Chicago Blackhawks 2012 draft review

By Brad Gardner

Photo: Selected 18th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, forward Teuvo Tervainen was a late riser in 2011-12 and regarded in many circles as a potential top 10 pick. (Ken McKenna/HF)

 

The Chicago Blackhawks selected eight players at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, including four forwards, two defensemen, and two goaltenders. The club's top selection, Finnish forward Teuvo Teravainen, was the lone European prospect selected in this year's class while there were four Canadian Major Junior prospects and three NCAA-bound players drafted out of the Junior A and high school levels.

While some outlets expected Chicago to add a goaltender in the first round, the club instead continued the trend of drafting netminders in the later rounds. The team took two goalies in the seventh round after picking up an extra seventh round pick by swapping this year's fourth round pick (Christophe Lalancette) with San Jose for the Sharks fourth round pick in 2013.

Chicago also added a pair of mobile junior defenders, something of a departure from their usual source of blue line prospects in the college ranks and Europe. While there is not a ton of size among the four forwards selected, the group adds a mix of skill, skating, hockey smarts, and work ethic to the coffers at forward.

Teuvo Teravainen, LW/C – Jokerit (SM-liiga)
1st round, 18th overall
Height: 5'10, Weight: 169 lbs

Ranked second by Central Scouting among European Skaters and eighth overall by ISS, Teuvo Teravainen was not expected to be available when Chicago picked at 18th overall. A run on defensemen earlier in the draft however led to the supremely skilled winger sliding lower than expected.

Teravainen eluded many radars at the start of the season in Finland's junior level. Injuries with Jokerit's top club opened a spot for the 17-year-old forward and by the end of the season he had worked his way up the depth chart into a top six and power play role, finishing his rookie season with 11 goals and 18 points in 40 games and winning the Jarmo Wasama Trophy as the top rookie in the SM-liiga. He averaged over 15 minutes of ice time in the playoffs and scored two goals, six points in nine playoff games on Jokerit's bronze medal run. He was a key producer for Finland in international play as well with both the U18 and U20 teams.

"I am more of an offensive player," Teravainen said when asked to describe his game, "I like to handle the puck and play with good hockey sense."

The comparisons to Patrick Kane, who Teravainen lists among his favorite players, are quickly apparent. Between his slim build, blazing speed, and preternatural creativity, the Finn plays a similar style of explosive offensive game. He has proven to be a hard worker after the major strides he took in his draft year as well as a strong team player – Jokerit's second-half improvements largely coincided with his increased role. The rookie made an especially big splash on the power play, where he could not only distribute from the half-boards but also unleash a wicked one-timer.

The main concern regarding the prospect is his lack of strength when it comes to projecting him on the North American rink. Blackhawks' General Manager Stan Bowman acknowledged this was an area in need of work but that Teravainen, like Kane, has an important advantage against bigger players.

"These kids are 18 [years old], they need to develop a little bit physically, and he's in that category," Bowman said. "I think in terms of his style of play he is more elusive than anything so that's not going to be a big drawback for him."

Still just 17 years old, Teravainen will continue developing overseas with Jokerit in Finland's top pro league for the 2012-13 season. Expected to play center for the team next season, the 'Hawks will give him some time before nailing him down a specific position. He has the potential to develop into a productive, top-six forward in the NHL and should get his first taste of the North American style at this year's training camp in Chicago.

Dillon Fournier, D – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
2nd round, 48th overall
Height: 6'1, Weight: 173 lbs

The Blackhawks pulled the trigger on the QMJHL's top defensive prospect in the second round. Dillon Fournier was ranked 136th overall in Central Scouting's final rankings but ended up the 20th overall defensemen selected in the draft. Fournier is used to the expectations that come along with being a high pick, having been drafted first overall twice in the QMJHL, first by Lewiston in the 2010 QMJHL Draft and then again a year later by Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL Dispersal Draft after the hockey club in Lewiston folded.

A shoulder injury limited him to 52 games in his draft year but he still managed nine goals and 38 points while playing big minutes for the Huskies. Fournier's biggest strength is his skating, which is excellent in all directions. The 18-year-old rearguard uses his instincts and mobility in the defensive end to disrupt the opposition. He makes sound decisions with the puck on the breakout and in transition, using both his speed and quick reads to avoid trouble and direct the play towards the offensive end.

