2015-16 season brings major changes to Chicago Blackhawks Top 20

By Anthony Lyen
Nick Schmaltz - Chicago Blackhawks

Photo: Nick Schmaltz was one of the top playmakers in the 2016 World Juniors, helped lead North Dakota to the NCAA Frozen Four, and becomes the top Blackhawks prospect (courtesy of Richard T. Gagnon/Getty Images)



In just one year, the Chicago Blackhawks have seen the top end of the prospect pool experience a transition period. Since last spring’s Top 20, the Blackhawks’ top prospect, Teuvo Teravainen, and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk are now both full-time members of the club, while two skaters, Stephen Johns and Michael Paliotta, were sent out in trades. Furthermore, Philip Danault and Marko Dano, who were featured in the Blackhawks’ Fall Top 20 for the 2015–16 season, were sent out at the trade deadline, and surefire Calder Trophy finalist Artemi Panarin has graduated.

The future still looks bright, though, as both newcomers and familiar faces have started making names for themselves within the organization. With perhaps the largest prospect group in all of hockey, there are many players – like the newly-signed Robin Norell – who are honorable mentions worth tracking. Other prospects, however, have experienced their fair share of struggles, and their time with the Blackhawks is running out.

20. (NR) Dylan Sikura, C, 6.0D
Drafted 6th round, 178th overall, 2014

The 2015–16 season was all about improvement for Sikura, who boosted his numbers dramatically in his sophomore year with Northeastern University. Skating frequently on the left side of the second line, Sikura’s 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 39 games were a big step up from his mere seven points in 2014–15. Sikura’s line helped lead Northeastern to win the championship game of the 2016 Hockey East tournament, where the Huskies topped UMass Lowell in a 3–2 overtime win. While Sikura’s year was certainly a positive one, more time with the defending Hockey East champions will be important for his development.

19. (10) Garret Ross, LW, 6.0D
Drafted 5th round, 139th overall, 2012

There are two separate circumstances that lead to Ross’s drop in the Top 20. First of all, the 23-year-old left winger struggled to build off his successful 2014-15 campaign, which saw Ross emerge as an offensive threat for the IceHogs. After earning 43 points and a +20 last season, Ross has only accumulated a mere 20 points and a –6 in 59 games during the 2015-16 season.

Ross has had trouble with not only consistency, however, but the law as well. The Blackhawks suspended Ross on March 23 for an alleged incident involving “revenge porn.” Felony allegations against Ross were eventually dismissed on March 29, and the Blackhawks organization reinstated him shortly after the announcement was made.

With the combination of his inconsistent play and his recent off-ice issues, things seem pretty hazy at the moment with Ross.

18. (NR) John Dahlstrom, LW, 6.0C
Drafted 7th round, 211th overall, 2015

Dahlstrom spent the 2015-16 season working on shedding his title of Mr. Irrelevant from the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Dahlstrom led the Frolunda J20 team in goal scoring, amassing 21 goals in 38 games for the Indians. He also had an impressive playoff run, earning a team-high five points in four games. At just 19 years old, however, Dahlstrom will need some time to develop overseas before he’s ready to make the jump to North American hockey.

17. (14) John Hayden, C/RW, 6.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 74th overall, 2013

While the Blackhawks had other forwards turning heads in the NCAA during the 2015–16 season (more on that in a bit), one collegiate prospect not to be forgotten is Hayden. The Yale University forward continued to show promise, posting 16 goals and seven helpers for the Bulldogs. A definite game-changer for Yale, Hayden uses his big body to make things difficult for opposing defensemen. While he likely doesn’t have second – line potential in the NHL, there’s every reason to believe Hayden could be an effective bottom-six power forward in the NHL at some point. Don’t be too surprised if the Blackhawks attempt to persuade Hayden into turning pro before his senior season starts at Yale.

16. (NR) Dennis Gilbert, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 91st overall, 2015

It’s no question Gilbert made a name for himself in his freshman year with Notre Dame. Using his strength – he measures at 6’2, 200 lbs. – and vision to his advantage, Gilbert spent the 2015–16 season skating primarily on the top–four for the Fighting Irish. If Gilbert can build off a solid first year, the Blackhawks may have a gem in the young blueliner.

15. (17) Anthony Louis, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 6th round, 181st overall, 2013

Even though Louis’ point total went down a little, he still had a solid year with Miami University (Ohio). Louis, along with freshman teammate Jack Roslovic, led the RedHawks in scoring with 26 points. Though he lacks the size – Louis measures at 5’8, 150 lbs. – of a top-line scorer, Louis has solid hands and speed, making him an effective playmaker.

14. (19) Luc Snuggerud, D, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 141st overall, 2014

Snuggerud continues to be one of the more underrated prospects in the system. A versatile blueliner, Snuggerud was a workhorse for the University of Nebraska–Omaha Mavericks. The sophomore led defensemen on the Mavericks in scoring, earning 18 points in 35 games during the 2015-16 season. Although he’s likely to spend the next two years with UNO, Snuggerud has the makings of a two-way bottom-four defenseman.

13. (18) Kyle Baun, RW, 6.5C
Acquired via free agency, March 2015

Although Baun’s season started with such promise, there were a few obstacles to overcome. Baun made the opening night roster after a spectacular preseason, but after just two games, Baun was reassigned to Rockford. Then, the right winger injured his arm and missed nearly three months of action with the IceHogs.

The 2015-16 season has been a learning curve for Baun. Dealing with the adversity may be a positive note. Baun has been more consistent since returning from the injury, and his determination and hard-working attitude earned him a 2–year extension on March 3. If Baun can finish the year strong and enter the 2016–17 with the same mentality, he may earn more than just a two–game stint next season.

12. (NR) Tanner Kero, C, 6.5C
Acquired via free agency, April 2015

Due to his strong play with the IceHogs to start the season, Kero earned an extended look with the Blackhawks, making his NHL debut against the Winnipeg Jets on October 29th. Despite earning just three points in 17 games, Kero appeared to have little trouble adjusting to the NHL. Kero has spent the majority of the 2015-16 season with the IceHogs, and it could be argued he has been one of their best skaters. The 23-year-old forward is second on the team in goals (19) and has seen time on both the power play and penalty kill. Kero will have every opportunity to earn a shot with the Blackhawks full-time for the 2016-17 season in the fall.

11. (NR) Roy Radke, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 6th round, 164th overall, 2015

Making a major jump is Radke, who was just drafted by Chicago in the 2015 draft. In his second season with the Barrie Colts of the OHL, Radke has accumulated 39 points in 66 games. The 19-year-old winger has been utilized in a variety of roles, seeing time on the second, third, and fourth lines throughout the 2015-16 season. While Radke started the year strong for the Colts – he had two hat tricks during the month of October – he has since cooled off.

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