The fact that the Chicago Blackhawks had six players under the age of 24 in their staring lineup by the end of last season says all you need to know about the club's recent success in identifying and developing young talent.
Included in that group were young superstars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and future blue-line studs Brent Seabrook and Cam Barker.
Obviously, with that many youngsters in the NHL, the cupboard at the minor and junior level can't be as full as it might have been, under different circumstances, but there are still several good prospects in the Hawks' organization. The club is especially strong at the forward positions, with a half dozen players close to being ready to join Kane, Toews and Patrick Sharp in “the show.”
Here are the Fantasy Hockey Network's ranking of the top five fantasy prospects in the Chicago Blackhawks' system:
1. Jack Skille, RW – Perhaps the most NHL ready of the Hawks' prospects, the Fairbault, Minnesota native has a complete skill set that should make him a top six forward soon in Chicago.
Blessed with size, speed and a blistering shot he can get away in a hurry, Skille has the tools to be an offensive player and a love of contact that can make him physically dominating at times.
The seventh overall pick in the 2005 entry draft needs to improve his defensive game and continue to get stronger to effectively play his style of game at the next level.
2. Igor Makarov, RW – The 20-year old Russian plays a strong two-way game and is just loaded with skill and offensive potential.
A strong, seemingly effortless skater with deceptive puck handling skills and a super quick release, Makarov plays with energy and is effective on both the fore-check and back-check.
Needs to get stronger and more experience but has the potential to be an elite offensive player, if the development goes as planned. One to watch for sure.
3. Kyle Beach, C – Beach is an interesting hybrid player—part power forward, part agitator in the Claude Lemieux mode.
The Everett Silvertip has a scorer's touch and is not afraid to go into traffic to create chances. Most scouts rated him as one of the most competitive players available in the 2008 draft from the blue line in. He also has a mean streak and is not afraid to drop the gloves, making him a double threat in those fantasy leagues that reward penalty minutes.
Been plagued by injuries and off-ice incidents as a junior but maturity should allow his top six potential to shine through.
4. Petri Kontiola, C – A seventh round pick in the 2004 draft, Kontiola made an impressive North American debut in 2007-2008, racking up 68 points in 66 games for Rockford of the American Hockey League.
The 24-year old Finn is a dangerous playmaker with a pass first mentality and the ability to use his teammates effectively.
Needs to pack a few pounds of muscle onto his 6'0” frame, but Kontiola has the tools to be a top notch fantasy producer.
5. Troy Brouwer, RW – Another late round steal (214thoverall in the 2004 draft), Brouwer has improved by leaps in bounds since his draft year, leading the WHL in scoring in 2005-06 as a 20-year old.
A prototypical power forward, the native of Vancouver uses a hard accurate shot and a high hockey IQ to overcome his average skating abilities. He's especially good playing without the puck, and uses his sense of positioning and size to create space for his teammates.
At 6'3”, 220, the former Moose Jaw Warrior plays an aggressive game, which includes the occasional fight if the situation calls for it.
Next up, we look at the top prospects in the Colorado Avalanche system as we continue our series examining the top prospects in each of the 30 National Hockey League organizations, leading up to the unveiling of our listing of the Top 50 prospects in hockey in late August.
Be sure to check out the previous installments in the series, listed below: