This edition of the Chicago Blackhawks Top 20 ranking includes a handful of new names, led by 2014 first-round pick Nick Schmaltz debuting in the second spot behind incumbent top prospect Teuvo Teravainen.
Despite Kevin Hayes not being signed by the August 15th deadline (and subsequently signing an entry-level contract with the New York Rangers), the Blackhawks will reload with a bevy of college hockey players on the verge of breaking out in 2014-15. John Hayden, Vince Hinostroza, Tyler Motte, and Chris Calnan were all prospects that climbed in the ranking as they head into their second NCAA seasons.
1. (1) Teuvo Teravainen, C, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 18th overall, 2012
Teuvo Teravainen is not only the most talented offensive player in the prospect pool, but also the prospect poised to make the biggest impact for the Blackhawks during the 2014-15 NHL season. The flashy Finn will have every opportunity in training camp to make the team, but the club’s signing of Brad Richards to a one-year contract means the 19-year-old center will not be expected to shoulder more than he is capable of in his first full season in North America. With three seasons of professional play under his belt in Finland, Teravainen may not need much time to get acclimated.
2. (NR) Nick Schmaltz, C, 7.5D
Drafted 1st round, 20th overall, 2014
The Blackhawks traded up at the 2014 NHL Draft for the chance to take Schmaltz, and in doing so added another high-upside offensive dynamo to the top of the prospect list. Schmaltz is much farther away from making an impact at the pro level than Teravainen, but he has the offensive creativity and hockey sense to eventually develop into a top-six scoring forward. Schmaltz will attend the University of North Dakota next season and have a chance to develop his overall game over the new few years under Dave Hakstol.
3. (6) Stephen Johns, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 60th overall, 2010
Stephen Johns’ physical game and defensive play are his strengths, but the 22-year-old blueliner developed as a leader and with the puck on his stick during the tail end of his four-year career at Notre Dame. He will play his first full pro season in 2014-15, likely shouldering a heavy helping of minutes in Rockford with the Blackhawks’ top minor league affiliate. Johns has the size and strength to compete at the pro level, so it will be a matter of adjusting to the speed of the game at the next level that will determine Johns’ success early in his pro career.
4. (3) Adam Clendening, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 36th overall, 2011
Now with two consecutive AHL All-Star worthy seasons under his belt, Adam Clendening remains Chicago’s most intriguing offensive defenseman in the prospect pool. He is not shy about playing the body but is still developing his defensive zone play. While the 21-year-old may not be as well-rounded a defensive prospect as Johns, Clendening’s offensive instincts and power-play ability will make him a candidate for a call-up in Chicago should the NHL-level depth take a hit.
5. (8) Ryan Hartman, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 30th overall, 2013
Behind the offensive dynamos Teravainen and Schmaltz, Chicago’s forward prospects have yet to separate themselves from the pack. Ryan Hartman is a prospect capable of changing the complexion of a game with his energy, hard-working style of play, and willingness to pay the price. He is a solid player with the puck on his stick to boot, and should be able to contribute in all facets of the game as he transitions to the pro level with Rockford in 2014-15.
6. (5) Mark McNeill, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 18th overall, 2011
Mark McNeill is entering his second pro season in Rockford with the goal of establishing more consistency and remaining a threat every time he is on the ice. His 18-goal, 37-point rookie season was a solid start, but there is still room for improvement for the 21-year-old winger. He will skate among Rockford’s top-nine forwards again in 2014-15 with a chance to establish himself as a front-line scoring threat if he can take another step forward in his sophomore season.
7. (7) Jeremy Morin, LW, 6.5B
Acquired via trade from Atlanta, June 2010
Jeremy Morin is likely to open the year on Chicago’s roster, as much for his relatively low price tag as for his play. He has yet to step up and cement his place in the Blackhawks’ lineup, but the upcoming training camp should see plenty of different combinations as new centers Richards and Teravainen are injected into the mix. Morin proved in 2013-14 that he was past the AHL level, so whether he skates on the fourth line or takes a step forward and earns minutes on the second or third line for Chicago, this upcoming year will decide a lot about the 23-year-old winger’s future in Chicago.
8. (13) Klas Dahlbeck, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 79th overall, 2011
A Swedish rearguard that was not on too many radars when the Blackhawks took him in the 2011 NHL Draft, Klas Dahlbeck has emerged as one of Chicago’s steadiest defensemen in the minor league system. He is capable of moving the puck out of his own zone as well as being a difficult player to play against in his own zone. He may not have the upside of Johns or Clendening, but his safe and dependable style of play could make Dahlbeck a favorite for a shot in Chicago at some point during the 2014-15 season.
9. (19) John Hayden, C, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 74th overall, 2013
The Blackhawks have a deep pipeline of center prospects at the NCAA level, and several of those players made more productive debuts last season than Yale’s John Hayden. None of those other players possess his pro-ready frame, however, nor did they have as strong of a finish to the 2013-14 season as did Hayden. The big winger passed the eye test with occasionally dominant shifts, and by the end of his freshman season he looked less like a teenager and more like a forward that could control the pace of play.
