Many Blackhawks prospects enjoyed extensive post-seasons in 2012

By Brad Gardner
Photo: Forward Brandon Pirri was one of Chicago's black aces during the Blackhawks 2012 playoff run. Though he didn't get to see any playing time, the experience should be beneficial to him as he competes for an NHL roster spot in 2012-13. (Photo courtesy of Warren Wimmer/Icon SMI)

The Blackhawks prospect pipeline saw plenty of playoff action but only one prospect, Boston College's Kevin Hayes, was able to capture a league championship. Several other prospects, such as Brandon Saad and Mac Carruth, had strong performances but were not enough to push their team towards the ultimate prize. In Hockey's Future's new team playoff update, we take a look around the world at some of the more notable playoff performances by Chicago prospects.

NHL


Several prospects suited up for the Blackhawks during their first round playoff loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. Andrew Shaw had perhaps the most notable performance, not because of his production, but instead because of a controversial hit on Coyotes netminder Mike Smith behind the net in the second game of the series. Though he did not appear to go out of his way to make contact on the play, Shaw did not make an effort to avoid Smith and ended up receiving a three-game suspension. Shaw finished with three games, no points, and 15 penalty minutes for the major and game misconduct on the hit.

Four more prospects saw action during the series. Brandon Saad returned to the Blackhawks lineup after his junior season ended, skating in two playoff games and notching an assist and a plus-two rating. Jimmy Hayes also saw action in two playoff games but did not crack the score sheet. Like Shaw, Hayes also earned 15 penalty minutes for a hit on defenseman Michal Rozsival along the endboards. Brandon Bollig skated in four games, averaging only around six minutes per game. He still managed a goal and 19 penalty minutes, five for a fight with Paul Bissonnette and the rest resulting from Bollig's response to Raffie Torres' brutal hit on Marian Hossa. Dylan Olsen was the only defensive prospect to see ice time in the playoffs, but he skated less than five minutes in his one appearance as the coaching staff felt more comfortable with veterans Sean O'Donnell and Sami Lepisto skating as the sixth defenseman.

Chicago's black aces during the playoffs were forwards Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri, defensemen Joe Lavin and Ryan Stanton, and goaltender Carter Hutton.

Rockford added several prospects to their roster late in the season through professional try-out contracts. Phillip Danault was the most noticeable player, registering two assists in seven games. His swift skating ability was on full display as well as his tenacity in staying after the puck and making things happen at both ends of the ice. Mark McNeill also skated in seven games but he also watched a couple matches from the press box. He did not register a point and did not stand out nearly as much as Danault. Kent Simpson started one game in goal and earned third star honors for his 38 saves on 41 shots in a 4-3 shootout loss to Charlotte. Finally, Terry Broadhurst, older brother of Blackhawks' 2011 pick Alex Broadhurst, was signed to an NHL contract after his junior season at Nebraska-Omaha finished. The elder Broadhurst skated in eight games and scored two assists with the IceHogs.

WHL

Mac Carruth helped his Portland Winterhawks reach the WHL finals for the second consecutive season. Like last year, however, Portland fell in the Championship and failed to punch their ticket to the Memorial Cup. Carruth's presence in net was a key for the team even making it that far. Despite Portland's reputation for having a high-powered offense, they still left plenty of work for Carruth. Named the CHL's goaltender of the week for his performance in closing out the Western Conference Finals against Tri-City, the goaltender finished the playoffs with a 15-6-1 record, .918 save percentage, and a 2.89 goals against average.

Kent Simpson also made a playoff appearance in the Western league, which is news in itself as his Silvertips struggled to keep pace for much of the season. Simpson's performance down the stretch, a 5-2-1 record in March with a 2.11 goals against average and .938 save percentage, was enough to get his team the eighth seed, but they did not last long in the post-season. Everett was swept out of the first round by Tri-City and Simpson struggled with a .883 save percentage and 4.00 goals against average with 0-3-1 playoff record.

OHL

After dominating the Ontario Hockey League during the regular season, Brandon Saad continued pouring on the points in the playoffs. Saginaw handled Sarnia fairly easily in the first round thanks to Saad's six goals and 12 points in six games. He finished the playoffs with a team-leading eight goals and 17 points in 12 games. Saginaw was unable to get past the eventual OHL Champion London Knights in the second round, which allowed Saad to join the Blackhawks for their playoff series against Phoenix.

