Welcome to the 2019 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2019 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2019 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today we look at the Chicago Blackhawks Prospects.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2019-20 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
Chicago Blackhawks Prospects
The Chicago Blackhawks missed the playoffs for the second straight year. The struggles have caused a lot of changes in Chicago. Those changes started during the season when head coach Joel Quenneville was fired and replaced by Jeremy Colliton. The team also made a move to acquire Dylan Strome, who exploded as a second-line centre in Chicago. General manager Stan Bowman also added forward Drake Caggiula in another mid-season trade.
The moves continued in the off-season as the team brought in defencemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta via trade. Bowman also traded to re-acquire Andrew Shaw on the eve of free agency. He also signed free-agent goalie Robin Lehner and traded for Alexander Nylander and John Quenneville. Just this week they also created cap space by moving Artem Anisimov for Zack Smith. Winning the third overall pick in the Draft lottery also allowed them to add another great player to the Blackhawks prospects pool. Overall, it has been a busy off-season in the windy city as the Hawks look to get back into the playoffs.
2019 Draft Picks (Grade A-): Kirby Dach, Alex Vlasic, Michal Teply, Antti Saarela, Dominic Basse, Cole Moberg
2018-19 Graduations: Dominik Kahun (traded to Pittsburgh), Dylan Strome, David Kampf, Carl Dahlstrom, Collin Delia (Age)
Top Prospect: Kirby Dach
The Blackhawks drafted Dach with the 3rd overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Dach. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#2 Prospect: Adam Boqvist
Defence — Shoots Right
Born August 15th, 2000 — Falun, Sweden
Height 6’0″ — Weight 181 lbs [182 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1st round, 8th overall at the 2018 NHL Draft
Boqvist can over to North America and had a huge season for the London Knights. He put up 20 goals and 60 points in 54 regular-season games. He was even better in the playoffs with 10 goals and 13 points in 11 games. Boqvist was named to the OHL Second All-Star Team. He also played for Sweden at the World Juniors, putting up four points in five games.
Boqvist is an outstanding skater. He has excellent speed and acceleration in both directions. He also has tremendous edgework and pivots allowing him to transition from offence to defence quickly and vice-versa. His agility is also top-notch, and he can change directions on a dime. This skating becomes the foundation for an excellent two-way game. He is able to rush the puck up the ice, or pinch at the blue line and still get back defensively. His strong skating also allows him to cover a ton of ice and to maintain excellent positioning.
Boqvist also has outstanding vision and the ability to thread the needle on passes. He is a very aggressive player, willing to join or lead the rush and to make pinches at the blue line. His speed allows him to get back and keeps him from getting caught out of position. Boqvist has a tremendous shooting arsenal. He gets a lot of power on his wrist shot and has a quick and deceptive release. He also has a great slapshot and one-timer from the point. Boqvist understands how to keep his shot low, and on the net, leading to tip-ins and rebounds for teammates.
Boqvist is smart in the offensive zone. He walks the line to create passing and shooting lanes. He is poised with the puck and has the patience to wait for plays to open up. Boqvist almost always seems to make the smart play with the puck, whether on the point or in transition. He is an extremely talented power-play quarterback.
Defensively, Boqvist maintains his position and gap control through his strong footwork. He is willing to play a physical game in the corners and in front of the net but is limited by his lack of size. He needs to add some muscle to his frame, though he is stronger now than a year ago. Boqvist is not afraid to take a hit to make a play. His stick quickly puck checks opponents and creates loose pucks. He retrieves pucks quickly and can skate them out of the zone or create offence with a good first pass. Boqvist is capable of making long break-away passes on the breakout.
After several moves to add defenders in the off-season, it will be difficult for Boqvist to make the Hawks out of training camp. That said, he is so talented that it would not be surprising for him to get a nine-game tryout. Even if he ends up getting sent down, he should spend the season in the AHL, getting accustomed to playing against men and continuing his development.
#3 Prospect: Evan Barratt
Centre — shoots Left
Born February 18th, 1999 — Bristol, Pennsylvania
Height 6’0″ — Weight 190 lbs [183 cm / 86 kg]
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 3rd round, #90 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Barratt had a breakout campaign as a sophomore. He put up 16 goals and 27 assists for 43 points in 32 games. It was a 25 point improvement over his freshman year in the same number of games played. He was named to the Big-Ten First All-Star Team. He was also part of USA’s silver medal-winning team at the World Juniors. Barratt has been the fastest riser of all the Chicago Blackhawks prospects.
