After watching a fun weekend of hockey during the Blackhawks' prospect camp, it's much easier to look at the talent the Hawks have in the pipeline and qualify it against others in the organization.
Over the weekend, a number of things became clear.
Kyle Beach needs to grow up to play in the NHL, and he might need some time against better competition in Rockford before jumping to the Hawks; dominating juniors is different than playing against elite talent, much less professionals. Dylan Olsen also looked raw, but his talent and size were undeniable. Both might need a year or two to mature between their ears to match their abilities on the ice.
On the other side of the spectrum, both Shawn LaLonde and Nick Leddy were very impressive playing together on the blue line this weekend. I am comfortable saying the two could be a 19/20-year-old version of the Keith-Seabrook combination that Hawks fans should look forward to seeing at the United Center.
LaLonde could be a significant factor this fall, and should get every opportunity to make the team. He moved the puck up the ice effectively, was rarely (if ever) out of position, and joined the rush with ease. He displayed a good active stick, which means Eddie O will love him, but was also a physical force on the ice. LaLonde showed everything the Hawks brass should be looking for when considering him for a roster spot, and could come on as another young stud like Niklas Hjalmarsson has in the last season.
With the weekend's observations in mind, here are the new prospect rankings according to The Daily Chicago Sports Tab.
- Nick Leddy, D
- Shawn LaLonde, D
- Dylan Olsen, D
- Kyle Beach, F
- Jeremy Morin, F
- Marcus Krüger, C
- Brandon Pirri, C
- Ludvig Rensfeldt, C
- Phillipe Paradis, F
- Brandon Birch, D
- Byron Froese, F
- Ryan Stanton, D
- Kevin Hayes, F
- Stephen Johns, D
- Jimmy Hayes, F
- Chris DiDomenico, F
- Justin Holl, D
- Joe Lavin, D
- David Pacan, F
- Ben Smith, F
A few notes on these rankings:
- Morin was acquired in the Dustin Byfuglien trade from Atlanta.
- Both Paradis and DiDomenico were acquired with Viktor Stalberg from Toronto in the Kris Versteeg trade.
- Rensfeldt, Kevin Hayes, Johns and Holl were drafted in 2010.
Both Rensfeldt and Kevin Hayes were extremely impressive at the Prospect Camp. Rensfelt flows up and down the ice and handles the puck exceptionally well for a 6'3, 195 pound 18-year-old center. He also uses space on the ice very well and passes very well. Hayes, also 18, finds his shot in traffic very well and will certainly grow with time at Boston College.
On defense, Johns paired with Ryan Stanton for much of the camp and he did a great job of staying in position. The pairs of Leddy-LaLonde and Stanton-Johns were the best four defensemen in the camp. Birch was also very good and, at 6'3 and 195 pounds, is a good physical defenseman who moves the puck up the ice well.
Ben Smith has a similar winning pedigree to what the Hawks lost in Adam Burish, but isn't an agitator. He's very smart with the puck and understands the physical requirements of playing in the corners to compensate for his 5'11, 205-pound frame. He could be a sleeper for the Hawks' fourth line in the next year or two.