Get to know your 2019–20 Blackhawks NCAA prospects

  

Welcome back, Blackhawks fans! We know it has been a long summer and we are all itching to get back to hockey, especially us writers here at The-Rink. I am happy to say that this will be another fun year covering the Blackhawks’ college prospects. A few upperclassmen turned pro, but we restocked the cupboard with some very talented freshmen.

The Blackhawks are finally coming out of their transition phase where the investments they have made from a couple of poor seasons are finally beginning to pay dividends. Premier prospects such as Nicolas Beaudin, Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell are just a few players who have been in the system that are on the fringe of professional hockey careers. Beaudin and Boqvist will be traveling between Rockford and Chicago as they begin their careers with the Hawks, while Mitchell will be playing his junior year with the Denver Pioneers. Mitchell could join the Blackhawks once his season is done in college.

With that being said, let’s start catching up on this year’s Blackhawks NCAA prospects.

Evan Barratt will play at Penn State this season. (Photograph courtesy of the NHL)

Evan Barratt, Forward — Penn State University (32 games played, 16 goals, 27 assists)

Barratt was one of the top-performing Blackhawks college prospects last season when he broke out for 43 points. Centering Liam Folks and Alex Limoges, the trio combined for 57 goals and 78 assists and all finished in the top 20 in scoring among NCAA skaters. This season, that same line will look to continue to pick up where they left off last season. Barratt not only brings a plethora of scoring ability, but he also plays with an edge. His versatility adds depth to a high-flying Penn State group that is ready to build on their success as a program.

Unfortunately for Blackhawks fans, Barratt did not participate in on-ice drills at prospect camp over the summer because he was recovering from a hip surgery, but he is planning to be ready for Penn State’s series against Sacred Heart.

Barratt got a taste of success in last year’s World Junior Championship and in the 2018 Frozen Four tournament. It would be great to see Penn State get to the Frozen Four this year in Detroit. Barratt has already shown he can put the points up; it would be great to see he and Penn State shine on the big stage.

 

Josh Ess will be a key part of Wisconsin’s blue line in 2019–20. (Photograph courtesy of the University of Wisconsin)

Josh Ess, Defenseman — University of Wisconsin (37 games played, five goals, eight assists)

The Wisconsin Badgers have had a couple of down years, but they are looking to change that trend this season. With the addition of top prospects Cole Caufield and Alex Turcotte, Wisconsin could have the offensive firepower to push them to the top of the Big Ten conference. In the preseason rankings, USCHO.com has the Badgers ranked 16th in the country behind Notre Dame, Ohio State and Penn State.

Entering his junior year, Josh Ess will play a big role on the Badgers’ blue line as an upperclassmen with experience in Tony Granato’s system. The Big Ten is not an easy conference to come out of, especially when you are playing heavy teams like Notre Dame and Ohio State, and, not to mention, speedy teams like Penn State can hurt you in other ways.

Ess was not exactly a standout at prospect camp, but that is also really not his game. He did make some good, hard tape-to-tape passes out of his end and his positioning looked a bit more polished than some of the younger guys. He is more of a team guy that is doing a great job if he can eat minutes responsibly and keep the puck out of the net. Look for Ess to have success in those departments this year.

Parker Foo will return to Union College for 2019–20. (Photograph courtesy of The Athletic)

Parker Foo, Forward — Union College (35 games played, five goals, 10 assists)

Union had a fantastic season, finishing 20–13–6, but was defeated by the Cornell Big Red in the ECAC conference tournament quarterfinals. The Dutchmen will be returning three of their five players who had double-digit goals last season and look to build on their success from 2018–19.

Foo has a lot of speed and quickness to the puck and hopefully he will get more quality minutes at Union entering his junior year. The Blackhawks’ fifth-round pick of 2017 adds some depth to the prospect pool, but he needs to develop a bit more in college. The ECAC should provide some tough competition and hopefully Foo gets some power play time to show he can produce at a high level.

