Blackhawks Prospects: January Updates

With all of Chicago falling head-over-heels in love with Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes, it’s worth looking around the rest of the Blackhawks organization to see how other top prospects are performing.

As we’ve done in November and December, here’s a look at what some of the top prospects in the organization are doing in mid-January.

Brandon Pirri has continued to play good hockey in Rockford. He’s now at 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists) and is plus-nine in 38 games this season. Pirri was named to the AHL All-Star Game.

After getting a late start to the season, Jeremy Morin is having a strong season for the IceHogs as well. He now has 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) and is plus-one with 77 penalty minutes in 34 games.

Kevin Hayes, younger brother of Jimmy, continues to play well for Boston College this year. He has four goals and 12 assists in 23 games. Another big center, he could find himself in Rockford once his college season ends.

Phillip Danault didn’t make Canada’s WJC roster, but that hasn’t slowed down the 2011 first round pick’s production for Victoriaville (QMJHL). Now with a contract in place with the Hawks, Danault has 47 points (nine goals, 38 assists) and 51 penalty minutes in 40 games.

Like Danault, Mark McNeill has a contract with the Hawks now and is putting together a strong season for Prince Albert (WHL). In 42 games, McNeill has posted 18 goals and 29 assists.

Brandon Saad had a disappointing WJC tournament, but he’s now the captain for the Saginaw Spirit (OHL). In 19 games, he has 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists).

One prospect that did have an impressive WJC tournament was Ludvig Rensfeldt, who had a fantastic tournament for eventual champion Sweden. Rensfeldt has 10 goals and 13 assists in 33 games with Sarnia (OHL).

Goalie Mac Carruth was named CHL goaltender of the week for his performance last week with Portland (WHL). So far this year, Carruth is 28-10-1 with a .908 save percentage.

Some defensemen that are still in the college ranks are having solid seasons as well.

Adam Clendening two goals, 15 assists and 36 penalty minutes in 19 games for Boston University. Stephen Johns has two goals, four assists and 61 penalty minutes in 23 games for Notre Dame.

Justin Holl has three goals, five assists and 20 penalty minutes in 25 games with the University of Minnesota. Michael Paliotta has two goals and five assists at the University of Vermont. And Paul Phillips has one goal and six assists in 24 games with the University of Denver. Phillips is an assistant captain at Denver.

2 thoughts on “Blackhawks Prospects: January Updates

  • January 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Thanks Tab, it is a loaded system…I am excited to see more of them get a chance over the next 2 years…

  • January 25, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Don’t read too much into McNeill or Danault not making the roster of Canada; historically, the Team Canada staff has had a selection process with roles, and veteran presence at a priority. They also take in account which players are teammates, or have familiarity playing with each other from past international competitions.

    While speculation runs rampant that Danault may be part of a deal to secure Hal Gill and Travis Moen, I don’t think Hawk fans have to worry about either Danault or McNeill’s future based on their not making their country’s World junior team, as the Hawks will carefully develop both as viable middle line alternatives when they are fully ready to ascend to the next tier.

    The USA entry had three Blackhawk prospects on the roster: Adam Clendening, Stephen Johns, and Brandon Saad.
    The USA team had a disappointing showing as a team, with few consistent plusses throughout the series. I hardly feel competent enough to try and critique what happen, but I feel they hitched their wagon to familiar players, who last year took them to the bronze medal.

    That 2010-11 U.S. team used it’s speed and cashed in on key scoring opportunities.
    This one didn’t finish. Along the way, they did score some pretty goals, but there was little in the way of finishing from the extensive passing. (You know the way you feel when you watch the Blackhawks consistently stick to their high tempo “globetrotter attack” and attempt after attempt ends in few rebounds or results in a quick out by the opposition? That is what the U.S. results felt like to this observer.)

    It would be easy to find fault in each and every U.S. player, but I want to try an approach my Hawk player evaluation with a bit of optimism. Clendening was the right point man on the top PP unit. Saad was top two liner. Johns part of a defense that may see each one eventually playing in the NHL, had an increased role as games got more lively, and more so after Forbort’s injury.

    Unless a prospect is lights better than most other players on the ice, you have to judge their team’s results in the win column and the stats involving that player’s unit. Using that as my criteria to judge Saad, I would have to say he continued to attempt to make plays and generate offense but there were little in the way resulting goals. He never quit, and was positionally sound and tried to work in battle areas to open space the entire tourney. He was not overly physical., but strong on the wall, on the puck and in front.

    Was it a matter of bad fit with his fellow linemates? It is easy to say yes based on the results, but even USA program players on other lines had difficulty making things happen, and they rarely had consistent sustained pressure. Whether it was health or the mix, Saad’s performance left us believing he cannot at this point. be viewed as a player with genuine scoring totals unless surrounded by impact linemates.

