Photo courtesy of JJ Seaward
The Blackhawks have taken a step back at the NHL level, but their prospect pool is filling out nicely
With the amount of recent success the Chicago Blackhawks have had the last decade, there hasn’t been many high profile prospects coming up the system to be excited about. The-Rink’s Jeff Osborn did a great job evaluating some of the draft picks the Blackhawks have made that shows an overall lack of development, especially on the back end. But as the window closes on a great run of cup chasing seasons, the focus has become retooling a team that got old overnight.
The Blackhawks media and their fans have a tendency to get over-excited about the next big thing which will have to change in the coming years. Players like 2017 1st round pick Henri Jokiharju will need all the time he needs to get his game adjusted to the pro level, and not thrown to the wolves because the Hawks need a defenseman. But he isn’t the only player making strides.
The Blackhawks have done a fantastic job facilitating players up and down the ranks between Chicago, Rockford, and Indy this season. I’ve harped on the lack of this kind of movement for a while and was happy to see players getting rewarded for their success. Players like Matthew Highmore and Carl Dahlstrom had great seasons in the AHL, then got rewarded with NHL ice time. We haven’t seen this in the past with guys like Ville Pokka or Mark McNeil who were players that hit a wall when it came to development.
On the flip side, John Hayden came down to Rockford to refine his game and get some valuable minutes in more key situations. Matt Iacopelli did the same when he had a short stint in Indy. Both players seemed to find value in the experience and were both productive.
As the NCAA season comes to a close, there are a few players that could sign pro and add to the competition in Rockford and Indy. Whether top prospect Dylan Sikura signs or not, there will still be more depth added to this organization this summer. And with the draft around the corner, the Blackhawks will finally be able to restock what has been sent away the last few seasons at the trade deadline.
If you look at the primary team needs for the Blackhawks, they need goaltending, centermen, and defenseman. With Graham Knott getting his first full year of pro hockey under his belt, you have to hope he makes big strides next year. He’s a big center that has some playmaking ability, but he hasn’t gotten comfortable at the AHL level just yet. The Hawks have a handful of defenseman that could potentially be NHL players like Luc Snuggerud, Blake Hillman, and Chad Krys. But assume to see all of them competing for spots next year in Rockford. As for goaltending, free agent signing Colin Delia moved up the system pretty quickly and will probably be Rockford #1 starter next season. They have a couple of other prospects but it’s foggy who will back up Corey Crawford next season. The Hawks will most likely go to free agency to fill that void.
Overall, the Blackhawks look like they reevaluated their prospect pool and how they have to move going forward. It will be interesting to see if and when they turn this roster over. Who stays and who goes will also be a sign of the times. Either way, this dreadful season is almost over and we can look forward to an offseason of growth.