts for Ohio State's young goaltending corps.

Europe

Teuvo Teravainen, C, Jokerit Helsinki (Liiga)
Drafted 1st round, 18th overall, 2012

His NHL debut is already under his belt, but Teuvo Teravainen spent most of the 2013-14 season frustrating defenses in Finland's top pro league, Liiga, for Jokerit Helsinki. In addition to a productive season playing against men in Finland, perhaps Teravainen's more notable impact came on international ice at the 2014 WJC. As captain of the Finnish team, Teravainen led the tournament in scoring with 15 points in seven games and helped the club to the gold medal. Although he has not been used often in his time in Chicago, Teravainen has already shown flashes of a potential offensive dynamo who should be primed for an NHL roster spot heading into 2014-15.

Carl Dahlstrom, D, Linkopings HC (SHL)
Drafted 2nd round, 51st overall, 2013

Dahlstrom spent most the first half of his season at the junior level, where he scored 14 points in 23 games. Although left off Sweden's WJC roster, Dahlstrom finished the year with his first stint of professional hockey in the Swedish Hockey League, Sweden's top pro league. He settled into a simple, defense-first role in 12 regular season games and 14 playoff games, gaining important experience against some of the top pros in Sweden. Linkoping lost in the league semi-finals to Skelleftea, the 2013 SHL champions. Even if he spends more time at the junior level at the start of the season, Dahlstrom will look to expand his role at the SHL level in 2014-15.

Robin Norell, D, Djurgardens IF (Allsvenskan)
Drafted 4th round, 111th overall, 2013

Norell spent the 2013-14 season in Sweden's second-tier pro league, HockeyAllsvenskan, skating for Djurgarden. He appeared in 22 regular season games and the playoffs as a rookie, and the blueliner also earned ice time with Team Sweden at the 2014 WJC. Like Dahlstrom, Norell is unspectacular but a smart player that can both defend and safely move the puck. He does not have the size advantage that Dahlstrom has, however. Djurgarden recently earned a ticket back to Sweden's top tier SHL for the 2014-15 season, giving Norell and the rest of the club a little bump in competition level next season.

Robin Press, D, Sodertalje SK (Allsvenskan)
Drafted 7th round, 211th overall, 2013

Also skating in the Allsvenskan in 2013-14, Robin Press appeared in 51 games with Sodertalje's top club and 10 regular season games and four playoff games for the junior team. The 19-year-old defenseman scored four goals and 11 assists in his time at the pro level, his second season mostly spent at the pro level. A former forward, Press is very capable when it comes to creating offense and getting pucks on net from the blue line. He will have time to develop defensively as he continues skating in Sweden.

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