Blackhawks NCAA prospects update

By John Jaeckel

The Blackhawks have 13 prospects currently playing in U.S. NCAA hockey programs. GM Dale Tallon and his staff have shown a strong bias toward collegiate players, largely because of the organization’s renewed commitment to character, in the wake of the Mike Smith era and numerous high draft picks spent on European players with questionable work ethics.

Nathan Davis, C, Senior, Miami of Ohio

After a stellar junior season where he was a Hobey Baker Award finalist, Davis decided to return to Oxford, Ohio for his senior year. Unfortunately he suffered a back injury early in the season and missed a significant number of games, before returning recently. Davis is viewed by the Blackhawks’ brass as a top NHL prospect with exceptional speed, finishing ability and elite face-off skill. He also plays on all special teams units with the fifth ranked (nationally) Redhawks.

In 14 games this season, Davis has five goals and seven assists. Assuming his injury is behind him, Davis should be considered likely to be offered a pro contract this summer by the Blackhawks.

Simon Danis-Pepin, D, Junior, Maine

A 6’7 Montreal native, Danis-Pepin was selected in the second round of the 2006 NHL draft. He has good mobility for a player his size, and valuable experience gleaned from a lengthy run in the NCAA tournament last season. While the Black Bears have struggled this year in Hockey East, Danis-Pepin’s offensive production has improved. In just 29 games, he has bettered his point total from last year’s 40 games, with four goals and five assists.

Billy Sweatt, LW, Sophomore, Colorado College

Called by many the fastest skater in the 2007 NHL draft, Sweatt was considered a steal by the Blackhawks when they grabbed him early in the second round. Like fellow Hawk collegiate prospects Joe Palmer and Richard Lavin, the Elburn, IL native is a graduate of the U.S. National Under-18 program. In 28 games at Colorado College this season, he has eight goals and 12 assists, scoring on a similar clip to his freshman season. In addition to elite speed, Sweatt can finish plays. Scouts feel he must learn to play better without the puck and effectively work through contact in order to matriculate successfully to the pro game.

Dan Bertram, RW, Senior, Boston College

Yet another Blackhawk second round choice, Bertram is small but competitive. He possesses an outstanding hockey pedigree, having represented Canada in international competition, as well as leading Boston College on a lengthy run in last year’s NCAA tournament. Bertram is fifth in scoring this season for the seventh ranked Eagles, with 7 goals and 18 assists in 31 games. He is considered a solid prospect by the Hawks.

Chris Auger, C, Sophomore, U-Mass.-Lowell

Auger was a sixth-round choice of the Blackhawks in 2006. At just 5’10 and 170 pounds, Auger is offensively skilled and considered good at setting up teammates for scoring opportunities. In 26 games this season, Auger has four goals and ten assists.

Joe Charlebois, D, Junior, New Hampshire

Charlebois leads all defensemen on the third-ranked Wildcats (#1 in Hockey East) at +18, a testament to his responsible play. He has a goal and seven assists in 30 games.

Charlebois has good size and skating ability and can join the rush when the situation calls for it. The Hawks selected Charlebois in the sixth round in 2005. His physical attributes, combined with refined hockey sense could make him a prospect to watch.

Joe Palmer, G, Sophomore, Ohio State

Palmer has struggled this season, back-stopping a very young, mistake-prone Buckeye squad. Nonetheless, he has shown outstanding leadership, though just a sophomore himself, refusing to blame others. The Utica, NY native is unusually athletic and can make the highlight reel save. A fourth-round selection in 2006, Palmer has a 3.02 GAA, .892 save percentage and one shutout. Evidence of his superior puck handling skills, he also has three assists this season.

Joe Fallon, G, Senior, Vermont

The tall, rangy Fallon is winding up a solid career with the Catamounts, who are currently in third place in the ultra-competitive Hockey East. Fallon recently registered his first shutout this season, and the 18th of his career. He has a .908 save percentage this season, with a 2.61 GAA and one shutout. The 167th player selected in 2005, Fallon plays a stand-up style and uses his size to take away angles and the lower part of the net. He has been very productive in college and should be considered a candidate for a pro contract, as goaltending is the one weak area in the Hawks’ talent pipeline.

Matthew Ford, RW, Senior, Wisconsin

California native Matt Ford has wowed Hawk prospect camp audiences with his scoring touch and hard, accurate shot. Yet over four seasons in Madison, the 2004 eighth rounder has not put up big numbers. This season, he has four goals and four assists in 27 games.

Joe Lavin, D, Freshman, Providence

Like Hawk defenseman James Wisniewski, Lavin is a superior all-around athlete. At 6’3, 200 pounds, he has good size and is an excellent skater with good offensive instincts. Drafted in the fifth round in 2007 out of the U.S. National Under-18 program, Lavin has eight assists in 30 games with the 14th ranked Friars this season.

Peter Leblanc, C, Sophomore, New Hampshire

A seventh round selection in 2006, Leblanc has four goals and nine assists in 29 games this season with the Wildcats. Another small forward prospect, Leblanc put up good numbers with Hamilton in the OPJHL.

Scott McCulloch, LW, Senior, Colorado College

McCulloch has 11 goals and 6 assists in 28 games in this, his final season at Colorado College. He has good size and skating ability and has shown a good scoring touch over the last two seasons. He was a sixth round selection of the Blackhawks in 2004.

Brennan Turner, D, Junior, Yale

Turner is a bit of a throwback prospect. A big, rugged defender, he plays the game physically and will rack up penalty minutes as a result. He is not a scorer whatsoever though, and his skating has been the weakest part of his game. This season, Turner has one assist in nine games with the Elis.