Blackhawks prospects in the playoffs

By Michael DeMeyer

Only one day after goalie Adam Berkhoel helped Denver to the NCAA Championship, another Chicago Blackhawks prospect has helped his team to a title as well. Jari Viuhkola, a sixth round selection (158th overall) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, has helped his team, Kärpät Oulu, to a Finnish championship. Kärpät defeated TPS Turku in the finals three games to one. The 25-year-old Viuhkola was Kärpät’s points leader in the regular season and was fourth overall in the league with 56 points. Viuhkola centered the second line for the final game.

Viuhkola’s future with the Blackhawks is still unknown. He’ll likely be invited to the Blackhawks next training camp, and he could be vying for a position on the team, especially if he plays as well in training camp as he did in Finnish league.

CHL playoffs

Colin Fraser and his WHL Red Deer Rebels defeated Mike Brodeur and the Moose Jaw Warriors four games to two in their series, and have moved into the WHL Eastern Conference Finals to face the Medicine Hat Tigers. The 19-year-old Fraser was +1 with an assist in the final game between the two teams.

Fraser, a third round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2003 (69th overall), was traded to the Blackhawks along with Jim Vandermeer and a second round selection for Alexei Zhamnov and a fourth round selection during the 2003-04 regular season. Brodeur, a seventh round pick (211th overall) in 2003, was 23-12-5 in the regular season along with a GAA of 2.11, which was fourth overall in the WHL regular season. The 19-year-old also had a save percentage of .929, which was the best in the WHL. Brodeur is a few years away from the Blackhawks, but he has proven that he was a steal for the seventh round, and was outstanding at the Blackhawks’ training camp in 2003.

Blackhawks goalie prospect Corey Crawford is currently playing in the QMJHL playoffs. Despite getting blown out in a 6-1 game that saw Crawford getting pulled early in the third period, Crawford and the Moncton Wildcats defeated the PEI Rockets 3-2 in an overtime game. The Wildcats won the series four games to two, and moved on to the QMJHL semifinals to face Rimouski Oceanic. In one game verses Rimouski Oceanic, Crawford stopped 28 of 29 shots and was named first star of the game. Crawford, 19, was a second round pick of the Blackhawks in 2003. Both Crawford and Mike Brodeur should be challenging for the No. 1 goalie position on the Blackhawks in a few years.

Other prospects

Center Vladislav Luchkin, a seventh round pick (225th overall) in 2000, helped Molot-Prikame Perm defeat Traktor Chelyabinsk in the Russian High League semifinal series. Luchkin had one assist in the final game, which Molot won 5-2. Molot will face former Blackhawks prospect Sergei Shikhanov and Spartak Moscow for the Russian High League Championship. The winner of the series may move up to the Russian Superleague next year. The 23-year-old Luchkin probably will not come to America to play with the Blackhawks or its affiliates.

Affiliate news

The Norfolk Admirals made it to the 2004 AHL playoffs, and then swept the first round of the qualifying series. The big question is where the Blackhawks’ prospects will be playing next season, and if the Admirals will continue to play in Norfolk.

The prospective buyer for the Admirals, W. Graeme Roustan, has decided to retract his offer to buy the Admirals, mostly because Norfolk did not wish to support the new hockey arena Roustan was proposing for the Admirals. Norfolk is currently in the process of luring the Montreal Expos of the National League, and would not be able to build a new arena for the Admirals if they are successful in their bid. Because the current owners of the Admirals do not express interest in owning the team anymore, this could be the last year for AHL hockey in Norfolk. The Blackhawks have been approached by several cities for their AHL team next season and may wind up moving the Admirals to one of them.