Blackhawks CHL 2008-09 update

By Brad Gardner

The Blackhawks have seven prospects playing with CHL teams this season, including some major additions from the 2008 draft class.

Akim Aliu, C (OHL – London Knights)

Aliu’s return to London has been successful scoring-wise despite being limited to only seven games. He contributed four goals and three assists in those games after missing time because of a lingering training camp injury and serving a five-game instigator suspension. In a game against the rival Windsor Spitfires on Oct. 30, Aliu drew 11 PIM for his part in a third period brawl. Though the fight may not have eased any concerns about Aliu’s maturity, it did not seem to affect his performance, as he scored 2 goals against the Plymouth Whalers in his second game back from the suspension. Aliu is a high prospect for the Blackhawks because of his combination of physicality and skill, which is exactly what he has displayed this season in London.

Kyle Beach, LW (WHL – Everett Silvertips)

The Blackhawks’ first pick in the 2008 draft, Beach played in five preseason games and earned 1 assist and 15 penalty minutes. He was also one of the final cuts from the training camp roster. Beach was returned to the Silvertips and has certainly played up to expectations again this season, continuing his point-per-game pace that extends back to the 2006-07 season. In 17 games so far, Beach has netted seven goals and added 11 assists. While he is not on pace to reach last year’s 222 PIM, his 42 PIM this season suggests he is still playing his physical game. At only 18, Beach already displayed his size and skill at the junior level. Beach will continue to showcase his talents this season in the WHL, and will try to crack the Blackhawks’ roster next fall.

Richard Greenop, C (OHL – Windsor Spitfires)

Greenop brings his style of physical play to the fourth line of the Spitfires and has a goal and 2 assists in 15 games. His responsible play in the defensive zone has earned him a +2 rating thus far. Playing with a talented team like the Spitfires, which boasts the OHL’s best record at 21-2, is certainly a positive experience for the young grinder. Though he may not be a top prospect at this point, Greenop’s size and physicality are qualities coveted by the organization.

Shawn Lalonde, D (OHL – Belleville Bulls)

Another 2008 draft pick, Lalonde is playing another season with the Belleville Bulls. He is already on pace this season to eclipse his career-high 31 points from a year ago. In a game at Ottawa on Nov. 14, Lalonde scored his sixth goal of the season in a disappointing 2-1 shootout loss. Adding his 12 helpers, Lalonde has 18 points in 25 games and is +7. These numbers are a good sign for Lalonde and the Blackhawks, as he has become one of the top defenders in the system. With prospects like Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jordan Hendry ahead on the orginizational depth chart, Lalonde should be given time in juniors to progress and add some bulk.

Maxime Tanguay, C (QMJHL – Victoriaville Tigers)

Attesting to the Blackhawks’ depth at center, Tanguay continues to produce in the Quebec league. So far in his first full season with the Victoriaville Tigers, Tanguay has notched 9 goals and 9 assists in 21 games. After splitting time between Rimouski and Victoriaville last season, Tanguay seems to be settling in. He is close to his scoring pace of two seasons ago, when he scored a career-high 60 points (24 goals, 36 assists) in 54 games with Rimouski. The just-turned 20-year-old was a third-round pick of the Blackhawks in the 2007 draft. Though he is buried deep on the organization’s depth chart, Tanguay’s scoring ability makes him an intriguing prospect.

Josh Unice, G (OHL – Kitchener Rangers)

Unice made a big splash last season with the Kitchener Rangers, amassing a 30-6-3 record and taking the team to the Memorial Cup Finals. His sudden appearance on the Blackhawks’ prospect radar saw him rival Corey Crawford as the top goaltending prospect. This year, however, the 19-year-old Unice has yet to perform like a top prospect. In 10 games, he is 2-7-0 with a 3.67 GAA and .887 save percentage. Unice is currently splitting time with undrafted 20-year-old Parker Van Buskirk. Unice should still see plenty of time this season, and will be looking to even things out.

Teigan Zahn, D (WHL – Saskatoon Blades)

Another member of the 2008 draft class, Zahn is beginning his third season with the Saskatoon Blades. The dependable defenseman was drafted in the fifth round by the Blackhawks in their effort to add depth to their pool of blue line prospects. In a game on Nov. 16 against the Swift Current Broncos, Zahn had his most productive offensive game by earning 1 goal and 1 assist. Overall he has just four points in 23 games, with 41 penalty minutes. Zahn’s play has earned him one of the alternate captain spots for the Blades. At just 18 years old, Zahn will be an intriguing defensive prospect to keep an eye on as he matures.