Blackhawk CHL prospects season review

By Marvin Miller

OHL

Dave Bolland, C
London Knights
2nd round, 32nd overall, 2004

Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon is very high on Bolland. He wins faceoffs, is great in traffic, plays with an edge, and possesses a great work ethic and an ability to step up under pressure. He scored 57 goals and added 73 assists in 59 games, and was second only to linemate Robbie Schremp (EDM) in the OHL in scoring for the second straight year. Bolland is one of the main reasons why the Knights have become such a power and are a threat to repeat as Memorial Cup champs. Bolland excelled in the Canada-Russia Challenge, and he also scored five goals in the first three games of the playoffs this year. In the WJC, he skating on a line with team captain Kyle Chipchura (MON) and Andrew Cogliano (EDM). This kind of a high-energy player who gives everything night after night is highly soughtafter in today’s NHL. Bolland is probably the only sure-bet NHL-ready OHL prospect that the Blackhawks have.

Michael Blunden, RW
Erie Otters
2nd round, 43rd overall, 2005

Blunden is an OHL All-Star who constantly stands up for his teammates. He sometimes loses his temper, for example the time he got suspended for throwing Corey Perry’s (ANA) stick into the crowd. A prototype power forward, he loves to stand in front of the net and is hard to move. He scored 46 goals and added 38 assists in 60 games to lead the Otters in scoring this year. Blunden needs to develop consistency in his work ethic and scoring if he’s going to make it to the show. Given his size, he will be given plenty of opportunity to prove himself. His work ethic gets questioned because although he can skate once he gets going, he is a slow starter who needs to consistently operate at fast speed to move to the next level. Blunden’s back surgery last year seems to be behind him as he played well enough to be chosen for the WJC.

Blunden also earned a late-season callup to Norfolk, and has an outside chance to make the big club if he shows up powerfully in training camp. For the Hawks, the right side is better stocked with talent than the left side, now that they traded for Brandon Bochenski, so Blunden will likely end up in Norfolk again this year.

Adam Berti, LW
Oshawa Generals
3rd round, 68th overall, 2004

Scouts call him “the sleeping giant”. Berti shows flashes of being a Clark Gillies type of player and then disappears for several games at a time. Even though he is handicapped by playing for a talent-deficient team in Oshawa, as a two-way forward, he still managed to score 33 goals and add 30 assists in 63 games. Berti will have to show some consistency in work ethic and scoring if he wants to make the jump to the NHL. The Hawks are weak on the left side, and so Berti and Bickell both have an outside chance to move up in the organization with a strong showing in training camp. Given how desperate the Hawks are to add scoring, chances are that Bickell will be first in line and Berti will have to wait his turn.

Evan Brophey, C
Plymouth Whalers
3rd round, 68th overall, 2005

Brophey is a potential leader, who always seems to get in on the scoring. He is a great skater and playmaker and scored 19 goals and added 42 assists in 62 combined games for Belleville and Plymouth this year. This year, he played at least part of the season on a line with Joe McCann. In 2004-05, his best year, he had 72 points. The Hawks have five prospects in their organization who are fighting for spots at center with the big club, so Brophey is several years away from cracking the lineup.

Bryan Bickell, LW
Windsor Spitfires
2nd round, 41st overall, 2004

Bickell was traded in mid-season, and was a big reason that Windsor surged afterwards. He doubled his goal output this year, after being chided for taking some nights off when he was a member of the 67s. Bickell enfuriated Kilrea with his floating around center ice and his questionable work ethic in Ottawa. He has one of the hardest shots in the OHL and still continues to score wherever he goes. He will prove the scouts wrong if and when he ever gets a chance and he finds a coach who can motivate him to do more than wait around for offensive opportunities. Between Ottawa and Windsor, he scored 45 goals and added 38 assists in 67 games this year. Those totals will make him hard to ignore in the future for the offensively-challenged Hawks.

Ryan Garlock, C
Windsor Spitfires
2nd round, 45th overall, 2004

Garlock is an aggressive, two-way high-energy player with good wheels, who has developed his scoring touch over his OHL career. He is a very good one-on-one forechecker and comes out of the corners with the puck more often than not. For a 6-footer, he has a thick build that makes him strong on the puck. Garlock scored 20 goals and added 32 assists in 62 games for the Spitfires this year. The Hawks thought enough of him to select him in the second round and he has become a close to a point-a-game player the last two years. As a 20-year-old, he should move on to Norfolk next year. He will need to show up there as a consistent scorer.

David Kuchejda, RW
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
7th round, 202nd overall, 2005

Kuchejda is a high-energy winger with good wheels and great stickhandling ability who is not afraid to play physically. He has a ways to go because at his size he will need to excel consistently to make it ahead of the other larger talented prospects. Playing for a weak team in the Sault does not give him much of a chance to show what he can do. He had 40 points in 67 games. However, he is only 18 years old, and as an up-and-coming Czech player who is an important contributor on the international scene, the future looks bright for him, and it will take him a few years to develop.