Barratt has improved his first few steps and his skating stride. While he could still use a bit more work in this area, he’s improved them to where they are at a decent enough level. Barratt will never be confused for a speedster but he should be able to get by well enough to keep up with the play. His agility and edgework are decent. He can quickly change directions, and get around a defender. Barratt also has good lower body strength. His balance is good, and he can fight through checks when carrying the puck and take it to the net. While improvements have been made, Barratt could still stand to work on lengthening his stride and making it less choppy going forward.
Barratt is a sniper. He has the hockey IQ to read the play and settle into a soft spot in the offensive zone, waiting for a pass from a teammate. Once he gets that pass, he can fire the puck. He has an outstanding wrist shot, and his release is NHL ready. He also has a very good one-timer. Most of his goals come from the slot, but he can also set up in the right face-off circle. Barratt can also create his own shot as well as shots for linemates. He has the soft hands to protect the puck, and the passing skill and vision to set up a teammate.
Barratt can also play a gritty game. He chases down loose pucks and gets involved in board battles. His motor is relentless and helps him to manufacture something out of nothing. Barratt isn’t afraid to throw a hit or to take a hit to make a play. His forechecking ability causes issues and creates turnovers. Despite his average size, Barratt plays with reckless abandon, to the point where he can sometimes get himself into penalty trouble by being too aggressive.
Barratt is advanced defensively. He brings the same relentless puck pursuit and gritty play in all three zones. This makes him a key penalty killer for Penn State, as well as someone trusted in all situations. His positioning is good, as is his anticipation, helping him to create turnovers.
Barratt will return to Penn State for his junior campaign. If he is able to follow up his sophomore campaign with another strong year, the Hawks will try to sign him in the spring.
#4 Prospect: Nicolas Beaudin
Defence — shoots Left
Born October 9th, 1999 — Chateauguay, Quebec
Height 5’11” — Weight 175 lbs [180 cm / 79 kg]
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1st round, #27 overall at the 2018 NHL Draft
Beaudin had another strong season in Drummondville. He put up seven goals and 56 points in 53 games played, also adding 48 penalty minutes. He also put up two goals and eight points in 16 playoff games. Beaudin was named a QMJHL Second Team All-Star.
Beaudin is a slightly above average skater but given his size deficiency, he must continue to improve to succeed in the pro ranks. His speed is good going forwards and he has worked hard to improve his first step and acceleration. His stride is getting smoother. He has the speed to be strong on the rush or to go back quickly to retrieve dump ins to his corner. Beaudin also needs to continue to work on his backwards skating, as he can have some issues defending against quicker forwards. Beaudin has a strong lower-body and good balance. He is strong on the puck and battles well given his size deficiency. His pivots, agility, and edgework are also better moving forwards than backwards.
Beaudin is a very good stick handler and passer. He plays the role of power play quarterback, setting up teammates, and being creative at the blue line. He is very smart and anticipates the play, spotting open teammates and hitting them with tape-to-tape passes through tight openings. Beaudin is also very good on the rush. He protects the puck well and can skate the puck out of tight situations. He also is willing to rush the puck up the ice. Beaudin’s vision helps him to make a strong first pass, and to start the transition game for the Voltigeurs.
Beaudin could stand to add a little more power to his shot. His slap shot needs some work. He maximizes the effectiveness by getting it through to the net and keeping his shots low, encouraging his teammates to get rebounds and tip-ins. Beaudin is most effective when sneaking down from the line and using his wrist shot. His wrister is strong, accurate and features a quick release. Beaudin is always pushing the pace and looking to get involved offensively. He will need to pick his spots better at the next level.
Beaudin’s skating can be an issue in the defensive end of the ice. His gap control can be a problem. Defending against the rush, he backs off too much, as he is careful not to be beaten wide. This opens up passing and shooting lanes for an opponent. When the play is down low in the zone, he works hard to keep attackers to the outside and uses a quick poke check to steal the puck. However, his size can be an issue when facing bigger opposition.
Beaudin is now putting his junior career behind him and headed to professional hockey. He will head to training camp looking to make the team. However, given the Hawks improvements on defence this off-season, and the fact that he will need to adjust to playing stronger and faster players now, a year in the AHL seems the most likely outcome. He could see some call-ups if injuries occur.
#5 Prospect: Ian Mitchell
Defence — shoots Right
Born January 18th, 1999 — Calahoo, Alberta
Height 5’11” — Weight 174 lbs [180 cm / 79 kg]
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2nd round. #57 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Mitchell had a second strong season at the University of Denver, putting up six goals and 27 points in 39 games. He was named to the NCHC Second All-Star Team. Mitchell also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors, putting up a goal and three points in five games.
