2010 NHL Draft Review: Chicago Blackhawks 2010 draft class yielded mixed results

By Anthony Lyen
Photo: Chicago Blackhawks prospect Stephen Johns, selected 60th overall at the 2010 NHL draft, led Rockford in playoff scoring capping off a career-best scoring season in 2014-15 (courtesy of Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

Photo: Chicago Blackhawks prospect Stephen Johns, selected 60th overall at the 2010 NHL draft, led Rockford in playoff scoring to cap off a career-best scoring season in 2014-15 (courtesy of Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

 

 

The Chicago Blackhawks went into the 2010 NHL Entry Draft plagued by uncertainty. Sure, the team was fresh off winning their first Stanley Cup in 49 years, but the celebration could only last so long. The fact of the matter was the Blackhawks were pressed against the salary cap, so the offseason would see general manager Stan Bowman make a flurry of trades and signings to ensure the Blackhawks were both cap-compliant and a Cup contender. It probably sounds familiar.

Nearly five years later, the Blackhawks are still one of the NHL’s premiere franchises, but the 2010 offseason was truly a busy one for Bowman. At the draft, it was made evident Chicago needed to acquire as much young and inexpensive talent as possible. With ten selections (including five in the first two rounds), the Blackhawks were able to bolster a somewhat shallow prospect pool, which was ranked 18th by Hockey’s Future in the spring of 2010.

So how far have these 2010 draftees come with the organization? Let’s have a look.

1st round, 24th overall: Kevin Hayes, C, Noble & Greenough (USHS)
Status: NHL Player (New York Rangers)
NHL Games Played: 79

Alright, Blackhawks fans. Let’s get this one over with.

When Hayes was selected 24th overall by the Blackhawks in 2010, there was plenty to get excited about. The young power forward had the size – he measured in at 6’2 when drafted – and skill to become a serious threat down the middle for Chicago. Hayes’s impressive skating, hockey IQ and playmaking ability made him a valuable commodity within the Blackhawks system, and it was assumed after a few years of development at Boston College, he would be able to fit right in to the Blackhawks lineup.

Four years later, Hayes became a force for the Eagles in his senior season, amassing 65 points in 40 games. He would eventually rack up 132 points during his 142-game college career. It was evident Hayes was ready to play in the NHL, but the Blackhawks found themselves with a bit of a dilemma on their hands: due to an option in the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, Hayes could test the free agent market if the team who drafted him was unable to sign him. Bowman was confident in the team’s ability to sign their former-first round pick, and a contract was offered to Hayes.

He declined, and just five days later, Hayes signed a two-year deal with the New York Rangers.

During the 2014-15 season, the 23-year-old winger had an impressive rookie campaign, earning 17 goals and 28 helpers in 79 games for the Rangers. He also had seven points as the Blueshirts made their run for the Stanley Cup.

The Blackhawks received a second-round pick at the 2015 NHL Draft as compensation for losing the rights to Hayes. That pick, 54th overall, was used to select Graham Knott out of Niagara.

2nd round, 35th overall: Ludvig Rensfeldt, LW, Brynas J20 (SuperElit)
Status: Bust (European Pro)
NHL Games Played: 0

After a series of trades, the Blackhawks were able to accumulate four selections in the second round. With the 35th pick, which was acquired along with the 58th overall pick for the Blackhawks’ 2010 first-round pick, the Blackhawks aimed to add another big, powerful winger in Rensfeldt.

Ranked fifth amongst European skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau prior to the draft, Rensfeldt brought a lot to the table. Fresh off a superb season with the Brynas J20 team, he tallied 50 points – including 21 goals – in 39 games. An imposing physical player with a booming shot, it appeared all the young Swede needed was a few years of development overseas before getting a look with the Blackhawks.

Rensfeldt spent his 2010-11 season back in Europe as expected, but the next year saw him join the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. Rensfeldt would end the 2011-12 season with a 22-goal, 43-point season with the Sting.

Those two years of development, however, did not earn Rensfeldt a professional contract with the Blackhawks, as Bowman opted not to sign the winger. Despite reentering the 2012 draft, Rensfeldt went undrafted. He would eventually return home to Sweden, where he went on to play two seasons with Malmo in the Swedish Allsvenskan league. He is expected to start the 2015-16 season with his current team, Rogle.

2nd round, 54th overall: Justin Holl, D, Minnetonka (Minnesota High School)
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Entering the draft as the 47th ranked American skater, Holl fell slightly to the Blackhawks, who took a chance on the young defenseman at 54th overall. Fresh off an impressive year for Minnetonka High School in his home state of Minnesota, Holl recorded 31 points in 25 games as a senior.

