Blackhawks junior prospects update

By Jason Menard

The Chicago Blackhawks, thanks to years of high draft picks, have amassed an impressive amount of organizational talent and depth. This talent and depth is largely not at the junior level, however. The club’s junior prospects have shown that they need a little more seasoning before they’re ready to take that step to the next level.

In total, the Blackhawks have one prospect toiling out west in the WHL, with three others plying their trade in the OHL.

WHL

Adam Hobson, C — Spokane Chiefs
(7th round, 2005)

Now in his fourth full season with the Chiefs, Hobson has truly assumed the mantle of team leader and works diligently to display those leadership qualities at both ends of the rink – and attempt to resurrect a moribund franchise.

While he’s not the most offensively gifted player on the ice at any given time, it’s hard to find someone who’s a harder worker. A commitment to effort and strong play is the meat of his game, but he’s been able to add a little sizzle to that steak with a knack for opportunism on the offensive end.

Last season, his third with the club, was his best statistically and overall. He was a steady performer tallying 50 points in 72 games, paced by 23 goals. This campaign, he’s off to a strong start, with six goals and 11 assists in 22 games. In addition to career highs in points he’s also setting up shop in the penalty box at a higher rate than ever. With 41 PIMs already in just over a quarter of the season, he’s on pace to exceed last year’s high of 124.

Hobson has also improved his defensive play, now finding himself at even in the plus/minus rankings after being a minus player throughout his junior career. However, to be fair, the clubs that he’s played on have regularly been colored in various shades of woeful. This season, in large part due to Hobson’s on and off-ice contributions, Spokane finds itself on the right side of .500 with a record of 13-10-3-1.

OHL

Evan Brophey, C — Plymouth Whalers
(3rd round, 2005)

The oft-traveled 19-year-old Kitchener native has found himself in the right place at the right time, as the fourth-year center is leading his Plymouth squad into battle in an ultra-competitive OHL West Division.

Brophey’s role in the squad is of supreme importance as the defensively aware forward is often matched up against other teams’ top lines. But beyond his work keeping pucks out of his own end, the 6’1 forward has demonstrated an ability to put the puck in the opposing team’s net.

Following the trade from Belleville that brought him to Plymouth, Brophey continued at almost a point-per-game level, racking up 35 points in just 40 games. He maintained that pace during the club’s 13-game sojourn through the playoffs. This season, he’s off and running with a team-leading 37 points in 25 games, paced by 29 assists. Brophey’s also on pace to blow past his career-high plus/minus rating, as he’s already a +7 for the 14-10-1-0 Whalers.

Brophey’s commitment to an all-around game is evidenced by the fact that he’s occasionally used on the point during the power play to best take advantage of his heavy shot. The only problem is that Brophey’s all-around game isn’t always complemented by an all-out effort, and finding that consistency game in and game out remains a challenge.

David Kuchejda, LW — Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
(7th round, 2005)

The old adage states that there’s safety in numbers. But for a 19-year-old from the Czech Republic there’s also comfort. The addition of fellow Czech Jiri Tlusty (TOR) to the Greyhounds’ lineup has paid dividends on the score sheet and in the standings for the club.

Last season, Kuchejda made a successful transition to the North American game with 19 goals and 21 assists in 67 games. This followed a 2004-05 campaign that saw him tally 40 points in 42 matches in the Czech junior league. This season, the training wheels are off and Kuchejda, buoyed by the presence of Tlusty as a linemate, has seen him score eight goals and add 12 assists. But more than numbers, his improved presence on the ice bodes well for continued development this season.

Kuchejda’s play has not gone unnoticed back home either, as the winger has earned an invite to the tryout camp for the Czech team at this year’s World Junior Championships. Should he earn a spot on the roster, it would represent his return to international competition as he performed admirably in the 2005 Under-18 championships, finishing the tournament with five points and a +5 rating in seven games.

Ben Shutron, D — Kingston Frontenacs
(4th round, 2006)

Shutron remains an enigma, whose total impact should be larger than the sum of his parts. Instead, he continues to remain a work in progress with potential for tremendous upside.

The 18-year-old blueliner had a coming-out party last year, establishing himself as an offensive force last season, tallying for 10 goals and 39 points in 67 games. Unfortunately, he also showed his penchant for taking bad penalties, earning 134 minutes in the penalty box.

While adept at making the nice pass, or quarterbacking a power play, Shutron has yet to dominate from the point as one would expect an elite offensive defenseman in the junior ranks would do.

This season, Shutron is on pace for career highs in goals and assists, but has not made that quantum leap to the next level that was expected of him. Currently he sits with three goals and 18 assists in 25 games, which is good enough for 14th overall in OHL scoring by defensemen. Since Shutron’s game is based on speed, shiftiness, and offense, one would say that the results to date aren’t good enough.

That being said, the Orleans, Ontario native showed enough to earn an invite to Team Canada’s summer development camp and could be a part of this year’s entry into the World Junior tournament.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.