Although he has a decent frame at 6'1, he could stand to use it more aggressively and will likely need to add strength prior to making the transition to the pros. The blueliner will have the opportunity to work on that as well as his refining his overall game next season as an all-situations defender for Rouyn-Noranda. Fournier has the potential to develop into a steady two-way defender in the NHL but is likely a few years away from a chance to crack the Chicago lineup.

Chris Calnan, RW – Noble and Greenough School (HS-MA)
3rd round, 79th overall
Height: 6'2, Weight: 187 lbs

Chris Calnan was a late riser on many draft boards after putting on a show at the NHL Draft Combine. The hard-nosed winger managed 15 top-10 finishes in 29 events at the Combine and ranked first in five categories. The workout made up for some of the concerns regarding the relatively meager competition he faced at the prep school level. The Boston College-commit had a productive season in leading Nobles with 28 goals, 55 points in 27 games, helping the team to the Elite 8 championship game, and being named to the All-Independent School League Team and the New England Prep All Star Team.

It was a quick rise for Calnan's draft stock over the course of the season. When asked about the changes he made coming into his draft year, the Norwell, Massachusetts-native mentioned changes in his style of game helping to put him on the map.

"Last year, I don't think most people would have thought I'd be invited to this combine," Calnan told Hockey's Future's Leslie Treff at the combine. "I transitioned my game a little bit into a power forward type style – the year before, and in my past hockey career, I've tried to score goals and be the pretty, fast player. But I've changed my game a little bit to a power forward, kind of a big kid that grinds it out, and it paid off well."

In addition to his successful season, the 18-year-old winger has several other connections with the Chicago organization that make him a palatable fit. He is the nephew of former Blachkawks star Jeremy Roenick and, in addition to being another in the recent string of BC players in the 'Hawks organization, played at the same Massachusetts high school that Jimmy Hayes attended as an underclassman and from which Kevin Hayes graduated two years ago.

Calnan is a raw prospect having only played at the prep level, but he prides himself on outworking the opposition on the forecheck and taking advantage of his size in the corners and around the net. He is a good skater and the type of player that always plays full bore. His offensive skills may not stand out too much but he has a strong shot and can capitalize on plenty of opportunities around the net. All of that combines to make him a potential top-nine power forward in the NHL, but he has only scratched the surface of that potential to date.

Next season, Calnan will choose between playing his senior season at Nobles, staying close to home but taking a step up in competition with the South Shore Kings in the EJHL, or moving to Iowa to play with Waterloo in the USHL. The Blackhawks are likely to encourage the USHL route in the interest of better preparing him for the steep climb up to the NCAA level in 2013. Either way, Calnan will have plenty of time to develop after he gets to BC with one of the top college hockey programs in the nation.

Garret Ross, LW – Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
5th round, 139th overall
Height: 5'11, Weight: 169 lbs

Chicago found unprecedented success with the Andrew Shaw selection at the 2011 draft and went a similar route in the fifth round this summer with Saginaw's Garret Ross. Like Shaw, Ross is a 20-year-old prospect drafted in his third and final season of eligibility following a breakout season in the OHL.

While it would be tough for him to duplicate Shaw's quick ascension up the organization's depth chart, Ross plays a similar style of game. Known more for his pugilistic efforts early in his OHL career in Saginaw, the Michigan-native plays a mean and fearless game despite his relatively small stature. Though not the biggest player on the ice, Ross does not back down from working in the dirty areas and dropping his gloves.

In 2011-12, Ross supplemented that rough-and-tumble style with 25 goals and 54 points in 60 regular season games. He added another six goals, ranking second on the team, in 12 playoff games as he took advantage of opportunities in the top six. For his efforts, he was voted the OHL's most underrated player by the league's coaches as well as Saginaw's most improved player.

Ross will have several options heading into the 2012-13 season. He has one year of junior eligibility remaining but would count as one of his team's allowance of three overage players. A more likely alternative is that Ross, like Shaw or Rob Flick before him, could also sign an AHL contract to begin his pro career and play a year in Rockford without counting against Chicago's 50-contract limit. Given his physical and intimidating style, he could fill the tough-guy hole in case Brandon Bollig sticks in Chicago. His rights would be retained by Chicago in either case and would then allow the organization to sign him to an entry-level contract in the summer of 2013 if he performs well.

