Chicago, IL — This past week the Chicago Blackhawks held their prospects camp at Johnny’s Ice House West. Chicago was given a sneak peek at the future of the organization. Johnny’s was packed with spectators that ranged from the team’s top brass to college recruiters to family and friends of the prospects to media and fans to even an NHL superstar Patrick Kane.
What they were all hoping for was to catch a glimpse of fast paced, hard-hitting, precision passing, smooth skating and slick stick handling and they were not disappointed. The camp may have also provided the Blackhawks with a couple of answers and maybe some missing pieces as well. It is entirely possible a number of the prospects will be on a line with Patrick Kane this fall but there is a lot of work that must be done first to make that jump to the NHL.
All eyes were on first round draft pick Teuvo Teravainen. Teravainen certainly lived up to all the hype that the scouts had given him and then some. At only 17 years of age he not only impressed, he wowed the audience. There is no question Teravainen’s skills are extraordinary and he will be a star in the NHL if he elects to play here. His skills are already NHL ready. It is his body that needs to grow and develop.
In observing Teravainen it is obvious he has studied Patrick Kane and Pavel Datsyuk because his stick handling abilities are top-notch. He has great vision and knows how to open up the ice for not only himself but for teammates as well. He skates so smooth that it appears that he is gliding across the ice effortlessly like a swan on water. Where Teravainen needs to improve is to get physically stronger so defenders cannot knock him off the puck.
Stan Bowman has to be elated that Teravainen fell to the Blackhawks because his skills do not come along every day. When speaking with the media Stan Bowman used words like impressive, one of the best of the kids and “he’s going to be a special player, for sure, so it’s exciting.” Yes it most certainly is Stan for the Blackhawks and their fans. Teravainen left the Blackhawks top brass and anyone who was in attendance at Johnny’s with very good impressions of him and yearning for more.
Teravainen played most of the week at center with different wingers and he ended the camp with the most points of 2G and 2A. Teravainen can play all of the forward positions as well. He will be returning to Finland and playing there this year with his team Jokerit and working on getting stronger and working on his defensive game as well.
If all eyes were on Teravainen in camp they were equally on Brandon Saad as well. Coming into camp Saad was the only prospect that has played in the NHL before and it showed on the ice. Saad is physically a hockey specimen. He is solid in his skates and is not easy to knock off of the puck which makes him NHL ready. His balance and strength were evident.
Saad is intelligent with the puck and does not turn it over either. He is dependable in the defensive and neutral zones which will put the coaches at ease enough for him to see top six forward time with the Blackhawks. Saad played some center in camp and may look to battle come training camp for spot at that second line center position.
Of all the prospects, Saad exhibited the most polished two-way game. He also has excellent leadership skills and had a very good camp. His NHL experience really did show through in camp. Look for him come October to make the lineup as a starter for the club.
2011 first round draft pick Phillip Danault was also impressive during camp as well. Danault has been touted as having a first class work ethic and it was apparent at camp. He was one of the first prospects on the ice and one of the last to leave. What was also apparent was his love of the game of hockey.
Stan Bowman also stated to the media how he saw improvement in Danault and McNeill and did not think they were far away from making the Hawks. If he can impress come training camp who knows what can happen.
Danault never gives up on a play and has great finish to his game. He is determined to get after the puck on his fore checks and is solid defensively. He is a smooth skater and looks very comfortable in his skates. His turning abilities are very good. Physically he is strong enough to play in the NHL. Like Saad, look for Danault to compete at training camp come September.
Mark McNeill who normally plays center was playing wing for most of the camp. Whether he was playing center or wing it was pretty plain to see he is physically ready for the NHL. He is strong on his skates and not only can take a hit but can deliver a good bone cruncher as well.
He has excellent fore checking skills and will be a handful for anyone trying to defend him. He could open up ice for teammates with his physical style of play as well. Like Danault and Saad, McNeill can play either at the wing or center which should give him more opportunities to make the big club. He is also not afraid to go to the front of the net and hang in there.
McNeill has excellent stamina as well. He was on the ice for what seemed like every shift and did not appear winded in the least. Maybe it was secretly Duncan Keith in his uniform. McNeill is physically ready and has good vision on the ice. He has stated he wants to make a push this year to make the Blackhawks club so look for him as well to be battling it out.
The other prospects that stood out were Chris Calnan who exhibited some of that Jeremy Roenick flare for getting the puck to the net. Chris like his famous uncle, has great presence with the camera and the media and on ice as he was mic’d up for one of the scrimmages. Yes Chris will be a beauty on the UC ice.
Local boy Vincent Hinostraza dazzled the crowd with his finesse game. He may be small but his stick handling skills were large as he cut through defenses like a knife through butter. Don’t be surprised if this kid down the line makes great marks with the team.
Garrett Ross exhibited that hard-nosed, scrappy attitude that every hockey club needs. Ross excited the Johnny’s Ice crowd when he went “buckets off” with a fellow prospect. He got into a scrap but came out none the worst for wear. Ross could be the next Andrew Shaw.
Also Matthew Lorito exhibited those same hard-nosed scrapper tendencies. It was also on display his fearlessness in front of the net.
On the defensive side of the puck, Adam Clendening impressed Stan Bowman with his offensive game and slick passing abilities which we know the Hawks love. He has a rocket shot from the point and could according to Bowman be called up this year. Viktor Svedberg was hard to miss on the ice with his 6’ 9” frame. Surprisingly he skated and moved very well for a big man. His stick work was also very good due to his reach.
Klas Dahlbeck the 6’3” Swedish defenseman also impressed with his smooth skating style and nifty puck passing abilities exhibited great skills as well.
It was a very good camp and a very good week indeed for the Blackhawks. In the midst of uncertainty surrounding the NHL and the CBA Chicago and Blackhawk fans take heart, a NHL work stoppage could present an opportunity to check out these prospects in action in Rockford playing for the IceHogs. It will be worth checking out the IceHogs this year just to keep an eye on these kids.
Know also that when the NHL does resume which it will, the future for the Hawks is very bright indeed. If and when any of these prospects wear the Indianhead jersey the Blackhawks will have along with their current stars, so much on ice flash that fans may have to wear sunglasses to the UC to not be blinded by all the brilliant light shining from the ice.
All photos on this page were either taken by J. Ford or Sportshash.