Now that the 2010 NHL Draft is in the rear-view mirror and the dust appears to have settled (before free agency starts on July 1), let’s look at the top prospects in the Blackhawks organization. If you’re interested in seeing some of these kids live, the Hawks will host their annual prospect camp at Johnny’s Ice House West from July 9-12, and it is open to the public.
We are not including in these rankings veteran prospects Bryan Bickell, Jake Dowell and Jack Skille because they have peaked in the organization. Both Bickell and Skille are free agents, and Dowell should get his best chance to make the NHL roster next year. Bickell is expected to be back, and should be a key player replacing Dustin Byfuglien up front. Skille’s a wild card, because he was drafted so high but hasn’t had a full-time shot in the NHL yet. However, their time as “prospects” is up, and now it’s time for them to contribute or move on.
With that said, here are our post-draft, pre-free agency rankings of the Blackhawks top prospects. (* – indicates a 2010 draft choice)
- Kyle Beach, LW
- Dylan Olsen, D
- Nick Leddy, D
- Jeremy Morin, C
- Shawn LaLonde, D
- Marcus Krüger, C
- Jimmy Hayes, RW
- Brian Connelly, D
- Brandon Pitti, C
- Simon Danis-Pepin, D
- Ryan Stanton, D
- Stephen Johns, D*
- Evan Bropher, C
- Ben Smith, RW
- Kevin Hayes, RW*
- Ludvig Rensfeldt, LW
- David Pacan, C
- Joe Gleason, D
- Joe Lavin, D
- Byron Froese, C
The first thing that should be noted is that GM Stan Bowman has added two of the top ten prospects in the new organizational rankings via trade, with Morin being part of the Byfuglien trade and Jimmy Hayes being acquired for the 43rd overall selection during the Draft. There are also three picks from this year’s draft that made the top 20 at this point, which is more of a sign of strength in this draft than an indictment on the Hawks’ organizational depth; Bowman has done a masterful job adding pieces that will be allowed time to develop before matriculating into the NHL roster.
Here’s more info on each prospect.
1. Kyle Beach, LW – 6’3 210
If you haven’t heard of Beach yet, remember the name and consider this a mild introduction. Beach fell to the Blackhawks at the 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft because of some character concerns from his past in juniors; Beach was considered a top-five talent heading into a draft featuring Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Luke Schenn and potential 2009-10 Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers, who was selected with the pick directly following Beach.
In 68 WHL games this season, Beach scored 52 goals and had 34 assists (86 points, or 1.27 per game) and 186 penalty minutes per game (2.74 per game). He’s a big, aggressive scorer who answered some of the questions about needing time at the AHL level when he was promoted for Rockford’s playoff run. In four postseason games in the AHL, Beach led the IceHogs with three goals (and was whistled for six penalty minutes). He’s only 20, but could be in Chicago on Opening Night this fall.
2. Dylan Olsen, D – 6’3 220
Olsen is a big defenseman who played for the University of Minnesota-Duluth this past season. At only 19, he’ll probably stay in college for another year but could be a key contributor on the blue line in the future
3. Nick Leddy, D - 5’11 180
Leddy is the answer to the question “What did the Hawks get for Cam Barker?” Also only 19, Leddy was the 2008-09 Mr. Hockey in the state of Minnesota and is currently playing at the University of Minnesota. He was originally selected 16th overall in the 2009 draft by the Wild and is considered an elite skater on the blue line. Leddy will be joined on the Gophers’ blue line by Hawks 2010 2nd round draft pick Justin Holl this fall.
Both Olsen and Leddy are smart defensemen who move the puck up the ice effectively, but both are likely one or two years away from the United Center.
4. Jeremy Morin, C – 6’1 190
Morin, 19, was the prospect acquired from Atlanta in the Byfuglien trade. He played in the OHL last year, and had 47 goals and 36 assists (83 points) and racked up 76 penalty minutes in 58 games. In 20 playoff games in the OHL, Morin added 12 goals and nine more assists. He was also a key member of the USA’s 2009 U18 World Championship gold medal team, scoring six goals and four assists in seven games. He’s a left wing with a right-handed shot.
5. Shawn LaLonde, D – 6’1 185
LaLonde, 20, could be the first youngster on this list if talented defensemen to jump to the Madhouse. After four successful seasons with Belleville of the OHL, LaLonde was promoted to Rockford late in the 2009-10 season and was effective in eight games in the AHL. The Hawks signed LaLonde to a three-year entry-level contract on New Year’s Eve of 2009 with a cap number of $600k, which could make him a good fit into the tight budget on the West Side. LaLonde is also a smooth skater with good instincts who could be part of the Hawks third defensive pair this year.