Holl continued his development with the University of Minnesota, where he would become a key part of the Gopher’s blue line. Over the next four years, Holl would register 38 points in 142 games in the NCAA while sporting a career plus/minus rating of +34. No season was more memorable for Holl than his 2013-14 senior season, where he would go on to help lead the Gophers to the Frozen Four and, eventually, the national championship game. Most college hockey fans can probably still remember Holl’s game-winning shorthanded goal against the University of North Dakota in the semifinal, scored with just 0.6 seconds left in the game.

Once Holl’s senior season wrapped up, his next goal was to sign an NHL contract with the Blackhawks. The offer never came, but Holl did eventually sign a one-year deal with the Blackhawks’ minor league affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. This would allow Holl valuable professional experience while allowing Blackhawks upper management to continue monitoring the 23-year-old defenseman’s progress and development.

Due to a logjam on the blueline, Holl spent most of the 2014-15 season with the Indy Fuel of the ECHL, where he would put up seven goals (four on the power play) and 27 assists in 66 games. He even managed to see a couple games with the IceHogs, but Holl would fail to register a point in his brief stint.

2nd round, 58th overall: Kent Simpson, G, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Status: Prospect (New York Islanders)
NHL Games Played: 1

The summer of 2010 saw the Blackhawks lose both their starting (Antti Niemi) and backup (Cristobal Huet) goaltenders, and the pipeline at the time was starting to thin out. Recognizing this, Bowman used his third second-round selection on Simpson, who was the highest drafted goaltender by the Blackhawks since Corey Crawford was selected 52nd overall in 2003.

There was every reason to be excited about Simpson too. Going into the draft as the 3rd ranked North American goaltender, Simpson had a notable season for the Everett Silvertips, posting a 22-9-1 record with a .925 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average. At 6’3, he was praised for his ability to cover the net and use his positioning to stand tall in net. With several years of development in the WHL as well as with the IceHogs, many hoped the Edmonton native could potentially be a goalie of the future for the Blackhawks.

With each passing season, however, it became quite evident Simpson was not developing as planned. Simpson’s next (and final) two seasons with the Silvertips saw him go 41-51-16. Things didn’t go much smoother in the pros either. Simpson was rarely able to stick with the IceHogs, often bouncing between the AHL and ECHL during his time with the Blackhawks organization. He would only suit up for the Blackhawks once, a relief effort against the Toronto Maple Leafs on December 14th, 2013, where Simpson allowed two goals on just seven shots.

The Blackhawks’ patience with Simpson eventually ran out, and the 23-year-old goaltender was traded with Nick Leddy to the New York Islanders on October 4th, 2014. He spent the majority of the 2014-15 season with the Stockton Thunder, where he continued to struggle with a 7-17-1 record, including going 3-14-0 in his final 17 games of the season.

2nd round, 60th overall: Stephen Johns, D, U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Although the Blackhawks’ first three selections in the second round have yielded virtually no results for the organization, there is still some hope for their fourth and final pick of the round, Stephen Johns.

The 35th ranked North American skater heading into the draft, Johns gradually turned heads and generated interest from both scouts and teams alike throughout the 2009-10 season. He earned eight points and a +12 in 23 games for the U.S. National Under-18 team in the USHL. Praised for his strong physical game and remarkable leadership and character, Johns would go on to represent the U.S. at the IIHF World U18 Championships, bringing home the gold medal for Team USA.

The Pennsylvania native would go on to become an effective defenseman for the University of Notre Dame. Over the next four years, Johns would rack up 57 points and 300 penalty minutes in 162 games for the Fighting Irish. While his offensive numbers may not be overly gaudy, Johns was constantly praised for his dominating physical play and effective two-way game. His skill set would see him named Hockey East Second All-Star Team as well as the Hockey East All-Tournament Team during his senior season in 2014.

The 2014-15 season was Johns’ first professional season, and despite being plagued by injuries, the results were promising. The 23-year-old blueliner tallied 21 points in 51 games for the IceHogs while sporting a team-high plus/minus rating of +30. With the Blackhawks expected to have an opening or two on the blue line come training camp and preseason, there’s every reason to believe Johns is the leading candidate to fill the void.

