Organizational depth on display in Chicago Blackhawks Top 20 prospects

By Anthony Lyen

Ville Pokka - Chicago Blackhawks

Photo: Part of the Nick Leddy trade, Chicago prospect Ville Pokka finds himself at the top of the defensive depth chart with a great opportunity to make an impact (courtesy of Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)

 

10. (10) Garret Ross, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 139th overall, 2012

Even though he’s known for using his agitating antics to get in the heads of the opposition, Ross became an effective offensive contributor for the IceHogs during the 2014-15 season. Along with his 100 penalty minutes, Ross was top-five on the IceHogs in points (43), goals (21) and plus/minus (+20). It’s becoming more and more apparent Ross can combine grit with skill to become an excellent checking-line player who can add a scoring punch. The 23-year-old, like Hinostroza, could see himself with the big club at some point during the 2015-16 campaign, even if it’s just to get a look at what Ross can offer against NHL opposition.

9. (8) Ryan Hartman, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 30th overall, 2013

Another expert at being a pest within the system is Hartman, Chicago’s first-round pick in 2013. Much like Ross, the Blackhawks have a physical forward who can definitely contribute offensively in Hartman. The 20-year-old winger ranked sixth on the IceHogs in points, with 37 in 69 games throughout the 2014-15 season. His solid mix of skating, toughness and two-way play even earned him a brief look with the Blackhawks, where he leveled New Jersey Devils winger Dainius Zubrus with a big hit in his first shift in the NHL. While he’s likely not a top-line kind of player, Hartman has the ability to be a reliable bottom-nine forward sometime in the foreseeable future.

8. (7) Trevor van Riemsdyk, D, 6.5B
Signed as a free agent, March 2014

From college free agent signee to opening night surprise to Stanley Cup champion, van Riemsdyk has had one heck of a year. The surprise of the season for the Blackhawks, TVR, as he’s known, earned a role on the third-pairing for the early part of the 2014-15 season. A leg injury sidelined the 24-year-old blueliner for several months, but he was able to suit up for the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, going on to win it all with Chicago. There’s no doubt TVR earned his spot with Chicago, and he will likely be a mainstay on the bottom-pairing. While he didn’t put up gaudy offensive numbers – one assist in 18 regular season games – it’s van Riemsdyk’s reliable play that have made him a favorite of Joel Quenneville. Assuming he can stay healthy, expect van Riemsdyk to be a fixture on the backend for the Blackhawks throughout the 2015-16 season.

7. (6) Phillip Danault, C, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 26th overall, 2011

Danault was an offensive wizard during his QMJHL days, totaling 251 points in 243 games with the Victoriaville Tigres and Moncton Wildcats. Although his offensive numbers in the AHL aren’t quite of that caliber, Danault has been one of the IceHogs’ more reliable skaters. With 38 points, including a team-high three shorthanded goals, in 70 games, Danault has made a name for himself within the Blackhawks organization as being a defensive-minded center, much like Marcus Kruger. This style of play saw Danault get a call-up on November 21 and suit up for two games with the Blackhawks. Many thought the 22-year-old forward could make the opening night roster for Chicago, but it was announced on August 4 that Danault would miss at least four months after having hip surgery.

6. (4) Mark McNeill, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 18th overall, 2011

Danault and McNeill were both the Blackhawks’ first-round selections in the 2011 draft, but unlike Danault, McNeill has yet to make his NHL debut. This continues to perplex many fans seeing as how McNeill seems to be an effective blend of tough and talented. The 22-year-old forward was one of the IceHogs’ best goal scorers during the 2014-15 season, tallying 23 goals and 21 assists in 63 games. McNeill’s shot and two-way play have made him a fierce competitor for Rockford, but it wasn’t enough to get him a shot in the NHL last season. If he doesn’t make the opening night roster for the Blackhawks, it could be a make-or-break year for McNeill in the organization.

5. (NR) Artemi Panarin, LW, 7.0C
Signed as a free agent, April 2015

Losing both Sharp and Saad severely weakened the Blackhawks on the left side, but the April 28 signing of Panarin gave Chicago an exciting option to the top-six. Panarin was an absolute force with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL throughout the 2014-15 season. He led the team in scoring with 62 points during the regular season and was second in postseason scoring (20 points) for the Gagarin Cup champions. His mixture of explosive offense and superb stick-handling make the 23-year-old Russian a perfect complement to a Blackhawks top-six that includes the likes of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Kane. If Panarin can translate his game to North America, he will certainly help mitigate the losses of Sharp and Saad.

4. (3) Ville Pokka, D, 7.5C
Trade with New York Islanders, October 2014

When it was revealed the additional member in the Patrick Sharp trade was defenseman Stephen Johns, it became quite evident Blackhawks brass has some amount of faith in Pokka and his development. With 30 points, including 5 power play goals in 68 games, Pokka saw his stock rise throughout his first season with the IceHogs. His booming shot and smooth skating give the 2012 second-round pick some serious top-four upside as a defender, but another year with the IceHogs is the likely – and smartest – option for Pokka at this point.

3. (2) Nick Schmaltz, C, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 20th overall, 2014

The Blackhawks have quite a collection of talent developing at the collegiate level, and it’s no question Schmaltz is the cream of the crop. The 2014 first-round pick showed great promise during his days with the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL, and his freshman year with the University of North Dakota was solid. The 19-year-old center posted 26 points (five goals and 21 assists) for UND during their 2014-15 campaign, and he was also a part of Team USA in the 2015 World Junior Championships, notching an assist and a +2 rating in five games. Schmaltz will return to UND for the 2015-16 season, and it’s assumed his production should see an increase, especially if he continues to display the same speed and excellent stick-handling he showed last year.

2. (NR) Marko Dano, C, 7.5B
Trade with Columbus Blue Jackets, June 2015

When the Blackhawks shockingly traded Brandon Saad to the Blue Jackets on June 30, it saw the Stanley Cup Champions lose a dynamic, game-changing young forward. In return, however, the Blackhawks added an equally exciting player in Dano.

Dano was solid in his 39 games with the Springfield Falcons, scoring 19 points, but he really made some noise during his time with the Blue Jackets. The 20-year-old forward would go on to notch 21 points and a +12 in just 35 games for Columbus. In coming to Chicago, Dano offers the Blackhawks exactly what they had with Saad: a young, mobile two-way forward who is smart with and without the puck. Despite being a natural center, it’s assumed Dano could be a fit on the top line with Toews and Hossa.

1. (1) Teuvo Teravainen, C, 8.0B
Drafted 1st round, 18th overall, 2012

After his January 1 call-up to the Blackhawks, it was officially “Teuvo Time” in Chicago. The heavily-hyped prospect had already been an effective member of the IceHogs, with 25 points in 39 games. His patient approach to making it to the NHL was rewarded, and he looked comfortable throughout the regular season, notching nine points and a +4 in 34 games. His solid defensive play and crisp passing earned him more games and more ice time, but it wasn’t until the postseason that the 21-year-old forward truly shined. Teravainen would go on to earn ten points during his 18 Stanley Cup Playoff games, including four points in the Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After an exciting 2014-15 season, there’s no question the talented Finn will make the opening night roster. Although he might have to wait to crack the already crowded top-six, he should find himself as part of the Blackhawks core in the foreseeable future.

Pages: 1 2