Will the Blackhawks Sign Another Blue Line Prospect?

A great deal of speculation swirled around the NHL Draft this weekend in Pittsburgh regarding Niklas Hjalmarsson’s future with the Blackhawks organization. Reports indicate that Chicago is shopping both Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador (while he recovers from a concussion).

While the NHL club is looking to move a defenseman out, the team’s AHL affiliate needs to add bodies on their blue line.

When the draft ended, the Blackhawks were thin on blue line prospects under contract. If we leave Dylan Olsen on the NHL roster, there are only five defensemen signed by Chicago to play in Rockford: Ryan Stanton, Joe Lavin, Shawn Lalonde, Klas Dahlbeck and Adam Clendening.

That total does not include Ben Youds, who was named the Most Improved Player in Rockford last year but is not under contract with the Blackhawks organization.

Even if Olsen begins the year in Rockford, or if the club cannot move Montador and he begins the season there, there is still room for another body (or two) to be added to the organization.

Will the Blackhawks look to a minor league free agent to fill the Rockford roster? Is there a prospect coming via trade? Or will they consider extending a contract offer to one of their other prospects?

There are a few college prospects the organization could look to for depth in Rockford.

Paul Phillips, from suburban Darien, was a seventh round pick in 2009 and just finished his third season at the University of Denver, where he was an alternate captain. He’s listed at 6-0 and 200 pounds, and put up a career-best nine points (one goal, eight assists) in 40 games.

Justin Holl was a second round pick in 2010, and has spent the last two years at the University of Minnesota. He posted 11 points (three goals, eight assists) and 34 penalty minutes in 43 games for Minnesota this year. He’s listed at 6-3 and 196 pounds.

Stephen Johns was also a second round  pick in 2010, and has been at Notre Dame since. He registered 10 points (four goals, six assists) and 71 penalty minutes in 39 games this year for the Fighting Irish. Listed at 6-4 and 230 pounds, he’s bigger than anyone in Rockford already. And, in 83 games over two years at Notre Dame, he’s piled up 169 penalty minutes.

Nick Mattson just completed his freshman year at the University of North Dakota, but he’s already 21; he spent two successful years with Indianapolis of the USHL before moving on to the college ranks. He was a sixth round pick (180th overall) in 2010 by the Hawks, and went on to win the USHL Defenseman of the Year in 2010-11. He’s listed at 6-1 and 180 pounds, and posted six goals and 13 assists in 42 games last year.

One of Mattson’s teammates at North Dakota is also in the Hawks’ system. Joe Gleason, who turned 22 on April 1, just completed his third season with North Dakota. He had 15 assists in 41 games last year, and is listed at 5-9 and 182 pounds. The Blackhawks selected Gleason in the seventh round in 2008.

A couple of 2011 picks, Michael Paliotta (U. of Vermont) and Sam Jardine (Ohio State) are also in the system, but neither of them appears to be ready to make the jump.

Most of these college prospects aren’t pressing for attention because there isn’t a significant difference between what they bring to the table and the players already in Rockford.

However, Johns’ size and physical play is something that is lacking on the blue line all the way to the highest level of the organization. Stanton is a physical defenseman, but at 6-2 and 205 pounds he isn’t as physically imposing as Johns. If the Hawks want to be more involved with Johns development, they might put an offer on the table this summer.

The clear problem with any organization considering putting a youngster under contract at this point is the potential for a work stoppage this fall.

As the Blackhawks approach the beginning of free agency, and as trade winds pick up, they may look to add a defenseman to the Rockford roster from outside the organization. But where they stand today, there’s room to add on the blue line.

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13 Responses to Will the Blackhawks Sign Another Blue Line Prospect?

  1. Brad Stevenson says:

    Johns, Hall, or Mattson would all be good choices to go to Rockford…I think at this point, we need Johns to play in Rockford this season on the anticipation that he might be ready for next year…

  2. Kyle says:

    Nice summery. Also, thanks for pointing out the Rockford is short a couple of Dmen. Think they might just sign a one year stop-gap ahl vet? That blueline seems awfully young.

