The Chicago Blackhawks will spend this week working and evaluating its young talent at its annual prospect camp at MB Ice Arena.
The Blackhawks focus more on the development side of things in the camp as oppose to only scrimmages. Players and coaches will work on drills from 1-5 p.m. throughout the week before a scrimmage 9:30 a.m. Friday to cap the week. All on-ice activities are open to the public.
Here are five things to watch this week at the team’s prospect camp:
It’s here. Henri Jokiharju, a 2017 first-round draft pick, will take his first step to trying to earn a roster spot this season.
The defenseman signed a three-year entry-level contract last month after posting career highs in points (71), goals (12) and assists (59) in 63 games during his second season with the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL. He also found success internationally, scoring two goals and dishing out two assists in five games with Finland at the World Junior Championship.
It won’t be easy for the right-handed Jokiharju to crack the lineup. Brent Seabrook, Connor Murphy and Jan Rutta all play on the right side and logged minutes with Chicago this past season. If Jokiharju doesn’t crack the NHL roster, the Hawks can assign him to the AHL.
The other three horsemen
Jokiharju was the first of three defensemen drafted by the Hawks in the first two rounds the last two years. After Jokiharju was selected at No. 29, the Hawks took Ian Mitchell in the second round in 2017 and Adam Boqvist (No. 8) and Nicolas Beaudin (No. 27) came in the first round this year.
All eyes will be on Jokiharju and Boqvist. The Swedish defenseman Boqvist is expected to play this upcoming season for the London Knights in the OHL. He could join the Rockford IceHogs at the end of his OHL season.
Beaudin has taken a back seat among the four despite being drafted higher than both 2017 picks. The lone left-handed shot among the group, Beaudin scored 28 more points this past season than in his 2016-17 campaign with the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the QMJHL. He put together a nice season with 69 points (12 goals and 57 assists) in 68 games.
Mitchell was among the top college freshman defenseman last season while playing with fellow Chicago product Blake Hillman on Denver’s top line. Beaudin and Mitchell will be in contention for a roster spot on Canada’s World Juniors team as well. The Hawks are likely to try and sign Mitchell after this season.
Much as made about Chicago general manager Stan Bowman drafting the Four Horsemen, and rightfully so. But, the real beginning of loading up on the blueline started the year before in 2016, when he selected left-handed shots Chad Krys and Lucas Carlsson in the second and fourth rounds, respectively.
Both players fit the mold in terms of size for a Hawks defenseman, but they play the game in a different way. Krys, a junior-to-be at Boston University, is an offensive-minded player with 27 points (seven goals and 20 assists) this past season. Carlsson, who signed with Chicago in May, leans more on the defensive side with only 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) last season for Brynäs in the SHL.
Neither player will crack the NHL roster this season since the Hawks are loaded on the left side with Duncan Keith, Erik Gustafsson and newly-signed Brandon Manning. With the addition of Manning, Hillman looks to be headed to Rockford with Carlsson. The Hawks will likely want to sign Krys after his junior season.
Now that we’ve addressed the defense, let’s switch to forwards. Unfortunately due to KHL contracts, two of the Hawks most intriguing forward prospects in Artur Kayumov, Andrei Altybarmakyan, and yes even Max Shalunov won’t be in action.
With those three out of the fray, let’s turn our attention to five other players: Evan Barratt (2017 third), MacKenzie Entwistle (2017 third by Arizona) and Niklas Nordgren (2018 fourth), Tim Soderlund (2017 fourth) and Jake Wise (2018 third).
Barratt: Talk about an under the radar pick. After Jokiharju and Mitchell went in the first two rounds, the Hawks selected Barratt. The 6-foot, 187-pound center posted 11 goals and 18 points in 32 games during his freshman season at Penn State. He’s expected to take on a larger role for the Nittany Lions next season, but don’t expect him to sign next spring.
Entwistle: Chicago acquired Entwistle in the seven-player Marian Hossa trade with Arizona earlier this month. Entwistle, who turned 19 last Saturday, is a big-bodied right-handed shot at 6-3 and 174 pounds. After being drafted in the third round by Arizona in 2017, he scored 38 points (13 goals, 25 assists) in 49 regular-season games for the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL. He added 10 goals in 17 playoff games as the Bulldogs won the OHL championship.
Nordgren: Everyone expected the Hawks to draft winger Oliver Wahlstrom with the No. 8 pick this year, but Chicago waited until the third round to take a winger. In Nordgren, they selected a right-handed shot that needs some work. He scored 13 goals and 42 points in 28 games for HIFK in Finland’s junior league and posted three assists in 15 games in Liiga, Finland’s top league.
Here’s what Corey Pronman of The Athletic said about Nordgren in his draft analysis:
“Nordgren is a highly skilled playmaker. He has a great understanding of how to create offense, has the touch to pull off difficult plays and can be a QB from the side boards on the power play. His vision and puck skills are both great, with the ability to be a primary creator of offense and excel on the man advantage. His skating is worrisome for a 5-foot-9 guy, which keeps me from getting him to the higher tiers, but it still grades as average, and given how hard he hustles, he gets up the ice reasonably well. I also wouldn’t classify him as a highly physical guy, but he works and I’ve seen him be competent on the PK.”
Soderlund: Every year there’s one prospect that steals the show, and last year it was Soderlund. The speedy, left-handed shot winger has drawn comparisons to Swedish countrymen Viktor Ardvisson. After a strong prospect camp, Soderlund had nine goals and five assists in 43 games with AIK in the SHL last season. He was traded to SHL powerhouse Frölunda in April, and will try to help the Gothenburg-based club win its third Champions League trophy in the last four years.
Wise: In his most recent season, Wise scored 11 goals with 32 assists in 38 games. While playing for Team USA in the U18 WJC, he picked up one goal and four assists in seven tournament games. The 5-10, 195-pound center was once valued as a first-round pick, but injuries derailed his hype. The Redding, Massachusetts native will stay in state at Boston University next season for his freshman campaign.
It takes two
Chicago invited only two goaltender prospects in Wouter Peeters (2016 third) and Alexis Gravel (2018 sixth).
Peeters like Nordgren is considered a long-term project. In his first North American season, Peeters posted a 3.00 goals-against average and .902 save percentage in 30 appearances for Youngstown in the USHL. Peeters, who will turn 20 on July 31, will be back between the pipes for the Phantoms next season.
Gravel posted a 3.38 GAA and a .890 save percentage in 39 games for Halifax in the QMJHL, a league where goals come early and often. In eight postseason games, he had a 2.70 GAA and .917 save percentage.
Chicago selects Alexis Gravel. A guy who still needs a lot of work in terms of flexibility and agility, but his a really solid foundation when it comes to his spatial awareness and plays a game that's very positionally-based. Very, very good fit for Chicago goaltending system.— Caatta Silverman (@catmsilverman) June 23, 2018
The rest of the goalies in camp are non-roster invitees: Peyton Jones (Penn state), Chase Marchand (St. Francis Xavier), Linden Marshall (RPI) and Matthew Robson (Minnesota).