We saw a lot of changes in the off season for the Chicago Blackhawks, but it was nothing you should be too worried about. While we lost Brandon Saad and Johnny Oduya, we gained a great group of prospects, especially with Artemi Panarin and Marko Dano. Some notable prospects we may not see this season, but shouldn’t push to the back of our minds are Nick Schmaltz, Ville Pokka and Ryan Hartman. If the Chicago Blackhawks know how to do anything, it is how to spot young talent and transform them into elite players. To get you ready for the season let’s dive deeper into who these top prospects are.
Let’s start with Artemi Panarin who will be wearing number 72 this season. In the off season the Blackhawks agreed to terms on a two-year contract with Panarin. In his last season with the KHL, Panarin played 54 games with a 26-36-62 record and is one of the most skilled among the prospects for the Blackhawks. Just as people were talking about Teuvo Teravainen who lived up to everyone’s expectations during the Blackhawks Stanley Cup win, Panarin is being compared to Patrick Kane because of his playing style and talent. You will definitely want to keep an eye out for him this season—I don’t think we have to worry about him not making the 2016 roster.
Next up is Marko Dano who the Blackhawks acquired in the infamous trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets—I know, we did lose Brandon Saad, but don’t sweat it. Losing Saad was a low blow, but Dano will definitely make it worth it. In the past couple years, Dano has added muscle and is skilled enough to warrant consideration among the Blackhawks top six forwards—he isn’t afraid to get to the net to score goals. Could he even take Saad’s spot at left wing on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa? It’s possible, so be on the lookout for him in training camp.
Nick Schmaltz: While he might not be getting his start this season, you will still want to keep an eye on him. Acquired in the first round of the 2014 NHL draft, Schmaltz has had a problem with finding consistency, but the Blackhawks have faith. Schmaltz got lost in the shuffle at times and did not take advantage of his impressive array of skills. However, even with just flashes of talent, he is projected to be a top-six forward in the NHL once he makes his debut.
Ville Pokka: Acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders in 2014, Ville Pokka is a puck-moving defenseman who might need another season in the AHL for further development. However, don’t get me wrong, the talent surely is there—he just needs a little extra time to get that finesse. We can look to see him make his debut next year—don’t forget about him in the meantime.
Ryan Hartman: Sound familiar? He should. Ryan Hartman was acquired in the first round of the 2013 NHL draft by the Blackhawks and is often compared to Andrew Shaw. He got his first taste of the NHL last season, playing 5 games with the Blackhawks. In that debut he added instant energy with a HUGE hit on his very first shift. Just a little bigger than Shaw, Hartman has similar offensive skills and the same ability to swarm the net and play in the hard areas of the ice. Although, I’m not sure he would head-butt the puck—yet, you never know at this point what he can or will do. And, just like Shaw, he won’t back down from the physical side of the game. While there are some spots on the roster that Hartman could fill, it won’t be an easy task. If we don’t see him this season, definitely look out for him next year.
Keep your eyes and ears open to these top prospects. Whether they are added to the Blackhawks roster this season or next, they will make a great impact on the team. And, if you are going to the Blackhawks Training Camp at the end of September in Chicago, you might get to see a glimpse of each player!
Who are you looking forward to seeing the most? Share your predictions with us!