Travis Brown, D – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
5th round, 149th overall
Height: 6'1, Weight: 179 lbs

Travis Brown played his draft year in Moose Jaw on one of the deeper blue line groups in the Western Hockey League. An injury to top 2012 prospect Morgan Rielly (TOR) early in the season gave Brown and the rest of the Warriors defensemen more opportunity, leading to the rookie Brown pacing the team's defensemen in both goals (7) and points (31) in 66 regular season games. His plus-19 rating was also tied for the best overall mark on the team.

With a decent frame at 6'1 and a willingness to play physically, Brown has the potential to develop into a reliable defender at the pro level. His upside lies largely in the offensive side after he showed improvements as a puck-mover and in his heavy shot from the blue line. Like many of the defensive prospects in the 'Hawks pipeline, he also has good mobility.

The Moose Jaw defensive corps could look different next season with several players entering their 20-year-old season. Rielly is likely to resume his duties as the top offensive-weapon on the team's blue line and Brown's role within the unit is still up in the air at this point. He has the all-around game to develop into a reliable third-pairing option at the NHL level, but he will have to continue improving as he did in his rookie season.

Vincent Hinostroza, C – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
6th round, 169th overall
Height: 5'9, Weight: 158 lbs

A hometown draft pick, Vincent Hinostroza grew up a Blackhawks fan and is a product of the Chicago Mission midget hockey program. The Bartlett, IL-native has skated in the USHL with Waterloo over the past two seasons. Last year, he doubled his goal and point totals from his rookie season, finishing second on the team with 20 goals and 44 points in 55 games. He also played in the USHL/NHL Top Prospects game and was the third-leading scorer for the bronze medal United States squad at the World Junior A Championships.

Hinostroza is an intelligent and high-energy forward. Despite his small stature, he is persistent in finishing his checks and sticking his nose into the corners. Offensively, he is a skilled distributor with vision and soft hands. His hockey sense is another plus that helps him make an impact at both ends of the ice.

The 5'9 frame and slim build will always be working against him, but he will have another year in the USHL to add strength before making the jump to the college level with Notre Dame. Hinostroza will be expected to be a main contributor in his third USHL season with Waterloo, the same team that holds Chris Calnan's rights.

Brandon Whitney, G – Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
7th round, 191st overall
Height: 6'5, Weight: 193 lbs

Ranked number two among North American goalies in Central Scouting final rankings, Brandon Whitney instead slid into the seventh round of the draft and ended up the 22nd goalie drafted overall in 2012. The 6'5 netminder struggled at times late in his rookie season, particularly during Victoriaville's first round playoff loss, but such a dramatic fall was still unexpected.

Whitney posted better numbers than starting netminder David Honzik (VAN) over the course of his first full season with the club, earning a 22-4-4 record, .896 save percentage, and 2.74 goals against average. Both goalies struggled in the playoffs, however, as the favored Tigres were swept by Baie-Comeau. Whitney struggled with an .831 save percentage in two relief appearances and the start in the fourth and final game of the series. 

His gigantic frame covers a lot of net but he is also very mobile for a goalie his size. He has quick reflexes, speed post-to-post, and the ability to get on top of his crease to challenge shooters. Although he has struggled at times with the mental game and consistency, Whitney made improvements in that area and will be relied upon next season to be a steady and reliable presence in the crease for Victoriaville. Continuing to refine his technique and filling out his huge frame is the next step as he assumes the starting duties next season for the Tigres.

Matt Tomkins, G – Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL)
7th round, 199th overall 
Height: 6' 2, Weight: 176 lbs

Matt Tomkins is a lesser known goaltending prospect compared to Whitney but he also had a strong 2011-12 season in his own right. The 18-year-old netminder finished second in voting for the AJHL goaltender of the year award with an 18-11-2 record, .894 save percentage, and 3.41 goals against average. The steady presence that Tomkins supplied in the second half of the season helped his draft stock but it was his participation in Hockey Canada's prestigious Program of Excellence goaltending camp earlier this summer that put him on a lot of NHL radars.

He has the size that teams covet at the goaltending position and uses sound positioning and instincts to stop shots. Also considered an exceedingly competitive goaltender, Tomkins is the type of battler that can make the tough second and third saves necessary of pro-caliber goalie prospects.

His consistency, particularly in rebound control, has wavered in the past and will be an area to work on next season. Committed to Ohio State University for the 2013-14 season, Tomkins will play another year at the AJHL level with the Crusaders before joining the Buckeyes.