  3. Biggs says:

    Nick Schultz would be nice!!!!!

  4. AC says:

    Tab, is there any speculation that the rise of the KHL over the last few years has limited the number of available AHL vets (with NHL experience)?

  5. BRS1007 says:

    Tab,

    Long time reader, I enjoy the CI website as well and your tweets. Off topic for sure but what do you make of the rumors of bobby lou to Chicago?? If they take back bad contracts does his long term BAD contract make this better?? Is there a chance they upgrade the goalie this year??? A few more teams jumped in the Suter game, does this mean the Hawks are taking another route. Or is this a rumor that is trying to get some legs. As a long time fan I would like to see this GM do ‘some’ thing to get this team in better shape to make a run. As much as I want Crow to WIN, I am not sure he is the guy. Looking forward to your thoughts as we head into July 1st. Any input does help!

  6. Norman Baron says:

    Hawks seem to always be a dollar short on trades and free agency and pick up washed up players. Brunette was slow and Montador was out most of the season .

    Hawks need to get rid of Bickell , Frolic , Hammer.

  7. Kyle says:

    @Baron

    Bickel makes the league minimum of money. Why get rid of him? If he produces he’s a steal, if he doesn’t you put him in the stands. You can’t lose with that contract/player.

  8. Ethan says:

    Off topic but just heard via sportsoverdose that Peter Mueller will not be tendered by Avs here’s ur center stanbo he has had some injury issues but he has size and speed and is a Damn center low risk signing if you ask me go for it!

  9. wall says:

    Bowman should make a “play” for Schneider… offer $3.75-$4.25 and make Canucks over pay for him and Luongo!

    @ $3.75 he would be a welcomed addition over Crow… but really just want to push Canucks!

    NO LUONGO!!!!

  10. kent says:

    Biggs: Schultz would be a major cou for this team, we can`t offer minutes he thinks he deserves. He wears his ego on his sleeve apparently. Or just good?
    Brad: Morrison for Rockfords def. captain Connely. Did we purge a perrenial AHL er? Was the move made to make room to add perhaps Johns to step in? 2nd; Do you know if his 169 penelty mins. are tripping/holding or fighting? Aggressiveness we need not another slow footed “D” man.
    Norman: Trading Hammer doesn`t make good sense unless you have plan AB&C Plan A signing Suter.B & C if that fails. I would like to see Suter signed then 10 mins. later Hammer goes for cap space and a gritty forward. Hard to do because other GM`s are trying to fill out ther roster. I would offer Suter all he needs and stretch out the years to retirement like they did with Hoss & Dunks. Money now just a little later in the contract HE WON`T BAIL. Throw in a few limo rides home here and there, Maybe hire a contractor to make his Nash. house here. Do what it takes.
    Frolic….? do the best you can with him.
    TAB; Can Bowmen send FRO to AHL w/o cap hit? Would you consider artical on Players in the “CONTRACT YEAR. ” Where players do ALL they can do in this year and then regress in productivity the next few years. This is why I think Bic & Stals have a better year. Question is do we “SELL HIGH” during year to improve with established work ethic & productivity?
    Wall: I would over pay for Schneider he is real deal IMO. Van. has to match they have already played their hand in playoffs w/ Lou. Making him feel like he is even more unwanted. Real tough call for mgnt.

  11. kent says:

    PS Wall : We would also give up our 1st round pick for him

  12. wall says:

    here is the deal… if Schneider is that good… Hawks should really force Canucks to overpay… offer him 4.5-5 Mill for 3+ yrs… Canucks have to match… and they will be Handcuffed by Luo!

    It is a win win!!!

  13. Bill Placzek says:

    I don’t think it is an issue with Stephen Johns turning pro.
    Until Olsen develops more later agility he is a defensive liabilty at the point.
    They protected him, by instructing him to get the puck to the other defender as the escape valve, and that was easily scouted, spotted and taken advantage of.
    The kid has great shot, a bit of physicality but the NHL means no thinking, just reacting and he is clearly not there yet. He will be called up for look-sees during injuries but patience by the team, and continued committment by him is the key ot his development. So…I think The “A” is where he stays…

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