The Blackhawks have six prospects who spent their season in the CHL, including top prospects Kyle Beach and Shawn Lalonde. Four of those prospects played in the WHL while there was one player in the OHL and one in the QMJHL. Ryan Stanton is a newcomer to the Chicago organization as he was recently signed as a free agent out of the WHL.
Kyle Beach, LW – Spokane Chiefs
Drafted 2008, 1st round, 11th overall
Beach set new career highs with 52 goals, which led the entire WHL, and 86 points in his fourth and final junior season. Through 68 games with Spokane, the agitating winger also amassed a team-leading 186 PIMs including nine fighting majors. But Beach also went 10 games without a single penalty in February and upped his production to 12 goals and six assists during that span. He added seven goals and two assists during the Chiefs’ Game 7 loss to Portland in the first round of the WHL playoffs, scoring a goal in all but one game.
At 6’3 and 202 lbs, Beach will add size and pugnacity to the Chicago line-up in the next couple seasons. He joined the team’s AHL affiliate in Rockford after Spokane was eliminated from the playoffs. Through four regular-season AHL games and two playoff games, the 20-year-old forward has one goal for Rockford. He will have an opportunity to stick with the Blackhawks out of camp next season.
Byron Froese, C – Everett Silvertips
Drafted 2009, 4th round, 119th overall
Centering one of Everett’s top lines this season, Froese finished the season third on the team in goals and fourth in points in 70 regular-season games. His 29 goals and 61 points are both career marks building on his solid rookie season. The pivot, who turned 19 in March, played on both special teams units for the ‘Tips, ending up second on the team with 10 power-play goals and one shorthanded goal. Everett drew the Kelowna Rockets in the first round of the playoffs, losing in seven games while Froese registered three goals and two assists.
His stock has been on the rise after another productive WHL season thanks to strong play in all three zones. He has the hockey smarts to make plays offensively, but is also willing to go into the dirty areas to find chances. His hard work earned him an alternate captain spot in Everett as well as the opportunity to represent the WHL at the Canada/Russia Subway Super Series. Froese is in line to again be a top forward for the ‘Tips next season.
Ryan Stanton, D – Moose Jaw Warriors
Signed as free agent March, 2010
The Blackhawks added a physical defenseman to the organization with the signing of Ryan Stanton. Though he is known more for his tough defensive play, the 6’2 205-pound blueliner also showed some offense in junior, particularly this season as an overager when he scored 40 points in 59 games to lead all team defensemen. He scored seven times on the power play and had 10 total goals on the year, more than he scored in his first three years combined. He dropped the gloves five times while earning 81 PIMs. In the playoffs, he registered six assists with a minus-six rating as Moose Jaw was ousted by the Calgary Hitmen in seven games.
Stanton dressed in two regular-season games in Rockford and got his first professional point with an assist. The 20-year-old played in all situations for Moose Jaw this season and could fill a similar two-way role with the ‘Hogs next season.
Teigan Zahn, D – Saskatoon Blades
Drafted 2008, 5th round, 132nd overall
Zahn missed some time in his fourth junior season in Saskatoon due to a broken leg, appearing in 44 regular-season games with three assists and 84 PIMs. The 20-year-old returned sooner than expected and appeared in all 10 of the Blades’ playoff games, registering two more assists and a plus-one rating.
At 6’2 222 lbs, Zahn is an intimidating presence on the ice. His physical play put him in the mix for Team Canada’s U-20 training camp though he was ultimately not invited. Chicago’s signing of Stanton, who displayed more offense than Zahn at the junior level, leaves fewer spots open on the blue line. The Blackhawks must sign Zahn this summer or will lose his rights.
Shawn Lalonde, D – Belleville Bulls
Drafted 2008, 3rd round, 68th overall
Lalonde tied for fifth in scoring among OHL defensemen and led Belleville in points in his fourth season with the team, scoring 13 goals and 56 points over 58 games. His nine power-play goals also tied for the team lead. The smooth-skating blueliner finished with a minus-21 rating that was much more indicative of a struggling team than any defensive shortcomings.
Still, it is Lalonde’s play in his own zone that will likely take the most time to adjust at the pro level. His excellent skating and vision make him potent offensively, especially on the power play. He was invited to take part in Canada’s U-20 training camp but was among the final cuts. The 20-year-old joined the IceHogs after Belleville failed to make the playoffs, appearing in eight games with one goal and one assist and two scoreless playoff games. Lalonde will be in the mix for a spot in Chicago at next year’s training camp but will likely be able to get more ice time if he starts off in Rockford.
Gilbert had trouble getting ice time on the scoring lines with the Quebec Remparts but a mid-season trade to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan gave him an opportunity. The 19-year-old pivot played in 31 games for each team, finishing with 18 points with Quebec and improving to 30 points after the trade due largely to an increased role offensively. With the Titan, Gilbert earned ice time in all situations and potted five power-play goals and one shorthanded goal. Acadie-Bathurst ran into the Remparts in the first round of the playoffs, losing in seven games despite seven goals and two assists by Gilbert against his former team.
He signed an amateur tryout contract with Rockford after his junior season, suiting up in one game and notching an assist before returning to his junior team. Despite a 6’2 frame, Gilbert is not a very physical forward and will need to bring more defensive consistency before making the pro jump. The talented center could still be a breakout candidate in the Quebec league next season with a full year in Bathurst.