Two prospects made their OHL playoff debuts but did not make it out of the first round. Ludvig Rensfeldt tied for the team lead with five points, two of them goals, during Sarnia'a first round loss to Saginaw. Johan Mattsson opened as the number one in the playoffs for the Sudbury Wolves but they were swept out of the first round by Brampton. Mattsson lost his first two starts and was pulled midway through game three having given up 12 goals on 85 shots. He finished with a 0-3 record, .859 save percentage, and 4.82 goals against average in the playoffs.

QMJHL

 

Phillip Danault and the heavily-favored Victoriaville Tigres were swept out of the first round of the Quebec league playoffs by the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. The 2011 first round pick managed three assists in the series but was unable to find the net himself. His minus-one rating was one of the better marks among the team's top six forwards, which goes to show how thoroughly Victoriaville was beaten by the Drakkar offense.

Mirko Hoefflin also saw action in the QMJHL playoffs, but his Acadie-Bathurst club fell in six games to Chicoutimi in the first round. The German-born center had one of the team's worst plus/minus ratings at minus-five during the series, but he was still able to contribute two goals and two assists to the cause in the offensive end against the Sagueneens' goaltender Christopher Gibson (LAK). Chicoutimi would go on to face Saint John in the semi-finals and was the only team to scratch out a win against the QMJHL's unquestioned top dog.

NCAA

The NCAA Frozen Four saw a match-up between two Chicago prospects in one of the semi-final games: center Kevin Hayes of Boston College and defenseman Justin Holl with the University of Minnesota. Boston College came out on top of that game and went on to defeat Ferris State for their third title in five years. Hayes had just one assist in four Hockey East tournament games but scored a goal and two assists during the NCAA tournament while centering one of the Eagles scoring lines alongside Chris Kreider (NYR). That goal, a second period tally that extended BC's lead to 2-0, turned out to be the game-winner against Minnesota.

Holl did not register any points during the NCAA tournament, but was still played an important role defensively for the Gophers. His pairing with Seth Helgesen was the only Minnesota grouping to finish with an even rating in the team's final game against Boston College.

Two more defensive prospects made an appearance in the NCAA tournament in Boston University's Adam Clendening and North Dakota's Nick Mattson. Clendening notched two points in each of the Terriers' final two games of the season. He assisted on a game-tying goal in the third period of the team's Hockey East semi-final game, but Maine was still able to come out on top. BU opened the NCAA tournament with a tough draw against Minnesota in St. Paul. Clendening scored a goal and an assist, his tally coming on a third period power play that helped draw the team within a goal before Minnesota pulled away later in the period.

Mattson's only post-season point came on an assist in North Dakota's victory in the WCHA Championship game over Minnesota. The Sioux would go on to fall to Minnesota just over a week later in the NCAA West Regional Final.

SEL

 

Jonas Nordstrom averaged about 12 and half minutes per game during AIK's Swedish Elite League playoff run. The pivot scored one goal, a shorthanded tally that turned out to be the lone goal in a 5-1 drubbing against Skelleftea during their semi-finals series, along with two assists in 10 games. AIK fell in the second round to Skelleftea, which lost in the Championship series to Brynas, a team which included former IceHogs defenseman Jonathan Carlsson.

Notes and Signings

Chicago signed one NCAA free agent in Orland Park, IL-native Terry Broadhurst. The 23-year-old winger spent three seasons at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, scoring 40 goals, 50 assists in 110 games over the course of his college career.

On May 15th, the Blackhawks also reached terms on a three-year, two-way contract with Rob Flick, who spent the 2011-12 season on an AHL contract with Rockford. Flick skated in 17 games with Toledo in the ECHL, amassing four goals and 10 points, and 45 games with Rockford with seven goals, six assists, and 91 penalty minutes in his rookie pro season.

A similar signing was made on April 13th when the Blackhawks locked up Peter Leblanc for the 2012-13 season. A four-year player at the University of New Hampshire, Leblanc has skated each of the past two seasons on an AHL contract with Rockford. Leblanc led the IceHogs this season with 24 goals and ranked second on the team with 44 points in 72 games.