Trevor Kell, RW
London Knights
5th round, 131st overall, 2004

Kell is a defensive-minded player who is a great penalty killer. If referees keep calling the game the way they have this year, Kell’s stock will rise, as NHL teams need PK specialists more than ever now. A tough small high-energy player and a classic role player, he continues to excel as a defensive specialist. He still managed 10 goals and 28 assists in 66 games this year playing on a defensive line. Kell will have a tough time cracking the Blackhawk lineup with all the talent and size that is coming up, but he has an outside chance if he continues to excel defensively. When he moves away from the talent-rich Knights, he will need to excel on his own merit at the next level.

Mitch Maunu, D
Windsor Spitfires
4th round, 120th overall, 2004

Maunu has been working out and building up his strength to match his toughness. He is a great skater who has developed his offensive ability, with 36 points in 58 game this season. He will take time to develop and has a chance to eventually surprise scouts by turning into a regular sixth defenseman. A potential leader, Maunu is an aggressive, hard-hitting rearguard who does a really good job on that all-important first pass out of the zone. Time is running out on Maunu as this is his last junior year, and the organization is stocked with up-and-coming talented and hopeful defensemen. It will be very tough for Maunu to crack the Norfolk lineup next year. With so many organizations trying to retool their defense in the new NHL, it remains to be seen whether Maunu will make it or not.

WHL

Cam Barker, D
Medicine Hat Tigers
1st round, 3rd overall, 2004

Barker probably did not need another year in junior. He is clearly such a dominant force. The Blackhawks may have been much better served to have him develop with them as their defense does not do nearly enough of what Barker excels at — getting the puck out of the zone with tape-to-tape passes, consistently getting low hard shots directed at the net, and keeping the front of their own net clear. They gave him a taste of the NHL as he played in one game out of camp, and then they sent him down, where he played only 26 games with Medicine Hat, with 18 points, thanks to an ankle injury suffered in January.

“He’s pretty mature and understands what it takes to play the game,” Tigers head coach and general manager Willi Desjardins told Hockey’s Future in January. “He knows what he has to do and he’s prepared to do it. I guess the best thing about Cam is he doesn’t put himself above the team, he doesn’t think he’s a superstar, he just thinks of himself as one of the guys and when the other guys go hard, he goes hard. He’s got a great attitude that way and he sets a real good example for everyone else on the team.”

Barker sees the ice well, and not only uses his partner well, but covers up for him well on odd-man rushes. With his 6’3, 215-pound frame, he is the complete package. Barker will develop into a power-play quarterback in the NHL when he is given the chance. With two gold medals in the WJC to his credit and four years in the WHL, there is nothing more to prove at the junior level.

Troy Brouwer, RW
Moose Jaw Warriors
7th round, 214th overall, 2004

Brouwer came out of nowhere to find his scoring touch as he captured the Bob Clarke Trophy as the WHL’s leading scorer this year with 49 goals and 53 assists in 72 games. His point total in fact more than doubled from the year before. Brouwer is also a PK specialist which is now a much sought-after commodity. He scored six shorthanded goals this season. Brouwer is one of the long-shot discoveries of the Blackhawk organization that drafted him in the seventh round. He has moved himself up to become a legitimate NHL prospect. He will most likely end up in Norfolk next year, and will be watched closely. With the recent push towards bringing up rookies faster than in the past, Brouwer may end up getting his chance sooner than expected.

Karel Hromas, LW
Everett Silvertips
4th round, 123rd overall, 2004

Hromas had a wealth of international experience for the Czechs in the Under-17 and Under-18 before graduating to the WJC’s where he showed up well. Hromas is a good skater with great defensive skills who is an in-your-face kind of player who tirelessly fights for the puck and regularly shuts down the other team’s top lines. He had 22 points in 52 games for the Everett Silvertips this season, down from 29 last year. As a 20-year-old, he still has a ways to go to get a shot at the big club, and he should end up in Norfolk next season. Hromas does not have the kind of skills that get noticed as much as the natural goal scorers do, but the NHL still has a place for the defense-first kind of player.

Adam Hobson, C
Spokane Chiefs
7th round, 203rd overall, 2005

Hobson brings high-level energy to the teams he plays for with his physical all-out style. He developed his scoring touch this year by more than doubling his scoring and having a career year with 50 points in 72 games. He wins faceoffs and stirs up the Chiefs when he gets on the ice, and he is effective in the corners on one-on-ones. He has experience in the Under-17 and Under-18. Hobson was a seventh round pick and will have to perform consistently for the next few years to make it to the NHL. He is 19, and next year with Spokane will be critical as to whether he will get a chance to move up to the big club. More than likely he will take around three more years to develop enough to get his chance.


Glen Erickson contributed to this article. Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.