Blackhawks 2010 draft review

By Brad Gardner

The Blackhawks set out to restock their talent pipeline in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and did just that with 10 picks during the weekend, including five picks in the first two rounds.

Seven of the selections measured a height of at least 6’2, injecting more size into the system. The team added talent to each position with two wingers, three centers, three defensemen, and two goalies in the class. Player’s backgrounds are just as diverse with four American-born picks headed to the NCAA, three picks from the CHL, and three European selections.

Kevin Hayes, RW – Noble & Greenough (High-MA)
Drafted: 1st round, 24th overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 201

Though some considered the pick of Hayes a reach in the first round, the Hawks believe they added a promising young power forward to the organization. His combination of size and skill is already intriguing and should continue to improve while Chicago takes a patient approach with his development.

One of the top prospects in the draft from the Massachusetts area, Hayes had several productive seasons for Nobles Prep. He appeared in 28 games during the 2009-10 season, scoring 25 goals and adding 42 assists. He also has some international experience, suiting up for the U.S. during the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, where the team finished fourth.

The right winger skates very well for his size and is tough to knock off the puck. In addition to his physical assets, he brings a great hockey IQ to the table. More of a playmaker than a scorer, his great vision and ability to read the play make him a dangerous set-up man.

Though he was just a junior in high school last season, Hayes expedited the graduation process and is expected to suit up for Boston College in the fall. The Blackhawks will be in no hurry to rush him and he will have time to continue developing a complete game and growing into his frame. At BC, he will join his older brother, Jimmy, who was acquired from Toronto during the second round in exchange for the 43rd overall pick (Brad Ross).

Ludvig Rensfeldt, LW – Brynas Jr (SWE JR)
Drafted: 2nd round, 35th overall
Height: 6’3 Weight: 192

One of the big risers in pre-draft rankings, Rensfeldt finished the season ranked fifth on Central Scouting’s list of European skaters. Much like Kevin Hayes, the Swede possesses an impressive package of size and skill.

The winger spent the season with Brynas’ junior club, accumulating 21 goals and 50 points over the course of 39 games. His most impressive showing came in the World U18 Championships, where he scores six goals and six assists in six games. His 12 points ranked second on the team and helped the Tre Kronor to a silver medal.

While not exactly a dominant physical force, Rensfeldt is still able to use his size and strength to his advantage. His most potent offensive skills are his heavy shot and his ability to get to the front of the net. His skating will need to improve and his frame will need to fill out.

Rensfeldt will likely have a few years ahead of him in Sweden and could very well make the jump to the professional level from the junior squad by the end of the upcoming season.

Justin Holl, D – Minnetonka (High-MN)
Drafted: 2nd round, 54th overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 170

Holl finished a stellar senior season for Minnetonka High School with a section 6AA State Championship and a trip to the state title game, racking up 20 goals and 17 assists in 30 regular season and post-season games. The offensive defenseman ranked sixth on his team in regular season scoring and was one of ten finalists for Minnesota’s prestigious Mr. Hockey award.

Holl described himself as, "a puck-moving defenseman. I think my biggest strength is my skating," he continued, "especially for my size. I skate well going both directions and in transition. I think I can make that first pass and make it a direct pass."

His offensive skills project as an ideal fit in Chicago’s high-octane attack. He could also bring a right-handed shot to the power play, which the Hawks have been missing. There is still a ways to go for the blueliner, who will spend one year in the USHL with Omaha before matriculating at the University of Minnesota.

"Right now, lack of strength is my biggest weakness," Holl acknowledged, "I definitely need to get a lot stronger and pack on some pounds if I want to be competitive at the next level, so I can handle some of the guys in the corners."

Kent Simpson, G – Everett (WHL)
Drafted: 2nd round, 58th overall
Height: 6’3 Weight: 182

Goaltending was undoubtedly the weakest spot within Chicago’s prospect ranks coming into the draft, and the team first addressed that need with their second round selection of Simpson.

The netminder ranked second in the WHL in both goals against average (2.26) and save percentage (.925) during the regular season, finishing with a record of 22-9-1 in 34 games. Everett lost a tough seven game series against Kelowna in the first round of the playoffs, with Simpson playing five of those games and earning a 2-3 record including one shutout.

The Edmonton-native has good size at 6’3 and is able to cover a lot of the net. He also moves well around the crease. While he shows good technique and positioning at times, he is still inconsistent in those areas. He will also need to prove he can carry a greater workload than he has to this point in his career.

Simpson is on Team Canada’s radar and was invited to their renowned Program of Excellence goalie camp. He, along with Chicago center prospect Byron Froese, will play a large role in Everett’s fortunes next season as the Silvertips attempt to continue their climb up the WHL standings.