A little undersized, Mitchell makes up for it with his excellent skating ability. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions. His strong first step allows him to win races for loose pucks. The overall speed allows him to join the rush, or to pinch in at the blue line and still get back defensively.
Mitchell has very smooth pivots and edgework. He can transition from offence to defence quickly (and vice-versa). His lateral agility is also very good. This allows Mitchell to stay in front of the puck carrier, as well as to move and open up shooting and passing lanes. Mitchell needs to bulk up though. His lack of muscle mass allows bigger, stronger forwards to push him off the puck and give him issues in containing the cycle.
Mitchell is very good at starting the transition game. He can skate the puck out of dangerous areas and avoid the forecheck, before making a crisp pass to a teammate. He is especially effective at going for the long home-run pass to a streaking forward behind the defence. Mitchell is also effective at leading the rush himself. He can quarterback the play from the blue line, with the poise to control the puck, and the vision to make strong passes. He can also walk the line to open up shooting and passing lanes.
Mitchell improved his strength and the power on his shot this past season. That has led to more goals for Denver. He is smart to keep it low and on the net, leading to rebounds and tip-ins. However, he could still improve in this area. While the shot is decent, it can still become even better. A little more muscle in his upper body is likely to make that happen.
Mitchell has good feet and maintains good gap control. His quick stick makes him difficult to beat in one-on-one situations. It also helps him to poke check the puck away from opponents. His size does become a bit of concern when trying to clear the front of the net or battling in the corners against bigger and tougher opponents.
Mitchell is set to return to the Pioneers for his junior campaign. If his third year continues to show similar growth to his first two seasons, he could be in line for a pro contract and AHL or NHL debut after the college season ends. The college campaign should give Mitchell plenty of time to bulk up.
#6 Prospect: Dylan Sikura
Right Wing — shoots Left
Born June 1st, 1995 — Aurora, Ontario
Height 6’0″ — Weight 170 lbs [183 cm / 77 kg]
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 6th round, #178 overall at the 2014 NHL Draft
In his first pro season, Sikura bounced between Chicago and Rockford. While he struggled to find his game at the NHL level with eight assists in 33 games, he had a strong season in the AHL with 17 goals and 35 points in 46 games as a rookie.
Sikura is a good skater. He has a quick first step along with good acceleration and speed. He has a smooth stride. Good agility and quick cuts make him hard to cover in the offensive zone. He could stand to improve his lower body strength and balance though.
Sikura has excellent vision and passing skills. He thinks the game very well, anticipating where teammates and opponents are going to be. He is able to thread the needle on passes, making plays to set up up scoring chances. Sikura gets to open ice after giving up the puck. He is deadly on the give-and-go. Sikura also has an excellent wrist shot and one-timer. He gets a lot of power on his shot and his release is quick and deceptive.
Sikura also has very good stickhandling skills. He can control the puck and extend plays. Sikura has the ability to speed up or slow down the play. This is very effective in keeping defencemen off balance and creating scoring chances. He can open up passing or shooting lanes with his skating ability and quick movements.
Sikura’s lack of size and strength is an issue in the defensive zone. He has trouble helping to contain the cycle game. He is often pushed around by bigger and stronger forwards. Putting more muscle on his frame should be a priority.
Sikura will look to make the Blackhawks out of training camp. He struggled to adjust to the speed and skill of the NHL game last year but really did well at the AHL level. With another year of experience and off-season training, he should be better prepared than he was one year ago. Expect to see Sikura given every opportunity to establish himself as a middle-six NHL forward this season.
#7 Prospect: Alexander Nylander
Left Wing — shoots Right
Born March 2nd, 1998 — Sodertalje, Sweden
Height 6’1″ — Weight 179 lbs [185 cm / 81 kg]
Drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1st round, #8 overall at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft
Traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in July 2018.
Nylander struggled at the NHL level, scoring two goals and four points in 12 NHL games. He put up 31 points in 49 AHL games. While this was his third AHL season, it is important to note that he was still junior eligible during his first two AHL campaigns and was one of the youngest players in the league in those years. He is still just 21-years-old and most players in his draft class have now completed their first year of AHL hockey. The Hawks are hoping that a change of scenery will help Nylander reach his potential. After all, it worked for Dylan Strome.
Alexander Nylander is an excellent skater. He has very good speed and great acceleration, as he is able to reach that top gear in just a few strides. Nylander has the ability to fool defenders by dropping his shoulder and exploding past them to the outside. Add in his excellent agility and the ability to change directions extremely quickly, as well as outstanding stickhandling ability and he can be a nightmare for defencemen off the rush. Nylander could stand to bulk up, especially in his lower body, which would allow him to be stronger on the puck and in board battles.
