Ranking the Top 5 Under-the-Radar Prospects for Chicago Blackhawks
Sustaining success during the salary-cap era is one of the challenges facing Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman.
The cupboard is fairly full heading into the 2014-15 season, and the Blackhawks appear to have a good chance to make a run at their third Stanley Cup in six seasons. However, when big raises for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane take effect in 2015-16, Bowman may have to make some impactful moves to keep the team under the salary cap.
If that happens, the Blackhawks are going to have to depend on their younger players to help sustain the team's success.
Slick forward Teuvo Teravainen is the team's bright hope for the future, followed closely by defenseman Adam Clendening. However, there are several other prospects who could also play key roles.
Here's how we rank the top five under-the-radar prospects in the Chicago organization.
5. C Phillip Danault
By the numbers: 6'0", 190 pounds, 21 years old
Key stats: Six goals, 20 assists, 26 points for Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Analysis: Phillip Danault appears to be a third- or fourth-line center at this point in his development. While he has the potential to grow his game, he is not a major offensive factor right now.
However, he is smart and aware. He is a solid defensive player and appears to have excellent penalty-killing skills. The Rockford coaching staff used him in all types of situations, including when the team was protecting a lead or tied late in the third period.
A high-character player, Danault will have a better chance to win a spot with the Blackhawks if he can be somewhat more productive on the offensive end.
4. D Klas Dahlbeck
By the numbers: 6'2", 194 pounds, 23 years old
Key stats: 10 goals, 25 assists, 35 points for Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Analysis: Klas Dahlbeck is coming off two solid seasons with Rockford, and that should indicate that he could step up and contribute if he's called up to the parent club. He is an impressive skater with excellent hockey instincts.
Dahlbeck fits the bill as a shutdown defenseman, but his 10 goals last season showed he can do a competent job on the offensive end when he is asked to step up and deliver.
Dahlbeck is a smart, well-positioned player who is almost always in the right place at the right time. He has a plus-32 rating in 145 career games with Rockford.
If the Blackhawks trade any defensemen or suffer any significant injuries, Dahlbeck is likely to get an opportunity to play at the United Center.
3. RW Ryan Hartman
By the numbers: 5'11", 185 pounds, 19 years old
Key stats: 25 goals, 28 assists, 53 points for Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Analysis: Ryan Hartman may not be the Blackhawks' biggest prospect, but he has been working hard to get stronger throughout the summer. He is very aggressive in every aspect of his game on and off the ice, as evidenced by his offseason effort in the weightroom.
Hartman has played right wing, center and left wing, and that versatility should help him in his efforts to get to the NHL.
He has a very good shot that he can get away quickly, and he's not afraid to take an elbow or a shoulder if it's going to create a scoring opportunity for his team. He has the grit and hands that will help him progress through the organization.
Hartman scored three goals and four assists in nine games when he had his chance to play with Rockford in the AHL at the end of last season.
2. D Stephen Johns
By the numbers: 6'3", 215 pounds, 22 years old
Key stats: Eight goals, 12 assists, 20 points for Notre Dame Fighting Irish (NCAA Division I)
Analysis: This defenseman combines his excellent size and strength with surprisingly good skating ability.
As Stephen Johns matured at Notre Dame, he became one of the team's leaders. Johns wore the "A" on his shoulder with the Fighting Irish, and his physical play was consistent throughout the year.
After his college season came to an end, Johns played eight games with Rockford and appeared to be a good fit with the Blackhawks' top minor league team. His best attribute throughout his career has been his ability to punish opponents with hard hits.
He should be ready to have an opportunity with the Blackhawks in 2015-16 after a full season with the IceHogs.
1. RW Mark McNeill
By the numbers: 6'1", 211 pounds, 21 years old
Key stats: 18 goals, 19 assists, 37 points for Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Analysis: Mark McNeill has a chance to be a third-line grinder when he gets a chance to play with the Blackhawks. He has transitioned from center to right wing, and he's the type of player who will do anything his coaches ask. He blocks shots, kills penalties and he takes the puck hard to the net.
The only thing he needs to get his chance to play with the parent club is to execute with more consistency. There's no question about his attitude, so it's likely he will show improvement this season.
Look for McNeill to get a taste of the NHL this year and then have a much better opportunity to win a regular job in 2015-16.