    I heard the names Etem, Zucker, Bjugstad, Coyle, Watson, and Saad all mentioned as “needed to show more players”, so let’s not lump all the blame on one American flyer. Part of the problem was a power play that seemed more choreographed than relaxed and free styled. Again maybe you worry when you are not sure about a teammates tendencies if you haven’t played with him in the situations.

    Clendening showed good jump and ability and skates with quickness and power already. Clendening made a great diving block on a shot against the Czechs, and displays qualities that easily reminded me of two present hawk defenders. Even when victimized, he was not completely blown out on plays but chose to not reach in or take penalties when beat. He is under six foot and has room for more girth. He needs it to anchor better on the wall. He nonetheless is a decent passer and has exceptional point skills.

    Stephen Johns didn’t see any ice until 7 minutes of play on the right side. He handles the puck well and made contact when he had the chance. He did play very tough after whistles. He obviously plays both sides because Clendening and Johns saw sometime together on dee with the Forbert injury in the second of that game, as both are right-handers. Johns has excellent wheels too. He took the puck from his near side blue line to diagonally to the other (right) side by blowing through the middle zone and breaking in on Mzarek all the way to the bottom of the circle before the defenseman picked him up with his shot on net.

    In the first, Johns made a bad play when he tried to get the puck to Saad at their blue line and just telegraphed it to the Czechs. Also, there were times he when he had trouble freeing himself from wall tie-ups but that comes with leg strength.

    My plan with viewing the games in World Junior was to watch them in order of when they were played, and them re-watch them slowing things, rewinding to get a good picture of play minus what the Gordie Miller said was happening.

    I was running a couple of days behind the real time games, and when I read on the internet that Joakim Nordstrom scored the winning goal against Slovakia, I guess I was anxious to see him and “visions of Matts Sundin started running through my head.” I tempered my emotions when I saw that the puck was shot and deflected off his stick for that winning goal.

    What I did see after watch all his games was that Joakim Nordstrom was a prototypical Swedish centre, who at this point is more a tall, smooth skating ultra-responsible defensive centre who is very good in the face off circle, strong on the boards and always close to the puck-carrier in transition. Ludwig Rensfeldt played left wing on his line.
    Against the Finns, who were excellent at rushing out into the center of the ice in the middle zone, Nordstrom was similar to a third defender almost always being able to get to the puck carrier and force his out if the middle. He was always present as the third man back in the defensive zone. His line had some shifts against the Granlund-Pulkkinen line, but there was very little line matching in this contest.

    Both Nordstrom and Rensfeldt are well balanced and good along the wall. Nordstrom didn’t appear to have a burst or strong perimeter shot, but he moves so effortlessly and is fairly strong on the puck, and is a patient passer who sees the ice very well. He actually replaced Johan Larsson on his line at the end of one period, because they wanted a better face-off guy there and someone who would engage if the face-off was lost.

    Both Rensfeldt and Nordstrom continually had their sticks on the blades of opposing puck-carriers always looking to break up the rushes with quick sticks. He never lags in the offensive zone even if he was the primary attacker, hustling to the defensive zone. Nordstrom has room to add bulk and muscle to his long body.

    Ludvig Rensfeldt still fits the profile I wrote for after the 2010 draft as strong balanced skater who goes to the front and is excellent behind the net and on the wall. In open ice when he gets going, he carries the puck with authority North-South, and is difficult to move off the puck. He is not really a dangler, and if forced outside he is strong on the puck and powerful enough to use his wide stride to get behind the forcing defender and get his quick release on net. Like Nordstrom, he is really good on the cycle, and can quickly burst on net from the goal line or corner. Both are very patient and have good vision to diagnose and make offensive plays. He is a bigger load than he looks to move off the play and is also a player that instantly hustles back when the puck goes to the opposing dee and back up ice. So far has shone scoring prowess from him close and inside the circles, but has the ability to become a scorer because of his continual skating motion and his snapshot. In the Gold Medal game, Ludvig Rensfeldt was moved to RW on a line with Victor Rask as late addition Boyce-Rotevall repalced him on Nordstroms line and he played on the fourth line with Victor Rask and Sebastian Collberg which saw limted minutes during the game.

    Looking at World Junior point totals in a pretty innacurate way of assessing performance, since many players feast of the lesser lite teams in the competition and don’t play dominant against more eaqula players/teams.

    Like Nordstrom Ludvig is not the finished product in terms of offensive ability, but both play a quick react and fast pace game at this point, so both look to have bright futures ahead.
    As do Saad, Clendening, and Johns.

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