Last week, ESPN’s Corey Pronman wrote a couple significant pieces on NHL prospects. He listed the top ten players in each organziation, and then offered his top 120 overall prospects heading into the 2016-17 NHL season.
Here’s Pronman’s top ten Blackhawks prospects:
1. Alex DeBrincat, RW
2. Gustav Forsling, D
3. Ville Pokka, D
4. Nick Schmaltz, C
5. Tyler Motte, LW
6. Vince Hinostroza, C
7. Ryan Hartman, RW
8. Artur Kayumov, LW
9. Lucas Carlsson, D
10. Chad Krys, D
The top four Blackhawks prospects were among the 120 players identified by Pronman.
47. Alex DeBrincat, RW
From Pronman: “The diminutive Alex DeBrincat has been one of the top scorers in the CHL the past two seasons. He’s a highly skilled winger who shows above-average to high-end speed, puck skills, vision and finishing skill. DeBrincat is constantly buzzing around the ice making all sorts of offensive plays. His elite hockey sense allows him to be in the right place and control the puck with confidence. In terms of the negatives, DeBrincat is very small, but he has a real tenacity to his game.”
66. Gustav Forsling, D
From Pronman: “Forsling was one of the best teenagers in the SHL this past season and was very good at the WJC as well. He isn’t incredibly fast, but his mobility is above average, with quick footwork. Forsling is a very skilled and intelligent puck mover who quarterbacks a power play with the best of them. His body is lean, and he isn’t the best when it comes to winning battles on defense. That’s the area that needs the most improvement at this point.”
77. Ville Pokka, D
From Pronman: “One of the top defensemen in the AHL this past season, Pokka got an invite to the world championship for Finland (and subsequently the World Cup) where he was solid. He’s not the biggest or fastest player, but his great two-way hockey sense makes him a legit prospect. He moves the puck efficiently, he doesn’t hurt his team, and he’s capable defensively.”
85. Nick Schmaltz, F
From Pronman: “I still don’t know exactly what to make of Nick Schmaltz. There are times where I love watching him. He’s an elite passer who can make really difficult plays seem easy and dominate the puck. While he has improved his play away from the puck during his time at North Dakota, even showing the ability during under-20 international play to be an OK penalty killer, he sometimes shows the same old bad tendencies, such as not engaging his checks. He has played well, but you know that he could get to that higher level and simply hasn’t done it yet.”
Here’s some of Pronman’s analysis of the Hawks’ system:
Team Overview: The last few years, I’ve made mention of the Chicago system lacking a ton of high-end talent but being quite deep in solid talent. I look at the Chicago system and ponder who is trending up, and the answer is there hasn’t been a ton of guys who really shot up last season. The situation looks a lot different here than a few years ago, with a clear top echelon that includes the top four prospects in the system (Alex DeBrincat, Gustav Forsling, Ville Pokka and Nick Schmaltz), some decent depth in their AHL ranks and then question marks after that.
Noteworthy prospect: Tyler Motte, LW
Motte was a top prospect when he was coming up during his 15- and 16-year-old seasons, then fell off a little, but really trended up this season as one of the best players in college hockey, skating for Michigan. He’s an above-average to high-end skater, with good puck skills, and plays with pace.
2016-17 impact: Ville Pokka is NHL-ready and should be in the conversation for a job out of camp. Hinostroza, Hartman and McNeill will all be pushing for ice time throughout the season, assuming McNeill clears waivers if sent down. Motte could be a sleeper after his strong showing at the World Championships. Some scouts seem to think Nick Schmaltz could be on the team, but I’m hesitant to believe he’s ready to make the jump.
A few other names of note from Pronman’s top 120:
- The number one player on the list will be in the Central Division. Patrick Laine, selected second overall this summer by the Winnipeg Jets, came in ahead of Auston Matthews on this list.
- Toronto had three of the top ten overall.
- Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey came in at 82