6. Marcus Krüger, C – 5’11 175
Krüger, also 20, signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Hawks last week. He will likely spend 2010-11 in Rockford, but is a smart center that could play a role in Chicago soon. We discussed Krüger at more length when he received his contract last week.
7. Jimmy Hayes, RW – 6’5 215
The older brother of the Blackhawks’ first round draft choice in 2010, Kevin Hayes, Jimmy is a big body that was acquired during the 2010 Draft for one of the Hawks second round picks (43rd overall). He had 35 points (13 G, 22 A) in 42 games at Boston College last year and was ranked seventh in a deep Leafs organization before being dealt to the Hawks. Both of the Hayes brothers will play at BC this fall.
8. Brian Connelly, D – 5’11 170
Connelly is another guy that, with LaLonde, could be in contention for a spot on the Hawks third defensive pair next year. At 24, he’s older than many of the other players in the Hawks top ten and spent 78 games in Rockford last year, where he contributed well with four goals and 31 assists. Connelly is another good skater who moves the puck up the ice well from the blue line.
9. Brandon Pirri, C – 5’11 165
Pirri is only 19, but was second on RPI in scoring in the NCAA this year with 43 points (11 G, 32 A) in 39 games. He could use some time in college to bulk up his frame but shares the common theme throughout these top prospects: speed. Pirri can move on the ice and handles the puck well.
10. Simon Danis-Pepin, D – 6’7 222
Danis-Pepin is a lot bigger than some of the other prospects on this list. At 22, and with seasons in both the AHL and ECHL under his belt, his size might push him into contention for a spot on the Blackhawks roster next year as well. He is a smart player with the puck, but isn’t as quick on his skates as some other Hawks prospects. It would be a stretch to compare him to Boston’s Zdeno Chara based completely on size, but his hockey IQ indicates that he could be in Chicago soon.
11. Ryan Stanton, D – 6’2 205
Stanton had 40 points (10 G, 30 A) in 59 games in the WHL before making the jump to Rockford. He’ll turn 21 in late July, and could bring more physical play to the Hawks blue line at some point (192 PIM in 128 WHL games the last two years).
12. Stephen Johns, D – 6’3 215
Johns will attend Notre Dame in 2010-11. He played for the US NTDP Under-18 team in 2009-10, where he was often paired with Jon Merrill. Johns was an alternate captain for the team. In 23 games vs. USHL competition, Johns scored 1 goal and 7 assists. He won a gold medal as a member of the Team USA squad that took part in the 2010 Under-18 World Junior Championships. Johns had 3 assists in the 7 tournament games.
13. Evan Brophey, C – 6’1 205
Brophey, 23, was the Hawks 3rd round pick in the 2005 Draft, and has been in Rockford for the past three seasons. He scored 14 goals and added 17 assists in 79 games for the IceHogs last year.
14. Ben Smith, RW – 5’11 200
Smith, 22 in July, was the Frozen Four Most Outstanding Player in 2010 with Boston College, and signed a two-year deal with the Hawks in late April. He played with Jimmy Hayes at BC last year. After his college season ended, Smith joined the Rockford team for three playoff games and scored one goal in limited action.
15. Kevin Hayes, RW – 6’2 201
Hayes was the Blackhawks first round selection in the 2010 NHL Draft (24th overall). In 28 games for Nobles High School, Hayes netted 25 goals and added 42 assists for 67 points. Older brother Jimmy Hayes was acquired on the second day of the draft, and the two will play together at Boston College in 2010-11. Needs to work on his skating, but has good size and plays a good two-way game.
16. Ludvig Rensfeldt, LW – 6’3 196
The first of the Hawks four 2nd round picks in the 2010 Draft, Rensfeldt will be overseas for at least one more year. In 39 games, Rensfeldt scored 21 goals and 29 assists. In 5 playoff games, he added 3 goals. He also played for Sweden’s Under-18 squad at the World Junior Championships, where he scored 6 goals and added 6 assist for 12 points.
17. David Pacan, C – 6’3 189
A big center, Pacan spent last year at the U. of Vermont where he had seven goals and seven assists in 39 games as a freshman. Still only 19, he was the Hawks 6th round pick in the 2009 Draft.
18. Joe Gleason, D – 5’10 175
Gleason, 20, was at the U. of North Dakota last year and is another undersized puck-moving defenseman. He was selected in the 7th round of the 2008 Draft by the Blackhawks.
19. Joe Lavin, D – 6’3 200
Lavin, 21, played 18 games at Notre Dame last year where he scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 18 games. He spent the two previous NCAA seasons at Providence.
20. Byron Froese, C – 6’1 180
Froese spent the 2009-10 season with Beach on the Everett Silvertips in the WHL where he had 61 points (29 G, 32 A) in 70 games. Still 19, Froese was the Hawks 4th round selection in the 2009 Draft.