Photo: Winger Brandon Saad has been among the most prolific offensive players in the OHL this season. Already signed to an entry-level deal, Saad had a two-game cup of coffee in the NHL earlier this season. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
The Chicago Blackhawks maintain one of the deepest prospects pools in the NHL after several years of gorging on draft picks in the NHL Entry Draft. Though the organization may not feature any blue-chip prospects, there are a number of players at each position who could eventually step in and complement the core in Chicago.
Once a defense-heavy prospect system, Chicago has taken steps to fleshing out their numbers on the wings and in net in recent drafts. The blue line is still an area of strength with former first round pick Dylan Olsen currently playing with the Blackhawks and collegiate prospects such as Adam Clendening and Stephen Johns making their mark in the NCAA.
Photo: The number one pick in the 2007 NHL draft, Patrick Kane has been one of most dynamic offensive players to ever suit up for the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo courtesy of NHL)
The Blackhawks came away from the 2007 draft with only one regular player, but they made that one count by making Patrick Kane the first overall pick. He has since won a Calder Trophy, earned three All-Star nods, and helped lead Chicago to its first cup since 1961.
Photo: Drafted as an overager, Andrew Shaw has proved to be an effective forward at the professional level. So much in fact the Blackhawks recently signed him to an entry-level deal. (Photo ocourtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
The Chicago Blackhawks' AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs are again icing one of the youngest teams in the AHL in the 2011-12 season. The 'Hogs have four more rookies playing regular roles already this year and four others who have found part-time work in the AHL lineup.
The team has been led by a new coach behind the bench in Ted Dent, a longtime assistant in Rockford. He has the young club playing a similar up-tempo, puck-possession style as what is played in Chicago, but they have suffered in their own zone. Rockford has allowed 130 goals through 35 games, more than any other team in the AHL, in part because of the struggling penalty kill, which ranks in the bottom third.
Photo: Swedish forward Ludvig Rensfeldt has been impressive so far in his first season of North American Major Juniors. (Photo courtesy Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
The Blackhawks have 10 prospects developing at the junior level. Three of their top four picks from the 2011 draft, Mark McNeill, Phillip Danault, and Brandon Saad, skated well in the team's training camp but were ultimately assigned to their CHL teams.
Chicago has added depth to the goaltending pipeline in recent drafts with junior players, bringing in WHL goalies Kent Simpson and Mac Carruth in 2010 and OHL rookie Johan Mattsson in 2011. All three are 19 years old this season and could be playing for a pro contract with Chicago.
Photo: In his freshman season for Vermont, Michael Paliotta brings a lot of physicality to the Blackhawks organization. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)
The Blackhawks are re-stocked and loaded with talent after a couple summers of auctioning established players for picks and prospects. Chicago has added a number of high-profile prospects, including nine top-60 picks from the last two entry drafts. The results are some exciting prospects at the top of the rankings and solid depth across the board.
Chicago's strength is on the blue line, where the organization is loaded with smooth-skating offensive-defensemen. They have also added some bulk and physicality to the group in recent years, which is something that has been emphasized at all levels of the organization recently.
Not to be outdone, the forward ranks also boast several top prospects. The left wing position may be the strongest at the top having already seen a pair of prospects exceed expectations and get some NHL time under their belt as teenagers. The center position is strong as well, though the strength there is more in the depth and variety of skills of the prospects.