Blackhawks 2009-10 AHL/ECHL prospects update

By Brad Gardner

The Blackhawks currently have 14 prospects getting ice time with their AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs, including four rookies. Chicago also has three prospects suiting up with the ECHL affiliate Toledo Walleye.

Jack Skille, RW
Drafted 2005, 1st round, 7th overall

Skille made several trips between Chicago and Rockford at the start of the season. Like several other NHL clubs, the Blackhawks shuttled Skille – and his contract – to Rockford on off-days in order to have some cap space later in the year. With a largely healthy group of forwards in Chicago, Skille has been kept in Rockford and has built upon last year’s AHL success. In 24 AHL games, the 22-year-old winger has eight goals and 10 assists as one of the IceHogs’ primary options on offense. He has not been able to bring the same consistent production to the NHL yet, so the Blackhawks will keep him in Rockford as long as the team remains healthy.

Akim Aliu, RW
Drafted 2007, 2nd round, 56th overall

Aliu has had some ups and downs in his first pro year out of the OHL. Through 26 games he has six goals and seven points, not necessarily eye-popping numbers but his goal total is tied for sixth on the team. All of his points have come at even strength though the 20-year-old has been given some time on Rockford’s power play. He has disappeared at times during games and registered two or more shots in just six games on the season. While the lack of consistent production is concerning, other areas like maturity and discipline are showing improvement. The 6’3 224-pounder has shown patience and restraint with just 22 PIMs on the year as he works to adjust to the pro level.

Bryan Bickell, LW
Drafted 2004, 2nd round, 41st overall

Bickell has split time between Chicago and Rockford thus far, appearing in eight games with the big club thanks in part to a manageable cap number. He scored one goal in that span and brought toughness and size at 6’4 223 lbs to the ‘Hawks fourth line. Along with some skill and the ability to find soft spots in the offensive zone, Bickell has played well when given ice time in Chicago. He has also performed his role well with the IceHogs. In 26 games with Rockford, the power forward has six goals and four assists. Now in his fourth pro season, the 23-year-old will continue to get the call if injuries open a spot on Chicago’s fourth line.

Evan Brophey, C
Drafted 2005, 3rd round, 68th overall

Last year’s most-improved player, Brophey has fallen off from where he finished last season. He is not a primary scoring option for the ‘Hogs but still has a largely offensive role on the second/third line and as the pivot on the second power-play unit. Through 33 games he has five goals and 11 points, a significant drop from his 39 points in 79 games last year. This decline in production has been especially noticeable the past two months as the 23-year-old has just five points in his last 21 games. It is by no means time to give up on the 6’2 pivot, but a stronger start to his third season was expected after the success a season ago.

Nathan Davis, C
Drafted 2005, 4th round, 113th overall

Though the injury bug limited Davis the previous two seasons, the 23-year-old was enjoying a strong start to his second pro season. Unfortunately, that injury history caught up and a shoulder injury will keep him out until January. Through 23 games prior to the injury he had eight goals, tied for second on the team, and three assists. His plus-seven rating still ranks fourth on the team. Davis possesses great speed and the versatility to play both center and winger that will be missed from the Rockford line-up.

Jacob Dowell, C
Drafted 2004, 5th round, 140th overall

The 24-year-old Dowell was named the IceHogs’ captain at the start of the year. While he has 10 points in 32 games, he has just one goal and a minus-6 rating. Still, it is the Wisconsin native’s hard work and solid two-way play that make him an important piece to the Rockford offense. He brings some versatility to the line-up as a natural center who can also play the wing. Dowell played in a pair of late-October games because of injuries in Chicago, bringing his NHL game total to 22. He is another likely call-up along with Bickell if spots open on the bottom line.

Kyle Greentree, LW
Acquired via trade with Calgary October, 2009

Acquired from Calgary in October, Greentree took a little while to get going on his new team. The 26-year-old now has 19 points through his first 26 games in Rockford and has supplied consistent offense recently with five goals and five assists in nine December games. The 6’3 215 lbs winger was second in the AHL last year with 39 goals and was brought in to be one of the top options in Rockford. His big body and long reach allow him to control the puck, creating chances for himself and his linemates. He will continue to see big minutes for the ‘Hogs on the power play as well as some time alongside the team’s top center and leading scorer Mark Cullen.

Adam Hobson, LW
Drafted 2005, 7th round, 203rd overall

Hobson skated one game at the start of the year with Rockford but was swiftly assigned to Toledo in the ECHL. The 22-year-old is having his most successful year to date since joining the Walleye. Centering the top line alongside the team’s leading scorer and Chicago draft pick Maxime Tanguay, Hobson has scored 12 goals and assisted on 15 others through 26 games. The 6’1 219 lbs forward is another prospect in the system who has played at center and on wing.

Rob Klinkhammer, LW
Signed as free agent June, 2009

Now in his third AHL season, Klinkhammer has had a fairly quiet start to the year from a production standpoint. The 23-year-old has notched four goals and five assists along with 27 PIMs through 28 games. While he has the skill to play in an offensive role, Klinkhammer projects as an energy/checking-line winger. The 6’3 206 lbs Lethbridge native is able to play the body and frequents the high-traffic areas. This versatility not only make him an important piece of the IceHogs’ offense but will also benefit him when he gets a chance with the ‘Hawks.

