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Ranking the Chicago Blackhawks' Top 10 Prospects

Jonathan WillisNHL National ColumnistJuly 23, 2014

Ranking the Chicago Blackhawks' Top 10 Prospects

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    As a general rule, dominant hockey teams don't have deep prospect groups. Not only do they get lesser draft picks than the NHL's basket-case franchises, but they are also more prone to trading the talent in their systems for immediate help.

    The Chicago Blackhawks are an exception.

    The following slideshow ranks the team's 10 best Calder-eligible prospects (don't go looking for Jeremy Morin or David Rundblad; both have played too many NHL games to qualify) and provides capsule scouting reports. Prospects are primarily ranked based on their potential NHL ceiling, but the amount of risk involved in that projection is also a significant factor in this list.

10. Phillip Danault

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    Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

    Profile: Phillip Danault is a smallish forward with excellent hockey sense, good speed and all the intangible qualities that NHL teams love. The trouble is that his offensive ceiling isn't especially high, and he lacks the size that most teams want from their bottom-six forwards.

     

    Risk factor: Just six goals in his debut AHL season gives credence to concerns that Danault wouldn't be able to replicate his impressive QMJHL totals at the professional level.

    Of course, he also shot at a ridiculously low 4.6 percent clip in the minors; it's likely he has far better natural finishing ability than that number would indicate. Additionally, players with a range of skills are inherently less risky because of their versatility, and at age 21 he still has time.

     

    NHL projection: useful bottom-six forward

9. Klas Dahlbeck

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    Chase Agnello-Dean/Getty Images

    Profile: Klas Dahlbeck was drafted as a defensive defenceman, a big body who took care of things in his own end and was competent either skating or passing the puck out of the defensive zone.

    Low point totals for years and years seemed to confirm that's all he'd ever be. Then, out of nowhere, in 2013-14, he exploded offensively in the AHL, posting 35 points in 75 games. If the offence stays, he's a do-it-all defenceman with no obvious flaws. 

     

    Risk factor: The biggest question is whether Dahlbeck's scoring is a one-off; there is at least some possibility that it is. 

     

    NHL projection: For now, a third-pair defenceman, but that's subject to change if he can build on a superb offensive season.

8. Kevin Hayes

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    Profile: Kevin Hayes was billed in his draft year as a big, mobile forward with natural-scoring ability, and while it took a few years for the points to come, he exploded in 2013-14, scoring 27 goals (he'd scored 17 the previous three years combined) and 65 points. He's listed at 6'3", 205 pounds, but he's not an overly physical presence, and his defensive game has never really been lauded by scouts. 

     

    Risk factor: Hayes' shooting percentage by year at Boston College went from 7.0 percent in 2010-11 to 9.3 percent in 2011-12, then back down to 8.0 percent in 2012-13 before exploding to 19.3 percent in 2013-14; the result was a guy who has scored all of eight even-strength goals, notching 21 last season.

    There's also a significant chance he doesn't sign with Chicago this summer, which would make him an unrestricted free agent. 

     

    NHL projection: He might step right on to an NHL scoring line and stay there, but there is a fair amount of boom/bust to this projection.

7. Mark McNeill

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    Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

    Profile: Another "range of skills" forward, Mark McNeill has an edge on Danault because at 6'1", 211 pounds he has a pro frame. He's an intelligent forward with good defensive awareness, but his scoring at the WHL level never progressed from his draft year, and his AHL debut was only middling offensively. 

     

    Risk factor: Again, the danger from McNeill's underwhelming offence is mitigated by his versatility. He's not moving along the arc we would expect from a future NHL scoring line forward, but his other attributes should ensure he makes the majors in some capacity. 

     

    NHL projection: useful bottom-six forward

6. Antti Raanta

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Profile: The Blackhawks won the heated battle for Antti Raanta's services last season, convincing SM-liiga's best goaltender that Chicago was the best spot for him to land. Though undersized by NHL standards, Raanta's goaltending coach in Finland was convinced that he'd be a hit in Chicago because of his unique mental approach.  

