Two members of the Chicago Blackhawks’ organization were named to ESPN’s Top 100 NHL prospect rankings for the 2017-18 season. High-scoring winger Alex DeBrincat (No. 50) and mobile defenseman Henri Jokiharju (No. 59) were the only two Blackhawks prospects to make the list.
It’s a step back from the previous year, in which the Blackhawks slotted four prospects into the Top 100. DeBrincat actually moved down this year from No. 47 to No. 50 despite a spectacular season in the OHL because Pronman hasn’t been impressed seeing DeBrincat against non-junior competition:
The issue for me isn't DeBrincat's 5-foot-7 frame, it is whether he's a good enough skater for that 5-foot-7 frame. To his credit, he battles well and wins more pucks than his frame suggests. His OHL resume suggests a top-end prospect, but when I've seen him at NHL and world junior camps, I haven't seen the same player show up.
That’s an understandable concern given that DeBrincat didn’t impress at the Blackhawks’ prospect camp in July. You’d expect an elite prospect to skate circles around his competition at a camp like that, but DeBrincat looked like just another guy, rather than one of the most productive OHL players in history.
Jokiharju is the other prospect to make the list, and Pronman was high on the Blackhawks’ first-round pick entering the draft. “I don't think his skill is top-end level, but he's going to be able to rack up a lot of points thanks to his vision, feet and decision-making,” Pronman wrote. “Despite not being a big guy, Jokiharju is quite effective defensively because he's very smart with his positional play.”
The list goes a full 100 deep, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has an ESPN Insider subscription (Pronman’s work is the primary reason I’m still subscribed, I’d probably pull the plug if he left).
Last year, the Blackhawks had DeBrincat (No. 47), Gustav Forsling (No. 66), Ville Pokka (No. 77), and Nick Schmaltz (No. 85) make Pronman’s list. Forsling and Schmaltz have graduated due to NHL experience, while Pokka fell off due to an underwhelming season in the AHL.