10. (4) Phillip Danault, C, 6.5C
Drafted 1st round, 26th overall, 2011
Phillip Danault may not project as such a strong scorer as some of the other prospects ahead of him on this list, but he remains an exciting prospect to watch. Danault lays it all on the line each game, using his excellent speed and anticipation to make plays all over the ice. He has been a strong third-line center for Rockford and could eventually fill a similar role in Chicago, where he would provide energy and a strong two-way game to fill out the bottom six.
11. (12) Joakim Nordstrom, C, 6.0B
Drafted 3rd round, 90th overall, 2010
In his first season of North American hockey, Joakim Nordstrom played in 16 games of NHL hockey while making a strong showing in 58 games with AHL Rockford. He was one of the IceHogs’ top forwards when he was with the club and proved to be a competent player in all three zones in his limited action for the Blackhawks. The 22-year-old Swede stands to play in a similar role going into the 2014-15 season, with a chance to grab a lower-line role and penalty-kill time in Chicago with a strong camp.
12. (14) Garret Ross, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 139th overall, 2012
Garret Ross played throughout the Rockford lineup as a rookie and always tended to be playing on the team’s best line. He has the work ethic and hard-nosed attitude of the best complementary forwards, as capable of clearing room for his linemates as he is cleaning up loose pucks around the net. He may not ever cement a top-six role in the NHL, but he has the versatility to remain a valuable piece in any lineup.
13. (15) Alex Broadhurst, C, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 199th overall, 2011
Of all the high-profile rookie forward prospects, Alex Broadhurst was the one who had the most productive professional debut. His 45 points ranked third overall for Rockford in 2013-14. He is a dynamic playmaker and proved he could maintain that style of play even with less space in the AHL. Where Broadhurst would eventually fit in the NHL lineup is not immediately clear, but that could become a more important consideration if he is able to duplicate or improve on his rookie season’s performance in 2014-15.
14. (20) Vince Hinostroza, C, 6.5C
Drafted 6th round, 169th overall, 2012
Vince Hinostroza had one of the best debuts of any college freshman last season for Notre Dame, scoring eight goals and 32 points in 34 games. He is an energetic and versatile option for the lineup and found success no matter where he played in the lineup during the 2013-14 season. The 20-year-old center should be a threat again for the Irish in 2014-15, but he likely remains two or three years away from his pro debut.
15. (NR) Tyler Motte, C, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 121st overall, 2013
Less than 200 miles from Hinostroza in South Bend, Tyler Motte was in Ann Arbor putting together an impressive freshman season for the University of Michigan. His two-way ability made him a player who was instantly able to contribute in all facets of the game in his first year. He will have the opportunity to skate in a larger role as a sophomore and could really breakout as one of the Wolverines’ top forwards.
16. (NR) Chris Calnan, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 79th overall, 2012
Boston College’s excellent depth last season kept Chris Calnan in a bottom-six role, but that stands to change after the Eagles graduated their entire top line. He found chemistry with fellow freshman Adam Gilmour (MIN) last season, and their unit developed into a strong option for Jerry York down the stretch in 2013-14. Calnan will have all the time he needs to develop at BC.
17. (18) Carl Dahlstrom, D, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 51st overall, 2013
Swedish defenseman Carl Dahlstrom was limited by injury during the 2013-14 season, but he still projects as one of the Blackhawks’ better blue-line prospects. He is a player with size and the hockey sense to hold his own at both ends of the rink, but he still has plenty to prove against pro competition. He finished his year with Linkoping’s SHL squad, including three points in 14 playoff games. He is poised to play his first full pro season in 2014-15.
18. (17) Dillon Fournier, D, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 48th overall, 2012
Smooth-skating defender Dillon Fournier will skate in his rookie pro season in 2014-15 with the Rockford IceHogs. With prospects like Johns, Clendening, and Dahlbeck on the depth chart ahead of him, the 20-year-old blueliner can be eased into the lineup as he both comes back from injury and transitions from the QMJHL level to the pro game. He was a do-it-all player in the final junior seasons with Rouyn-Noranda and has the talent to warrant opportunities in a variety of situations for the IceHogs.
19. (16) Michael Paliotta, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 70th overall, 2011
Chicago has other defensive prospects like Viktor Svedberg and Trevor van Riemsdyk that will be in the mix for Rockford in 2014-15, but Michael Paliotta maintains a spot in the Top 20 ranking due to his well-balanced game and leadership ability. The blueliner enters his senior campaign at Vermont as a stalwart on the blue line and player that will never back down from making the tough play. An NHL contract may not be assured at this point, but Paliotta is poised to put together another strong year and earn one.
20. (NR) Matt Iacopelli, RW, 6.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 83rd overall, 2014
A handful of recent draft picks like Beau Starrett and college free agent signings like Trevor van Riemsdyk or Matt Carey could have captured the final spot, but Matt Iacopelli’s combination of a big frame and skill makes him an especially intriguing prospect. Drafted at 20 years old, he will make his NCAA debut next season at Western Michigan. Despite being behind a lot of other prospects in his birth year, Chicago hopes that the winger will be a late bloomer and quickly take to the college game.