    "He's so different than any other goalie," Jaakko Rosendahl told ESPN's Scott Powers last summer. "He was so open-minded. He was so relaxed. ... Before games -- two hours before a game -- he was like some guy who came off the street and into the locker room. 'Hey, let's go.' He's not heavy. He's not going to feel like not talking to anyone. He's relaxed. That's why he keeps so much in the game."

     

    Risk factor: Just five of the NHL's 30 most used goalies are 6' or shorter, and it's a number that seemingly drops every year. Additionally, Raanta was just OK in the AHL and worse than that in the NHL in his first North American season; it might be the learning curve, or it might be a sign that he's not going to make it. 

     

    NHL projection: 1B goaltender

5. Stephen Johns

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    Profile: Stephen Johns was drafted as a bit of a project back in 2010, a big, physical, right-shooting rearguard with a tendency toward bad penalties and conflicting reports on his skating ability. Four years of college hockey has helped to file down the rough edges, and he showed an offensive touch with five points in eight AHL contests during a professional tryout late in 2013-14. 

     

    Risk factor: There isn't a lot of risk here; 6'4", 233-pound defencemen who can skate even moderately well get plenty of opportunities to prove they can play.

     

    NHL projection: physical No. 4 defenceman

4. Nick Schmaltz

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    Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

    Profile: Nick Schmaltz is an outstanding passer, who posted nearly one assist per game in the USHL in his draft year. Along with the playmaking vision is good hockey sense and better-than-average skating ability. The big concern is his ability to compete at the next level; he's seen as a soft player. 

     

    Risk factor: Schmaltz is just 18, so there's lots of time for both good and bad things to happen before he competes for an NHL job. Pretty much every first-round pick looks good the day he's selected, but the track record just isn't there the way it is with more proven prospects.  

     

    NHL projection: scoring-line forward

3. Ryan Hartman

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    Bill Wippert/Getty Images

    Profile: Ryan Hartman is only 5'11", but he's a solidly built 5'11", and he plays the game with vicious intensity; in his draft year Red Line Report called him an "ultra-competitive warrior" who was "built like a tank and hits like a Mack truck." He has posted decentif not spectacularoffensive numbers and gets high marks for his complete game. 

     

    Risk factor: There is always some concern that undersized players who play a tough physical game in juniors will be ground down by the professional game. Other than that, the only real question is how high Hartman's offensive ceiling is (though seven points in nine AHL games at the end of last season helps answer that). 

     

    NHL projection: versatile middle-six winger

2. Adam Clendening

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Profile: He's a little on the small side at 5'11", 190 pounds, and all down the line there have been concerns about his defensive game, but Clendening is an exceptional offensive talent, a right shot and (rare for this kind of player) plays the game with an edge. 

     

    Risk factor: Clendening has managed to play a leading role on his AHL team—he led the club in scoring with 59 points last year, 12 more than Rockford's best forward—and with that kind of production, he's as close to a sure thing as a player without an NHL game under his belt can be. 

     

    NHL projection: second-pair even-strength defenceman who plays on the No. 1 power-play unit

1. Teuvo Teravainen

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Profile: Concerns about size and health saw the diminutive dynamo slide to No. 18 in the 2012 NHL draft, but Teuvo Teravainen has proven himself a wickedly talented offensive forward in Finland's top league and in international play. In the last two World Juniors, he's posted 26 points in 13 games; he led the tournament in points and captained Finland to gold in 2014.   

     

    Risk factor: The big question is whether Teravainen can stand the physical rigors of the NHL. He's smart and elusive, so it seems likely. 

     

    NHL projection: scoring-line forward

     

    Jonathan Willis covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for more of his work.

    Statistics courtesy of EliteProspects.com, unless otherwise noted. Scouting reports from McKeen's Hockey, Red Line Report (subscription required) and HockeyProspectus.com were consulted in writing profiles.

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