Stephen Johns, D – Team USA (USHL)

Drafted: 2nd round, 60th overall
Height: 6’3 Weight: 215

Prior to the 60th selection, Chicago had selected players from hockey factories like Canada and Sweden as well as hockey-crazy areas stateside in Minnesota and Massachusetts. The selection of Stephen Johns, a native of western Pennsylvania, was a step in a different direction.

"It’s an unbelievable honor to come from western Pennsylvania," Johns said, "It is a football area where hockey is not really a big sport. It has kind of put western Pennsylvania on the map now as a hockey town."

The hulking defenseman probably fit right in with the football crowd considering his propensity for big hits and a physical game. His leadership abilities and willingness to lay his body on the line make him a well-respected teammate. Skating is one area that could use improvement, but he is still rarely found out of position defensively. He netted just one goal and eight points in 23 games with the U.S. National Team program, but there is still room to grow offensively. In fact, the blueliner added three assists and 10 PIMs in seven games en route to the U18 gold.

Johns is headed to Notre Dame in the fall, where he will join another Blackhawks’ prospect, Joe Lavin, on the Irish blue line.

Joakim Nordstrom, C – AIK Jr (SWE JR)
Drafted: 3rd round, 90th overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 160

Despite a center-heavy draft class in 2009, Chicago continued to address the pivot position during the middle rounds of the 2010 draft. They also continued with the recent influx of Swedish prospects with the selection of Joakim Nordstrom, ranked 37th among European skaters by Central Scouting.

A solid two-way center, Nordstrom spent much of last season with the AIK junior squad, where he scored six goals and nine assists in 28 games. He was also on Sweden‘s U18 team along with Rensfeldt, and had two assists through six tournament games.

Like many of Chicago’s recent picks, the Swede possesses a strong understanding of the game and plenty of offensive upside. He will likely continue moving up the ranks in Sweden as he fills out his frame and continues to develop his skills.

Rob Flick
, C – Mississauga St. Michael’s (OHL)
Drafted: 4th round, 120th overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 205

The 19-year-old Flick brings size and snarl to Chicago’s depth chart at center.

He led the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors in penalty minutes by a wide margin with 157 last season and still chipped in 15 goals and 19 assists in 65 games. His 34 points were good for eighth on the team, a strong contribution for a prospect viewed more as a tough grinder than a point producer.

Flick’s future in the professional ranks will be as a grinder, but his ability to chip in some occasional offense could help his chances.

Mirko Hoefflin, C – Heilbronn (Ger2)
Drafted: 6th round, 151st overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 174

Chicago took German pivot Mirko Hoefflin in the sixth round for even more center depth. The last time the Blackhawks drafted a player out of Germany was 1988, a 12th round pick named Andreas Lupzig who spent his career in his native country.

This German, though is already beginning to make a name for himself in hockey circles. The Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL traded up to sixth overall to take Hoefflin in the recent CHL Import Draft. He was also a hero for his own country during the Division I U18 tournament. He scored four goals and seven assists in five games, earned the Best Forward award, and helped his team get promoted for next year’s World U18 Championships. He also played on Germany‘s Division I U20 entry, registering four goals and two assists in five games against older competition.

Hoefflin’s most noticeable attribute is his speed. He combines that with good puck-handling and the ability to find open teammates. Like the rest of the draft class, he will need to bulk up and continue rounding out his game. He has the opportunity to work his way up in Germany, but his great skating ability could also land him in Quebec and on the North American development path.

Nick Mattson, D – Indiana (USHL)
Drafted: 6th round, 180th overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 189

Though he was ranked much higher in the 2010 draft class a few years ago, Mattson slide has been precipitous. He committed to North Dakota at just 15 years old but has yet to live up to the early hype. A lackluster year for the Indiana Ice may have contributed to his slide, with just five goals and 14 assists in 51 games. He was able to step up his game in the playoffs, where he added six assists in nine games, but Indiana was nonetheless eliminated in the second round by eventual league champion Green Bay.

Mattson is a solid two-way defenseman but does not possess a single superior quality that might have made him a more intriguing prospect. Instead, his all-around game makes him a good bet to succeed at the college level but leaves his professional options up in the air. Mattson could join North Dakota in the fall or possibly spend another year in the USHL.

Macmillian Carruth, G – Portland (WHL)
Drafted: 7th round, 191st overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 169

The second goalie drafted by Chicago out of the WHL, Carruth saw 26 games as the Winterhawks’ backup. He began the year in the NAHL with the Wenatchee Wild but joined Portland when starter Ian Curtis went down with an injury. The team then traded veteran backup Kurtis Mucha to create a permanent spot for Carruth. The netminder finished with a 14-9-1 record, 3.41 goals against average, and .893 save percentage for Portland.

Another goalie with good size at 6’2, Carruth is a native of Shorewood, Minnesota. His original plan was to attend the University of Minnesota-Duluth after his Junior A career, but his scholarship was pushed back and he opted to jump to the WHL. He will likely start the 2010-11 season as the backup to Ian Curtis.