The 2015–16 season for the Chicago Blackhawks certainly had its ups and downs. In a season that included Patrick Kane’s historic point streak, Artemi Panarin‘s sublime rookie campaign, and two prospects winning the NCAA Division I Championship (more on that in a bit) – but also some off-the-ice issues – the Blackhawks’ season came to an early end, falling to the St. Louis Blues in game seven of the Western Conference Semifinals.
In just one year, the Chicago Blackhawks have seen the top end of the prospect pool experience a transition period. Since last spring’s Top 20, the Blackhawks’ top prospect, Teuvo Teravainen, and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk are now both full-time members of the club, while two skaters, Stephen Johns and Michael Paliotta, were sent out in trades. Furthermore, Philip Danault and Marko Dano, who were featured in the Blackhawks’ Fall Top 20 for the 2015–16 season, were sent out at the trade deadline, and surefire Calder Trophy finalist Artemi Panarin has graduated.
The Rockford IceHogs had a stellar 2014-15 season, making the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009-10. Despite being eliminated by the Grand Rapids Griffins, the IceHogs made tremendous strides, which have carried over to this season. At the time of this writing, the IceHogs sit atop the Central Division with a 27-10-3-4 record.
The 2015-16 season is one of uncertainty for the Chicago Blackhawks. The harsh realities of the salary-cap era were quite evident during the offseason. Brandon Saad (CBJ), Patrick Sharp (DAL), Antti Raanta (NYR), Stephen Johns (DAL), Michael Paliotta (CBJ) and Alex Broadhurst (CBJ) were all parts of trades meant to add flexibility as well as talent to the organization. Furthermore, the likes of Brad Richards, Johnny Oduya and Antoine Vermette have found new teams through the free agency market. In other words, this year’s Blackhawks squad will look different than the 2015 Stanley Cup Champions we saw in June.
The Blackhawks are stockpiled with young talent, especially down the middle and on defense. Six of those prospects got a look at some point during the 2014-15 season, the most notable being Finnish phenom Teuvo Teravainen.
However, with Chicago having eliminated the Minnesota Wild in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s quite evident head coach Joel Quenneville feels more comfortable playing his seasoned veterans in the postseason as supposed to the rookies. Teravainen and Joakim Nordstrom only dressed for two games in the first round series against the Nashville Predators, while defenseman Michael Paliotta has been a healthy scratch.