This weekend, the Blackhawks will host a prospect camp that is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing in years.
When Stan Bowman traded away Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel, Kris Versteeg, and Andrew Ladd, he received mostly young prospects and draft picks in return. As a result, the Hawks will have more prospects at this weekend's camp (72) than they've had in recent memory.
While there are countless players that deserve our attention this weekend, here is a short list of prospects to really keep an eye on:
1.) Kyle Beach (Left Wing)
Beach was the Hawks' 1st round pick in the 2008 draft (11th overall) and was considered a top 5 talent in that draft by several scouts. By all accounts, Kyle's only problem, if he has one, seems to be between the ears. The Hawks took a risk by drafting Beach, as he has been prone to off the ice problems and dumb penalties throughout his hockey career. If the statistics from Beach's most recent Junior season are any indication, this risky pick by the Hawks has turned out just fine. His penalty minutes are down, his scoring is up, and any off-ice problems have remained quiet. Beach is big, skilled, and mean. Sounds like a perfect linemate for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane if you ask me. Is Beach ready for the jump to the NHL this season? Let's hope so.
2) Shawn Lalonde (Defenseman)
Lalonde is one of the many young defensemen that has a chance to make the roster this year. With the departure of Brent Sopel, there is at least one spot open on the 3rd defense pairing. Even if Lalonde is NHL-ready, the Hawks may elect to keep him in Rockford in the interest of giving him more minutes. Regardless, Lalonde is a prospect that Hawks fans should be very excited about. When I talked to one source that has seen a lot of Lalonde in person, he said, "Think Campbell's speed with Keith's stick." Obviously that is a heck of an expectation, but the thought alone is enough to make this Hawks fan drool.
3) Marcus Kruger (Center)
This 2009 5th round pick has been a huge surprise. Kruger is slightly undersized but has put up numbers in the Swedish Elite League comparable to what Capitals superstar Nicklas Backstrom put up at a similar age. That alone is cause for excitement. The Hawks have a lack of center depth throughout the organization, so Kruger has a real chance to make the club in the next year or two. Will he be a Hawk this season? Barring a crazy amount of injuries, no. But he will be a player to keep an eye on, because his ceiling is extremely high.
Honorable mentions to watch for this weekend: Jeremy Morin, Mitch Versteeg (Kris' brother), Jimmy and Kevin Hayes, Nick Leddy, and Dylan Olsen.
Prospect camp will run from Friday through Monday at Johnny's Ice House in Chicago. Click here
for the full schedule.
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