Ian Mitchell will captain the Pioneers in 2019–20. (Photograph courtesy of Denver University)

Ian Mitchell, Defenseman — Denver University (39 games played, six goals, 21 assists)

Of all the NCAA prospects in the Blackhawks system, Mitchell is probably the most developed at this point. After two seasons with Denver, Mitchell has embraced the “Pioneer Way” and become the team’s new captain. This should not come as a surprise given Mitchell’s work ethic. Over the summer, many Blackhawks fans were hoping that he would leave college and sign a pro deal, but Mitchell decided to not rush his development. Once upon a time, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews told the team the same thing and he worked out to be pretty good.

The Pioneers are coming off their third Frozen Four appearance in four years and this year should not have any different expectations. Denver will start the season as one of the nation’s top teams in one of the hardest divisions in college hockey, the NCHC.

Mitchell brought a lot of raw skill his first couple seasons, but it is pretty clear he wants to take his game to the next level. At prospect camp, Mitchell told Adam Burish in an interview that he is setting the bar high for himself this season. He first wants to win a NCAA championship, but he is also wanting to show he is one of the best players in college hockey with a nomination for the Hobey Baker Award. Do not be shocked if you see Mitchell in a Blackhawks uniform later this season.

Ryan Shea will return to Northeastern to captain the Huskies in 2019–20. (Photograph courtesy of hockeyjournal.com)

Ryan Shea, Defenseman — Northeastern University (39 games played, three goals, 13 assists)

Through his first three years in college hockey, Ryan Shea has probably been the most stable defenseman for the Northeastern Huskies. He is not the flashiest player on the ice, but he gets his job done. With a career-high plus-minus rating of plus-23 last season, Shea has proven he can play in all situations and can make the right play when called upon. Those are both reasons why Shea’s teammates voted him team captain for the 2019–20 season. Northeastern is set to be a threat again in the Hockey East Conference, but competition will be elevated, as Boston College and Boston University have retooled after down seasons.

Josiah Slavin heads to Colorado College after spending three seasons in the USHL. (Photograph courtesy of Colorado College)

Josiah Slavin, Forward — Colorado College (USHL:  59 games played, 24 goals, 23 assists)

One of the most exciting college prospects this year is 2018 seventh-round selection Josiah Slavin.  At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Slavin skates pretty well and has a natural touch for playmaking. We saw him score a hat trick for Team Red at prospect camp this summer, where he stood out among his peers.

Slavin will begin his NCAA career in Colorado Springs playing for the Colorado College Tigers. As one of the younger teams in the NCHC, the Tigers are on the rise with several talented freshmen coming in. Head coach Mike Haviland will most likely love using Slavin for big minutes, including power play time. College hockey analyst Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald has the Tigers ranked 17th in the country, noting they could be a surprise team out of the NCHC this year.

Alex Vlasic will join Boston University for 2019–20. (Photograph courtesy of the NHL)

Alex Vlasic, Defenseman — Boston University (27 games played, two goals, 13 assists)

For the first time in a few years, the Blackhawks finally selected a defenseman with some size when they took Vlasic 43rd overall in the 2019 draft. The Wilmette, Illinois, native spent his junior career with the U.S. National Team Development Program playing alongside Cole Caufield, Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras and other top US-born prospects.

Vlasic brings a lot to the table besides his size. He has great reach and seems to love jumping into the play despite being a bigger defenseman. Boston University has developed some pretty good defensemen over the years and hopefully they can turn things around after a couple bad seasons.

Photo courtesy of goterriers.com

Jake Wise, Forward — Boston University (12 games played, zero goals, two assists)

Although injuries kept Wise out most of the season last year, he is still seen as one of the Blackhawks’ top prospects. But, with Kirby Dach and Evan Barratt now rising to the top of the system, Wise has some ground to make up. The Terriers lost a few players to the NHL, so hopefully Wise is given some opportunities to shine somewhere in the top nine.

The last young playmaking center the Blackhawks developed was North Dakota’s Nick Schmaltz, who did not end up working out in Chicago. Schmaltz had great patience with the puck and featured excellent vision. Schmaltz did produce more than 50 points in his second season, but he struggled mightily in the face off circle. If Wise, who is similar in size, wants a shot at an NHL roster, he will have to show he can play a two-way game, as the top-six center slots will likely be filled by Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome for the foreseeable future.