The-Rink is taking an in-depth look at the Chicago Blackhawks’ prospect pool. However, unlike many other outlets that rank prospects in list form, The-Rink will be using tiers to express the quality of each prospect and their potential at the NHL level. Leading up to the season, The-Rink will reveal the tiers in reverse order, starting at the lowest tier and working toward the top.
Our series concludes today with tiers two and one, defined as a prospect seen as a top six forward, No. 2 or 3 defenseman or starting goaltender or a prospect seen as a first line forward, top pairing defenseman or elite goaltender, respectively.
As explained in the introduction piece, each eligible prospect in the system was rated by our staff panel before ultimately being debated to agree on a tier. Each prospect’s original rating average is listed in parentheses after their name, along with a brief synopsis of why they fell in the tier they did.
Players are listed in order of original rating average, with any ties being sorted alphabetically by last name.
Adam Boqvist (1)
Boqvist rocketed to the top of the Blackhawks’ top prospects list by being drafted eighth overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The talented Swedish defenseman entered the organization as arguably the best draftee to come to Chicago since the Blackhawks selected Patrick Kane in 2007. Boqvist also became the best defensive prospect to join the organization in over 15 years. With Chicago stockpiling defensemen through the draft in the last few years, Boqvist headlines the group, as his offensive flair makes him instantly stand out on the ice. Despite questions surrounding his defensive ability and long term health, the dynamic 6-foot, 181 pound blue line phenom has progressed nicely since being selected last summer. Boqvist posted 20 goals and 40 assists in 54 regular season games with the London Knights before exploding for 10 goals in 11 postseason contests. Boqvist is expected to make the jump to the professional game this season, though that may be primarily with the Rockford IceHogs instead of the Blackhawks. Either way, Chicago fans could very well get a look at Boqvist at some point in 2019–20 if injuries require a replacement on the back end. Whether Boqvist’s chance for prime playing time comes at some point this season or beginning in 2020–21, he should become a prominent staple of the Blackhawks’ blue line for the foreseeable future.
Kirby Dach (1)
Another welcome addition to Chicago’s organization, Dach instantly became the best forward prospect the Blackhawks have added in the draft since selecting Kane. Not only does Dach boast impressive offensive skill, but his size—measuring in at 6-foot-4 and 198 pounds at just 18 years of age—is also something the Chicago forward prospect pool has sorely lacked in recent years. While some considered Dach to be a bit of a surprise pick at the time, he has done nothing but impress since then with strong showings at the Blackhawks’ prospect camp, the Team Canada World Juniors Summer Showcase and the recent Traverse City Rookie Tournament. Though Dach could get a nine game look with Chicago at the beginning of the season, his status for the rest of the season remains to be seen. While it could be argued the best place for his development might be Rockford, the CHL’s transfer agreement does not allow that, meaning Dach will either have to spend the entire season with the Blackhawks or return to the Saskatoon Blades. Sustaining a concussion in the final game of the Traverse City tournament may put Dach a couple steps back since he has yet to participate in any of the Blackhawks’ training camp sessions. Regardless, it is evident that Dach will play a huge role for the organization in the future, as his total package offers a combination of skill, size, desire and leadership Chicago has not seen in quite some time. Both Dach and Boqvist joined John Quenneville as the only three players our panel voted unanimously on.
Ian Mitchell (1.833)
Mitchell was a bit of an unknown in the hockey world when Chicago selected him in the second round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft out of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. However, in the time since, Mitchell has done nothing short of show the Blackhawks got a steal, impressing in his first two seasons at the University of Denver. Though the 5-foot-11, 174 pound blue liner is viewed as an offensive defenseman, his defensive game has also developed nicely since being drafted, with some viewing him as more of a two way defenseman with high offensive upside as opposed to merely an offensively minded blue liner. In 80 total games with the Pioneers, Mitchell has racked up 57 points and a plus minus rating of 35. The St. Albert, Alberta, native will return to Denver to captain the Pioneers in 2019–20, but is expected to sign his entry level contract with the Blackhawks and forgo his senior season. Whether Mitchell makes his NHL debut late this season or in 2020–21, he has made it known he wants to make the jump straight to the NHL without any time in Rockford. Regardless of when he debuts, Mitchell should develop into a valuable part of Chicago’s back end for the foreseeable future.
Nicolas Beaudin (2.333)
Beaudin was a bit of a surprising pick to many when Chicago picked him 27th overall in 2018 after choosing Boqvist at No. 8. Then viewed as another offensively minded defenseman, Beaudin has transformed his game into being a legitimate two way option capable of chipping in offensively as well as being reliable in his own end. His efforts to focus on improving defensively showed last season. After combining for a plus minus rating of 8 over his first two full seasons with Drummondville, Beaudin exploded for a rating of 60 in 2018–19 while still posting over a point per game offensively. Initially appearing to be just another offensive defenseman in Chicago’s system, Beaudin has quickly justified his draft position by establishing himself as the top two way blue line prospect in the Blackhawks’ system. Being left handed helps Beaudin’s chances to play big minutes down the road, as both Boqvist and Mitchell play the right side. The Chateauguay, Quebec, native enters the first year of his entry level contract this season and will likely spend it learning the pro game in Rockford on what is expected to be a stacked IceHogs blue line. While Beaudin, who measures in exactly the same as Mitchell in both height and weight, will probably need at least this season to be prepared for full time NHL action, he should be another valuable piece in Chicago for the foreseeable future, as his two way game should help balance out Boqvist and Mitchell’s offensive styles of play. One panelist summed up Beaudin well by saying, “Entering the draft, Beaudin was a clear cut offensive minded blue liner, but after joining an organization with players such as Ian Mitchell, Adam Boqvist and (at the time) Henri Jokiharju, there was doubt that Beaudin could be shipped. He now looks like the defenseman that every team needs but no one talks about: A quiet (in a positive way) player who makes the smart play before the flashy play.”