A strong playmaker when he is at his best, Nylander has the ability to handle the puck as well as make precise passes while moving at top speed. His wrist shot features a quick release, but he must add some upper body strength in order to add more power to that shot going forward. Once he does it will allow him to become a sniper in addition to his current skills as a playmaker. Nylander possesses soft hands. He finishes plays in tight to the net. He also has the instincts to get open in the zone and get his shot off. Nylander’s great vision and good hockey sense also make him a dangerous player when the play is in the offensive zone. He can thread the needle through small openings when passing to teammates.
Nylander’s stickhandling allowed him to protect the puck in junior and will be useful going forward but he must add more bulk to really succeed in being able to play the cycle game when facing bigger opponents in the pros. This was the biggest adjustment that Nylander faces in the NHL. He has made these adjustments in the AHL, but there is still more to be done in moving up the NHL. He also needs to be a bit more consistent. Now one of the Blackhawks prospects, this is a key year for Nylander. He needs to make a bigger impression in the NHL as he has been given a second chance with a new organization.
Nylander also has to work on being more conscientious on the backcheck and not cheat to create offensive chances. His defensive game is a bit of a work in progress, but he seems to be eager to learn and has worked on this aspect of his. His positioning in the defensive end has improved but he still needs work on reading the play defensively. If he can continue these improvements, he could be a solid player in his own end of the rink.
Nylander will be looking to make the Hawks out of camp. If he can improve his consistency and effort levels, he could blossom into a top-six forward. Nylander still has high-end potential but as each year passes with a lack of production, Nylander moves closer to a make-or-break campaign. He must make the jump from one of many prospects into an impact NHLer.
#8 Prospect: Niklas Nordgren
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born May 4th, 2000 — Helsinki, Finland
Height 5’9″ — Weight 169 lbs [175 cm/77 kg]
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 3rd round, #74 overall at the 2018 NHL Draft
Nordgren split the season between playing in the SM Liiga against men and in the Finnish Under-20 league. He put up four goals and seven points in 15 games for HIFK. He also put up six goals and 19 points in 13 junior league games. Nordgren added an assist in the Champions League. An injury suffered in December kept him off of Finland’s World Junior Team.
An undersized winger, Nordgren’s skating is a bit of a drawback. He lacks explosiveness. Nordgren has a very choppy stride, that robs him of top-end speed. He also needs to work on his first step and his acceleration. He could also use work on his edgework and agility. These are all areas that must improve if he is going to be effective at the NHL level. One area that is strong, is his balance. Nordgren has a low centre of gravity and is strong on the puck. He does well in battles in the corners and is tough to move when he establishes his position in front of the net.
Nordgren has a ton of offensive skill. He has an excellent wrist shot, with a very quick release. It is both powerful and accurate. He can fool goaltenders by varying that release. Nordgren also has a good snapshot and strong one-timer. He can even score with his backhand. Nordgren has good hockey sense. He finds soft spots in the defence, getting himself open for scoring opportunities. Despite his size, Nordgren is willing to go to the net. When he gets there, he is able to get deflections and can score on rebounds.
Nordgren is also a talented playmaker. He has the vision to see opportunities, and the passing skills to put the puck through tight spaces. He anticipates where his teammates will be and can hit them with a tape-to-tape pass. Nordgren is a strong puck handler. He protects the puck well on the cycle and can extend plays. This buys time for his teammates to get open.
Nordgren is committed to the defensive side of the puck. He is good at applying back pressure against the rush. He also supports the defence down low against the cycle. Nordgren reads the play well and cuts down passing lanes. His quick stick creates turnovers, and he can transition to offence quickly. Nordgren is a strong penalty killer, and can even be a threat shorthanded.
Nordgren should spend another season in Finland. If he can improve his skating he could be a high impact NHL player. However, without those improvements, he will have a tough time making it in the league. The next couple of seasons will be make-or-break for the boom-or-bust goal-scoring prospect.
#9 Prospect: Lucas Carlsson
Defence — shoots Left
Born July 5th, 1997 — Gavle, Sweden
Height 6’0″ — Weight 190 lbs [183 cm / 86 kg]
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 4th round, #110 overall at the 2016 NHL Draft
Lucas Carlsson came to North America, playing his first season in the AHL. He put up nine goals and 24 assists for 33 points in 69 games playing for Rockford.
Carlsson is a very good skater. He has a long stride that generates very good speed. He also has excellent acceleration, reaching that speed quickly. Carlsson has good edgework and pivots. He plays a 200-foot-game and this helps him transition from defence to offence and vice-versa. He has improved his strength, helping him to battle in the corners and in front of the net. Carlsson is strong on the puck, allowing him to skate the puck past forecheckers and out of danger in the defensive zone as well as transitioning through the neutral zone.
