Where the Help Will Come? Pre-Mike Smith Prospects

By Bill Placzek

Pre-Mike Smith picks who may help.

Mark Bell is the flat out best prospect picked by anyone besides Mike Smith. The Hawks were able to trade up with Toronto since the leafs felt that no one suspected they would reach with Nicky Antropov, so the Leafs felt comfortable dropping down two slots.

Mark was pressured early to contribute two bad Hawk clubs and the speed of the NHL game and expectations viewing him a regular were factors Mark had trouble overcoming.
Assignment to Norfolk has enabled him to develop and return to playing without thinking, something he said he was guilty of doing in his Blackhawk tryout. It would be no surprise to this writer if Bell eventually ends up as one of the Hawk four centres. The Blackhawk commitment to Zhamnov, Nylander, and the emergence of Chris Herperger, leaves Bell in a position where he must show he is better than other proven vets already established.

Although Kent Huskin’s Clarkson team did not survive the first round of the ECAC Tournament, he is another Ottawa born player who has the size and abilities that make the parent club take notice. He is not yet 21 and will probably be again selected to the ECAC All-Star team.

Another college player making noise in heard by the Hawk brass is Centre Tyler Arnason of St. Cloud. He has improved in his goal scoring with 14, 19, and 24 goals in the WCHA. His father scored 109 goals in the NHL from 1972-79, so his bloodlines are good. He is a good face-off man with scoring touch. His passing ability is why he has been asked to play the point on the power play in the past. He is not a good skater at this juncture. His ankles turn in, so has no bottom end torque, or the ability to be almost full speed in 3-4 strides. May lack a NHL burst but has shown he can hold on the biscuit in traffic. He in also under six foot so it reamins to be seen if he will be able to defy the odds and help the Hawks.

Undrafted Dmitri Tolkunov was signed after not being drafted out of the Quebec league. While playing there on a powerhouse club his stats made him appear more of an offensive force that he was. He does carry the puck well and so far has chipped in 3 goals and 17 assists at Norfolk.. Almost 22, he will be given every chance to get better in both offense and defensive areas.

Another defenseman the Hawks are are hoping will develop is Stepan Mokhov playing for Spartak in the high league, as opposed to the superlague where he developed little due to limited ice time the year before.
A good transition defensemen who can easily be an attacking type defender is strong on his skates and difficult to knock off his skates. He projects as a two way defensemen IF his development continues.

There are a few other European players playing both in Europe and U.S. colleges who the Blackhawks are hoping will develop further, but as of today, haven’t taken that big step that singles them out as possible NHLers.
They are Jari Viuhkola, Matthias Trattnig, Matthias Wennerberg, and Yorick Treille

Viuhkola who plays for Karpat Finland has been relegated to 4th line play and has stagnated.
Austrian born Trattnig a senior at the University of Maine, has now scored 9 goals and added 10 assists for 19 points in 31 games this season and is hopeful he can crack the Norfolk line-up next season.

Wennerberg is a crash and burn type player who is under six foot but hits everything in sight. He spent much of the season injured due to his style.

Treille, who is from Cannes, France plays for U-Mass Lowell, is lanky and enjoys the tough going a lot. So far the junior hasn’t established himself as a big scorer, although he has scored 10 goals and 24 points in 27 games despite injuries.

In the 5th round in 1999 the Hawks drafted Mike Leighton as a goalie prospect, and he has improved as a starter with Windsor in the OHA, posting 30 wins and a GAA close to 2.75. He is 6′ 3″ and will be watched closely by the Hawks in this need area.

Michael Jacobsen is OHA defensemen who is Hawk property and has improved on his Belleville team and will break the 50 point mark there. His improvement will also be watched.