Blackhawks 2009-10 NCAA prospects update

By Brad Gardner

The Blackhawks have 12 prospects currently playing in the NCAA including seven freshmen, one junior, and four seniors. Chicago has recently put an emphasis on drafting college players, having selected eight of their NCAA prospects in the last two drafts.

Billy Sweatt, LW – Colorado College (WCHA)
Drafted 2007, 2nd round, 38th overall
Now in his senior season, Sweatt is having his most productive year for the Tigers. Through 26 games the 6’0 190 lbs winger has a team-leading 24 points. His 12 goals rank second on the team and are equal to his total from the entire 2008-09 season. Well known for his speed, Sweatt has become a potent force for Colorado College on the top line as well as on the power play. The Tigers are ranked fourth in the WCHA thanks to an improved offense that is ranked second in goals scored with 65 tallies in 20 conference games. The 21-year-old will surely be offered a pro contract after what could be a strong playoff run from the Tigers.
Brandon Pirri, C – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Hockey East)
Drafted 2009, 2nd round, 59th overall

A pair of freshmen have kick-started the RPI offense this season in Jerry D’Amigo (TOR) and Brandon Pirri. While D’Amigo’s performance for the U.S. at the WJC has earned him quite a bit of attention, it is Pirri who has made the biggest splash for the Engineers. The 6’0 160 lbs pivot has seven goals and 22 assists and has appeared in all 26 games on the season. His 29 points rank second on the team while his assist total ranks first. At 18 years old, he has spent much of the season on the team’s second line as well as having a huge role on the power play. While Pirri’s vision and passing ability are his greatest strengths, he has also been solid in the faceoff circle and has already shown improved positioning in the defensive end over the course of the year. While he still needs to add some bulk and continue to round out his game, Pirri has had an impressive start becoming a focal point of the Rensselaer offense.

Dan DeLisle, C – University of Minnesota-Duluth (WCHA)
Drafted 2009, 3rd round, 89th overall

One of two Chicago prospects to join Minnesota-Duluth this season, DeLisle has had some difficulty transitioning to the college game. The 6’4 222 lbs center has just one assist through 20 games. He has not gotten a ton of ice time as the team’s fourth-line center, but the consistent role should certainly help the adjustment. Still just 18 years old, DeLisle is certainly gaining some great experience on the talented Bulldogs squad.

David Pacan, C – University of Vermont (Hockey East)
Drafted 2009, 6th round, 177th overall

Despite a frustrating beginning to his season, Pacan has made an impact in his first year at Vermont. He has scored five goals and five assists in his last 13 games after going scoreless in his first nine collegiate games. Part of his scoring surge was a four-game goal streak from late November into December which included two consecutive game-winning goals against Northeastern and Yale. Vermont is currently tied for sixth in Hockey East.

Chris Auger, C – University of Massachusetts-Lowell (Hockey East)
Drafted 2006, 6th round, 169th overall
Injuries shortened Auger’s 2008-09 season but he has provided strong secondary scoring this year for the River Hawks. With six goals and nine assists through 22 games, the senior has already passed his career-high of 14 points from his sophomore season. The 22-year-old could even surpass his career goal total as the skilled center has notched just eight goals through his first three years in Lowell. Due to their strong offensive depth, the River Hawks have scored 81 goals in 25 games and are currently ranked fourth in the Hockey East standings.

Peter Leblanc, C – University of New Hampshire (Hockey East)
Drafted 2006, 7th round, 186th overall
The 5’9 186 lbs Leblanc has improved his production each year at New Hampshire and finished with a career-high 30 points in the 2008-09 season. He is on pace to top that mark in his senior season with seven goals and 20 points through 23 games. As one of the squad’s co-captains this year, the 21-year-old pivot is tied for fourth on the team in points and third in goals. Leblanc’s play has been key to the Wildcats having won eight of their last nine Hockey East matches. The squad currently sits atop the conference standings.

Ben Smith, RW – Boston College (Hockey East)
Drafted 2008, 6th round, 169th overall
Smith has stepped up offensively in his senior season after just 17 points in the 2008-09 season. An assistant captain this year, he has eclipsed last year’s total in just 22 games with 11 goals and seven assists. The 5’11 205 lbs winger is tied for second on the team in goals and third on the team in points. Offensive support and leadership from the 21-year-old have both played a big part in Boston College’s success this season. The Eagles are currently tied for second in Hockey East as they prepare for another anticipated Beanpot tournament matchup with Harvard on February 1st.
Dylan Olsen, D – University of Minnesota-Duluth (WCHA)
Drafted 2009, 1st round, 28th overall

Olsen was the second Blackhawks prospect to join the Bulldogs this season. So far the 6’2 206 lbs defenseman has one goal and 10 assists through 23 games. His first collegiate goal was a game-winner January 15th against rival Minnesota State. The 19-year-old is already a staple of UMD’s top defensive pairing alongside junior Mike Montgomery and has helped the squad to the top spot in the WCHA and fourth overall in the nation. Olsen also earned an invite to Canada’s WJC try-out camp but was among the final cuts. He will likely spend another year or more in Duluth but almost anything is possible considering the roster moves expected before next season in Chicago.

Braden Birch, D – Cornell University (ECAC)
Drafted 2008, 6th round, 179th overall
Birch opted to spend his first season after his draft at the Junior A level and began his career for the Big Red this season. The 6’3 192 lbs blueliner has just one assist and 10 PIMs through his first 16 games. While he has not exactly lit up the scoresheet, the 20-year-old’s size and defensive presence have made an impact on the ECAC’s top defensive team. Cornell is currently tied for second in the conference thanks to a stingy defense that has allowed just 20 goals in 11 ECAC games and only 37 goals over the course of their entire 18-game season.
Paul Phillips, D – Denver University (WCHA)
Drafted 2009, 7th round, 195th overall
Joining the Pioneers’ blue line with such highly-touted recruits as Matt Donovan (NYI) and William Wrenn (SJ) may have buried Phillips on the depth chart. The 6’1 195 lbs defenseman has still appeared in 14 games, registering two assists. While the 18-year-old has yet to carve out a role on the team, he has been steady for Denver by playing a safe, stay-at-home style of defense. Phillips is a smart player as well and can jump into the play offensively in the right situation. The Pioneers are currently tied for second in the WCHA following an 0-1-1 weekend at Wisconsin.

Joe Gleason, D – University of North Dakota (WCHA)
Drafted 2008, 7th round, 192nd overall
Gleason joined North Dakota this season after spending a year in the USHL preparing for the jump to college. The 5’9 171 lbs blueliner has performed well for the Sioux with six assists on the season, all at even strength. He has appeared in all 26 games so far this year, providing an offensive punch from the back end with his ability to get pucks to the net and willingess to pinch in in the offensive zone. A quick skater and smart puck-carrier, the freshman is already seeing some time on the power play. The 19-year-old will get plenty of opportunities to grow into a bigger role for one of the nation’s top programs.
Joe Lavin, D – University of Notre Dame (CCHA)
Drafted 2007, 5th round, 126th overall
Lavin left Princeton after the 2008 fall semester and transferred to Notre Dame. The 6’1 199 lbs defenseman was forced to sit out a year. He played in 24 USHL games to start this season, scoring five goals and 17 points. He oined the Irish on January 2nd. He has played in all eight games since joining the team and has recorded three assists in that time. The 20-year-old Lavin is a good skater and solid in both ends of the ice but will likely see limited ice time with defenders recovering from injury and other top prospects like Ian Cole (STL) and Teddy Ruth (CLB) already patrolling the blue line for Notre Dame.