Blackhawks Eyes On The NCHC

Over the last week, the Blackhawks hosted their annual prospect camp. As has been the case since Stan Bowman took over as the Hawks’ GM, there was a strong group of college players involved.

In the past the camp was heavily influenced by Hockey East or the Big Ten. This year, there was a distinct NCHC flavor to the camp.

Two prominent NCHC players won’t be returning to the conference this year. North Dakota’s Nick Schmaltz and Luke Johnson signed with the Hawks this summer after winning a national championship. But North Dakota isn’t the only school in the conference, and the Hawks camp had representation from a number of schools.

Blackhawks draft picks Fredrik Olofsson and Luc Snuggerud are both at Nebraska-Omaha, and the new program got a lot of attention from the Chicago media this week. CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers featured the two on Wednesday and Mark Lazerus at the Sun-Times also included a note about the new Omaha program as well.

From the Sun-Times article:

“It’s getting pretty big out there,” Olofsson said. “When you think Nebraska-Omaha, you don’t think too much hockey, but we’re on the rise. We actually just got brand-new, pro-type facilities, too. It’s sold out each night.”

The facilities at Omaha are impressive. The Baxter Arena opened on October 23, 2015 and seats nearly 8,000 – the second-largest capacity in the conference (North Dakota’s Ralh Englestad Arena seats 11,640). Omaha advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time in 2015.

Olofsson and Snuggerud were joined by teammate Jake Randolph as a free agent at the Hawks camp this week.

But they weren’t the only three players from the NCHC.

Olofsson, Snuggerud and Randolph were joined on Team C by Colorado College forward Trey Bradley and Minnesota-Duluth forwards Adam Johnson and Jared Thomas.

Matheson Iacopelli, a 2014 draft pick, plays at Western Michigan and was on Team B this week.

Two free agent defensemen who played on Team B at the prospect camp are also from the NCHC. Neal Pionk from Minnesota-Duluth and Jimmy Schuldt from St. Cloud State had a nice week.

Team C, which was primarily the more pro-ready prospects, included Johnson and Schmaltz. Anthony Louis, who is headed back to Miami (Ohio) this season, was also on that roster.

With such a long list of players coming from one conference, it’s clear the Blackhawks’ front office has their eyes on the NCHC.

9 thoughts on “Blackhawks Eyes On The NCHC

  • July 15, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Good recap. This is a key developmental year for Snuggerud. He’s a Junior playing big minutes. I intend to see play in person about a half dozen times.

    Also, the pick of Denver defenseman Blake Hillman was extremely under the radar on the 2nd day of the draft. He is part of Denver’s top pair and he plays against top notch competition. He might be a guy the Hawks try to sign if he has a good year this year as he will turn 21.

  • July 15, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    I love that college hockey has risen quickly as an NHL recruiting tool. The NFL and NBA use college to such an extent that no real professional training leagues exist. Many Canadian born players come to the US because Canada has little in the way of college sports (maybe not such a bad thing).

    If it were my son, I would rather have him go to college rather than skip to the Q or OHL etc. Hey if he doesn’t turn pro, at least he has an education.

  • July 15, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Mike, CHL teams give players education opportunities in the chl. The WHL alone awarded over 400 scholarships. For the players coming from the CHL that arent good enough to make it professionally, they can still go to Canadian university and compete if they choose.

    David Branch, the OHL commissioner should really be commended for the work he’s done looking out for the players. Look no further than what he did with the Flint Thunderbirds situation. I wish the NHL had someone like him.

    Craig, your guy Jooris signed with the Rangers this morning.

  • July 16, 2016 at 1:07 am

    I saw that Ernie. Two way deal. Wow. Dollars and budgets shrink fast by the second week in July.
    Interesting story line that Keith lobbied for the Hawks to sign Tootoo. The writer said Seabrook did as well but only quoted Keith. I find this to be a really big deal.
    People, like myself, want to sign this guy and that guy, but then I read that two of the famed “core” wanted Tootoo. I have changed my opinion(or in political terms flip flopped). One word : Chemistry. The key ingredient in any championship team.

    If Tootoo adds to it, amidst all the kids that Stan said Friday night that he plans to try, then I am all for it.

    Keith and Seabrook want to play with Tootoo, an enormous compliment.

  • July 16, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Benn signed up for 8@ 9.5 Per. Great now, but the guy will be 35 at the end and he’s had surgery the last 2 seasons. Happy birthday. Helluva week for him. Surgery Thursday. Contract today. And birthday Monday.

  • July 16, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Glad to see Jim Nill now has salary cap dilemmas in his future after winnin what, one round with his core. I hated the way he stole Sharp, Johns and Oduya from us for in the end amounted to Christian Ehrhoff sitting in the press box.

    We will see how smart he is having lost Goligoski, Demers, possibly Russell and still having that iffy goaltending tandem.

    Furthermore, score one for Stan. We got Campbell and Lindy Ruff wanted him in Dallas.

  • July 16, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    For less money than Dallas was offering on top of it.

  • July 16, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    More i think about Campbell more i feel relax …we have a solid addition here …and He will be The dMan we where looking for ….hope we can keep him for 2-3 years …iff he is happy with the Hawks like he was before …
    + Maybe we can have A nice surprise with Kempny after a 20-30 Games ….
    Kempny will need to Adapt to ice size + new players,new city far from home.ect ect
    Not shure we can get a good fit on left wing for Toews and Hoss except if we have a Big Surprise coming from the new kids in Rockford..
    Or a a trade ?

  • July 17, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Stan said at the convention, there is room to add veteran forward, but he is going to give the kids a shot.

    I am completely o k with that. Quenneville mentioned Hinostroza and his speed. Q always wants his teams to play “with pace”. That starts from quick tape to tape hard exit passes from the defensemen. Another reason why having Campbell in top 4 is huge. A third pair of puck movers like Kempny and TVR is extremely appealing as well.

    Hinostroza, Hartman, Schmaltz, McNeill, Kero all have a fantastic opportunity in front of them. Let’s see which 2 or 3 stick out at camp. Stan can always trade for a veteran forward later if. As John McDonough was quoted as saying, you have to have a plan in place, in case the current plan fails.

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