Carlsson is willing to both lead and join the rush. He has good stickhandling ability and can avoid forecheckers to get the puck out of his end or beat defenders in the neutral zone. He has good vision and passing skills. Carlsson has the poise to set up plays from the blue line. His shot has decent power but is not a bomb. He understands that if he keeps it low and on the net, it creates opportunities for opponents to get tips, rebounds and deflections.
Carlsson is tough to beat one-on-one. He maintains good gap control and funnels defenders to the outside. He also cuts down passing lanes, anticipating plays and intercepting passes. While Carlsson is not a big hitter, he is not afraid to get involved in board battles and in clearing the front of the net. He needs to get stronger to win more of those battles though.
Carlsson is likely to start next season in Rockford. He is getting close to challenging for an NHL spot though.
#10 Prospect: Alex Vlasic
The Blackhawks drafted Vlasic with the 43rd overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Vlasic. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
Sleeper Prospect: Philipp Kurashev
Center — shoots Left
Born October 12th, 1999 — Munsingen, Switzerland
Height 6’0″ — Weight 191 lbs [183 cm / 87 kg]
Kurashev put up 29 goals and 65 points in 59 games for the Remparts last year, while also adding five points in seven playoff games. He also got his feet wet in the AHL with three games for Rockford. Kurashev was dominant at the World Juniors with six goals and seven points in seven games. He was named to the WJC All-Star Team and was also named a Top 3 Player for Switzerland. Kurashev also played at Men’s World Championships with four points in eight games. He did not look out of place against NHL talent in the tournament.
Kurashev is a dynamic skater. He is lightning quick, with a great first step, top-notch acceleration, and incredible top speed. He can blow by the defence, creating breakaways and odd-man rushes in transition. Kurashev can also take a defender wide and cut to the net. He is agile, with the ability to make quick cuts and weave in and out of traffic. Kurashev has a powerful stride and good balance. He is tough to knock off the puck and can make plays off the cycle as well.
Kurashev marries his skating skill with good, but not great stickhandling. He can make a number of nice moves to get past a defenceman. However, there are times where he can move a bit too fast for his hands and lose the puck. His quickness also allows Kurashev to get in quickly on the forecheck. He is strong along the boards and wins battles to get the puck back. Kurashev’s speed forces defenders to back off, and he takes advantage of this with a good release on his wrist shot. He generates a lot of shots, and he takes any opportunity to put the puck on the net. Kurashev could use a bit more power on the shot.
Kurashev has good vision and can play the role of playmaker. He uses his quickness and ability to make quick cuts to open up passing lanes and find teammates. He can control the puck on the half boards on the powerplay and look to set up a scoring chance. Kurashev has the poise and patience to extend plays an wait for a teammate to get open. He needs to work on his consistency. There are times when Kurashev is the clear best player on the ice, but there are also games he can become invisible. This is the biggest knock on his game.
Kurashev’s defensive game is hit and miss. His quickness allows him to intercept passes and create turnovers. Once one is created, he is quick to transition. Kurashev is strong on the boards and wins battles down low. He is also good in the face-off circle. However, his positioning and instincts can use some work. He can sometimes be caught focused on the puck and lose his man, or he can get himself out of position looking to steal the puck, and leave his man.
Kurashev is ready for his first pro season. He will head to Rockford looking to continue to produce offence while improving his defensive game. He is a couple of years away from competing for an NHL spot. This season could be a big step forward.
The Chicago Blackhawks prospect pool has plenty of depth, particularly on the blueline. This allowed Stan Bowman to trade Henri Jokiharju to Buffalo for Nylander. Even beyond what has been mentioned above, the Blackhawks have Chad Krys, Jake Ryczek, Roope Laavainen, and Dennis Gilbert in the system. In net, the Hawks are focused on Alexis Gravel but also have Dominic Basse and Ivan Nalimov. At forward, Tim Soderlund, John Quenneville, Mackenzie Entwistle, Artur Kayumov, Antti Saarela, Michal Teply, Nathan Noel, Jake Wise, and Brandon Hagel are worth keeping an eye on. While two years out of the playoffs hasn’t been well received at the NHL level, the extra draft picks and prospects provided have helped Bowman replenish the Blackhawks prospects cupboard.
Main Chicago Blackhawks Prospects Photo:
KELOWNA, BC – DECEMBER 01: Kirby Dach #77 of the Saskatoon Blades skates against the Kelowna Rockets at Prospera Place on December 1, 2018, in Kelowna, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)