Leading up to the Blackhawks’ 2018 development camp, The Rink will profile the Hawks’ top 10 unsigned prospects.
Starting the list at 10th is goaltender Wouter Peeters of the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League.
2017–18 Team: Youngstown (USHL)
Date of Birth: July 31, 1998
Place of Birth: Turnhout, Belgium
Weight: 205 lbs
Acquired: 2016 NHL Entry Draft, 3rd round, 83rd overall
Peeters is among the most intriguing prospects in the entire Blackhawks organization. His raw size and ability is remarkable, especially at the goaltender position, which got the attention of the Hawks and their scouting staff when they drafted Peeters in the third round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
While many at the time felt taking Peeters in the third round was a stretch, his potential is incredibly high and could make what was considered to be a reach look more like a steal.
Peeters, the second-ever Belgian-born NHL draftee, spent three seasons playing in Austria for the Red Bull Academy, a U-21 travel team. Because of the team’s limited exposure not being a part of a league, Peeters was a bit of an unknown heading into the draft, especially in comparison to many of the other goaltender prospects.
Leading up to the draft, Peeters signed a two-year contract to play in Finland for Jokerit’s U-20 team to play at a higher level with better opportunity and quality coaching. After the first season of the contract, Peeters opted out of the deal to pursue playing in North America. Peeters’ USHL rights were owned by the Youngstown Phantoms, so he joined them for the 2017–18 season, posting a 14–11–3 regular season record in a 1B role.
Implications for the Blackhawks
Peeters could be the long-term solution for the Hawks in the future. He is still very raw, though, and will need a ton of time to reach his potential. But, given where the Blackhawks chose him in the draft, they are high on him and are expecting him to achieve that potential. Though he has high potential and the organization thinks highly of him, Peeters will not make an impact at the NHL level anytime soon. But, his potential and development will give Hawks fans something to keep an eye on moving forward.
Though it has not been formally announced, Peeters will likely spend another season playing in Youngstown. Peeters is still considered to be a long-term project. If he can become an NHL goaltender, it likely would not be for a while. Unless Peeters makes massive progress in the next year or two, he likely will not reach the NHL until at least 2021–22 or 2022–23, though that could be the fast track. Hawks fans should keep in mind it took Corey Crawford eight years after being drafted to finally earn a full-time spot on the roster. Eight years after Peeters’ draft year would be 2023–24.
Peeters appears to have very good potential, but it remains to be seen if he will ever truly reach that potential. His size alone gives him an ideal modern-day NHL goaltender frame. He still has a lot of work to do, but it seems like the Blackhawks’ management has high hopes for Peeters. He could become an NHL starter or could toil in the minors his whole career. Only time will tell.
What others are saying
“(Wouter’s) strengths are his big size and passion to get better every day. He is very interested in his own development and he moves pretty well on his feet for a big guy. He has (developed) mentally during his stay in Finland and had to learn competing in practice every day to earn his playing time. It has been a big culture change for him compared to previous years but challenges will make him better. The potential is huge for Wouter and we have to remember that he started playing hockey at a pretty old age. Compared to Finnish goalies at the same age, he has less quality practice reps so as a goalie he is still really young. The sky is the limit for Wouter, but he has to be patient and work hard.”
— Mikko Tolvanen/Jokerit U-20 Goaltender Coach
“The obvious reason for hope with Peeters is the same as it was in 2016: He’s a massive presence in the blue paint. Peeters measures at 6-4, 224 pounds, and he’s built with a wide frame that’s prototypical of modern NHL goalies. The best netminders are also incredibly mobile and athletic in goal, however, and that’s where the Hawks prospect has had to put in the most work to improve his game. Peeters is still highly intriguing given he doesn’t turn 20 until July 31, but the past year hasn’t led to any grand revelation that he’s zooming to the big leagues. He remains a high-upside, high-risk goaltender prospect, just as he was 12 months ago.”
— Satchel Price/Chicago Sun Times