Peter MacArthur, LW
Signed as free agent July, 2009

An off-season free-agent signing, MacArthur was brought in for more depth on the wing in Rockford. He has provided some secondary scoring for the ‘Hogs with three goals and nine assists through 27 games despite working through some injuries at the start of the year. Responsible enough in his own zone for a checking role, he has also earned some ice time in an offensive role on the power play. While the 24-year-old New York native may not be next in line for a call from Chicago, MacArthur has still been a solid addition to the Rockford line-up.

Jonathan Carlsson, D
Drafted 2008, 6th round, 162nd overall

Carlsson is one of several defensive prospects making his pro debut this season. He was brought over after a full year in the Swedish Elite League and has spent time in both Rockford and Toledo so far this season. He played in 10 games with the Walleye, scoring two goals and adding two assists. He has also spent plenty of time in Rockford as the sixth/seventh defenseman, appearing in eight AHL games with a minus-2 rating and no points. Carlsson’s contributions will not usually be on the offensive end, though. The 21-year-old has the speed and positioning to keep up with forwards in his own end and provides a steady hand on the blue line.

Brian Connelly, D
Signed as free agent March, 2009

Maybe one of the biggest surprises of the ‘Hogs season has come from one of the team’s smallest prospects. At 5’10 167 lbs, Connelly has been a hit on the blueline, placing second in scoring among defensemen with two goals and 11 assists while appearing in all of the team’s 34 games. He has also maintained a plus-four rating, a respectable number for such an offensively-minded defender. He has a key role on the point in the power play thanks in part to his ability to get pucks on net; his 70 shots trail only two players on the team. Of course, the 23-year-old’s quick skating and puck-carrying ability are also important reasons for his offensive success in his first full pro season. He may not be the biggest name in the Blackhawks’ stable of defensive prospects, but Connelly is the type of blueliner who could fit into the ‘Hawks up-tempo system.

Simon Danis-Pepin, D
Drafted 2006, 2nd round, 61st overall

Also making his pro debut is the 6’6 229 lbs Danis-Pepin after a four-year career at Maine. Through his first 21 games he has one goal and one assist on the scoresheet alongside a plus-one rating. The 21-year-old’s sound positioning and smart play has resulted in just one minor penalty being called against him. Rockford has used Danis-Pepin on the penalty kill where his intimidating size and long reach can take up a lot of space. Though he is not especially physical, the Montreal native has been been a steady force for the IceHogs’ defense.

Jean-Claude Sawyer, D
Drafted 2004, 5th round, 161st overall

Beside notching one assist during a four-game appearance with the IceHogs in November, Sawyer has spent much of his season in the ECHL where he has been a big producer on the Walleye blue line. In 26 games, the 23-year-old has 11 goals and 26 points; both totals lead the league among defensemen. Of those 11 goals, five have also been game-winners. Sawyer plays in all situations and is a big reason why Toledo currently has the ECHL’s fifth-best power-play unit. He is in the last year of his entry-level contract.

Mike Brennan, D
Signed as free agent April, 2008

The 23-year-old Brennan is already a veteran on a young Rockford blue line. With one pro season under his belt, the gritty defender has enjoyed a solid start to the year. His four assists through 30 games have him on pace to surpass last year’s total of six helpers. While his minus-8 rating is a team low, Brennan contribute in other areas as he is willing to drop the gloves, ranking third on the team with 54 PIMs. Although he does not bring much to the table offensively, he remains a committed defender and serves an important role among the youthful ‘Hogs defensemen.

Joe Fallon, G
Drafted 2005, 6th round, 167th overall

Rockford rotated between Corey Crawford and Fallon in net until mid-November, when an injury took Crawford out of the equation. The 6’4 200 lbs Fallon stepped up in a big way and has been given the bulk of starts even though the team also brought in free agent Dan Cloutier. Still in his first full AHL season, the 24-year-old Fallon has an impressive 2.47 goals against average and .919 save percentage in 17 games. He has one shutout on the year alongside an 8-8 record. Fallon is still behind a healthy Crawford on the organization’s depth chart but the Bemidji, Minnesota native will continue to play a big role in Rockford’s crease.

Alec Richards, G
Signed as free agent June, 2009

Splitting starts between the pipes with fellow rookie Jordan Pearce (DET), the 6’4 210 lbs Richards has had a strong start to the season for the ECHL Toledo Walleye. The 22-year-old has started 14 games with an 8-3-3 record with a 3.11 goals against average and .903 save percentage. He has one shutout on the year and an impressive three assists. Still in his first year out of Yale, the Robbinsdale, Minnesota native has allowed just five goals in his last three starts during the Walleye’s current six-game winning streak. Before Rockford signed Cloutier, Richards had a strong showing during a three-game AHL appearance with a 2-1 record, 2.02 goals against average, and .929 save percentage. The signing of Cloutier indicates that the organization would like to give Richards more ice time in Toledo.