Blackhawks 2008-09 NCAA prospects update

By Brad Gardner

The Blackhawks have six players currently in the college ranks, including top-20 prospects Billy Sweatt and Simon Danis-Pepin.

Chris Auger, C – University of Massachusetts-Lowell (Hockey East)

A shoulder injury has limited Auger to one assist in just four games so far in his junior season with the River Hawks. The sixth-round draft pick in 2006 has been unable to find the scoring flair that he showed in Junior A in the OPJHL, which culminated in a 92-point season during the 2005-06 season. Barring a breakout, Auger may continue to see limited time.

Joe Charlebois, D – University of New Hampshire (Hockey East)

The senior ranks second among Wildcat defensemen with nine points, all of them assists, in 18 games. Charlebois has already tied his career-high point total through four years of Hockey East play. He has also earned 36 PIM for the recently surging UNH. The 22-year-old was a sixth round selection in the 2005 draft.

Simon Danis-Pepin, D – University of Maine (Hockey East)

The 6’7 208-pound senior has contributed 5 assists and 17 PIM in 17 games to a 10-8-2 Maine squad, currently seventh in Hockey East. Never one to fill up the scoresheet, Danis-Pepin has displayed great leadership and dependability on the blue line for the Black Bears. The 20-year-old is serving as a co-captain for his final college season and his confidence has improved as a result. A 2006 second-round pick, Danis-Pepin could find himself with the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs very soon. He will certainly figure heavily into the organization’s future on defense as he continues to mature.

Joe Lavin, D

Lavin left Providence College after the fall semester, 12 games into his sophomore season, to join the Omaha Lancers of the USHL. The 19-year-old defenseman had one assist and 10 PIM for Providence as the Friars struggled to a 2-9-1 start during the first 12 games. Since joining the Lancers, Lavin has four assists in six games.

Joe Palmer, G – Ohio State University (CCHA)

After playing in 34 games each of the last two seasons, Palmer lost the starting job to sophomore Dustin Carlson. In just three starts, the junior goalie has a 0-2-1 record with a 5.40 goals against average and .836 save percentage. The 2006 fourth-round pick is at the bottom of the organization’s depth chart in net, and has all but fallen off of the prospect radar.

Ben Smith, C – Boston College (Hockey East)

A sixth-round draft pick in the 2008 draft, the 5’11 205-pound Smith exploded onto the scene last season with 25 goals and 25 assists in 44 games alongside Sabres prospect Nathan Gerbe for the national champion Boston College Eagles. Eighteen games into his junior season, the center’s 3 goals and 6 assists make him the fourth leading-scorer on the team. Smith has played on both the second and third line for the Eagles this year with a number of different wingers, a much different role than centering a talented top line last year. It has given him an opportunity to display his leadership skills, though, as he has helped some of the team’s young forwards, like Avalanche prospect Paul Carey and Maple Leafs prospect Jimmy Hayes, get adjusted to the college game. The squad is currently fifth in Hockey East with a 9-6-3 record. At just 20 years old, the Winston-Salem, North Carolina native will continue to earn more attention within the organization as he develops.

Billy Sweatt, LW – Colorado College (WCHA)

The Elburn, Illinois native Sweatt ranks third on the team in scoring with 17 points, contributing 9 goals and 8 assists in 23 games. In his junior year, the 20-year-old is playing on the top line for Colorado College, ranked 11th in the nation with a 12-7-5 record. Drafted in the second round, 38th overall, in 2007, Sweatt continues to improve his skill set in order to compliment his greatest asset – his big league speed. Though he may not have the ideal size at just 6’0 190 lbs, Sweatt could be joining the organization after this season to begin the adjustment to the pro game. The hometown prospect remains one of the top skilled forwards in the Blackhawks system.

DJ Powers contributed to this article.