3rd round, 90th overall: Joakim Nordstrom, C, AIK J20 (SuperElit)
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 54

Going into the draft, Nordstrom had already had a solid season with the AIK J20 team, accumulating 15 points in 28 games. After being drafted, Nordstrom would spend the next three seasons developing his game, primarily in Sweden. A highlight of his hard work would come during the 2012 World Junior Championships. Nordstrom, one of Sweden’s alternate captains, would go on to score four goals and an assist during the tournament that saw the Swede’s overpower Russia for the gold medal.

After an eleven game stint with the IceHogs in 2012-13, Nordstrom would see his 2013-14 season as his first full year of North American hockey. The center would make his NHL debut on October 1st, and scored his first NHL goal just 10 days later against the New York Islanders. Nordstrom would eventually spend the majority of the year with the IceHogs, putting up a respectable 33 points and a +9 in 58 games.

Nordstrom’s impressive rookie debut for Rockford was enough to for him to be named captain at the start of the 2014-15 season. Although his offensive skillset and statistics are more noticeable in the minors, Nordstrom spent most of the year with the Blackhawks. Typically spending time on the fourth line, the 23-year-old Swede has been praised for his skating and defensive play, even earning time on the penalty kill during the season. There’s hope that as time goes on, Nordstrom will be able to improve his offensive game and become a more well-rounded and versatile player.

4th round, 120th overall: Rob Flick, C, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (OHL)
Status: Prospect (Boston Bruins)
NHL Games Played: 0

With the hopes of adding some grit and physicality down the middle, Flick seemed like a perfect fit. His 34 points and 157 penalty minutes during the 2009-10 season for the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors made him a chaotic skater to play against in the OHL. Things only got better when Flick’s 2010-11 season saw him increase his point total (57 in 68 games), penalty minutes (167) and plus/minus rating (+28). There was hope the London, Ontario native could give the Blackhawks some much-needed size sooner rather than later.

Unable to become a dominant force for the IceHogs, though, Flick split his time in the AHL and ECHL. Ultimately, Flick’s time with the Blackhawks organization was cut short when the enforcer was sent to the Boston Bruins on April 3rd, 2013 in exchange for Maxime Sauve.

6th round, 151st overall: Mirko Hoefflin, RW, Jungadler Mannheim U18 (Germany)
Status: Bust (European Pro)
NHL Games Played: 0

It initially appeared Hoefflin had the potential to be considered a “steal” in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. After all, the German forward had an outstanding year with the Jungadler Mannheim U18 team, tallying 32 goals and 35 helpers in just 24 games. He also had an impressive showing in the World Junior Championship Division-1 U18 tournament in 2010, posting 11 points in just 5 games of the tournament.

Over the next two seasons, Hoefflin would develop in the QMJHL, playing with the Quebec Remparts in 2010-11 and the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in 2011-12. Though his speed and defensive game continued to improve, the Blackhawks decided to pass on Hoefflin, and a contract was never offered. Hoefflin has played his last three seasons with Adler Mannherim of the DEL.

6th round, 180th overall: Nick Mattson, D, Indiana Ice (USHL)
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

When Mattson was drafted, it was assumed he would be more of a project for the Blackhawks. With bouts of inconsistency but potential to grow, it was obvious the young defenseman needed some seasoning before making the leap to the pros. After spending the 2010-11 season with the Indiana Ice for the second straight year, Mattson committed with the University of North Dakota. In his four years with UND, Mattson was a consistent force on the blueline, always ranking in the top ten amongst the team in points and finishing his NCAA career with 78 points and a +31 in 153 games. Upon graduating, Mattson signed an AHL contract with the Rockford IceHogs.

7th round, 191st overall: Mac Carruth, G, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Despite taking a goaltender in the second round, Bowman wrapped up Chicago’s draft by selecting another netminder in Carruth. The 16th ranked North American goaltender in the draft, Carruth would become a crucial part of the Portland Winterhawks lineup. He would eventually go on to become the Winterhawks all-time leader in wins, earning his 106th career win on January 9th, 2013 in a 3-0 win against the Prince George Cougars.

Carruth’s first professional season in 2013-14 had plenty of ups and downs. The 6’3 netminder often struggled with consistency and spent most of the year in the ECHL. The 2014-15 season, however, saw Carruth progress quite favorably. Playing for a struggling Indy Fuel team in the ECHL, the 23-year-old goaltender sported a .914 save percentage and 2.55 goals against average in 39 appearances. Furthermore, a brief stint with the IceHogs saw Carruth go 2-1-0-0 (one win being a shutout) with a .925 save percentage and 1.69 goals against average. Carruth’s progression in the minors will become even more interesting as he continues to develop.