This is the second of a three-part positional group series where we give takeaways from the Blackhawks’ prospect camp. Here is a recap on the forwards:
Can Kirby Dach play in the NHL?
Dach scored two goals and added an assist in the scrimmage. He was all over the ice and showed why he was the third overall pick. He used his big 6-foot-4 frame to over power smaller players, was strong on the puck, read his opponents well and showed his two-way skills.
Kirby Dach gets back and denies Michal Teply of the breakaway pic.twitter.com/W5op0k81Hp— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) July 19, 2019
Dach can play up to nine NHL games before burning a year on his entry-level contract. If he returns to the WHL, and he can join the AHL or NHL after his junior season is over if the IceHogs or Blackhawks are still playing.
By trading Artem Anisimov, the Blackhawks have opened up a spot on the third line for competition between Dach, David Kampf and Zack Smith, although the latter of the trio is better suited as a winger. Dach making the team would mean Dominik Kubalik or Kampf wouldn’t be an everyday starter, which seems unlikely given how highly general manager Stan Bowman has talked about Kubalik and head coach Jeremy Colliton’s fondness of Kampf.
Kirby Dach on his chances of making the NHL this season pic.twitter.com/QGobYPOOqD— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) July 19, 2019
Alexander Nylander underwhelms
Bowman said he told Nylander he’d like for him to attend camp, and Nylander cancelled a vacation and did so. The camp was a good way for Nylander to get to know the team’s development staff and other prospects in the system.
Here’s a clip we shared Saturday while praising defenseman Chad Krys:
Watch Chad Krys (36 in red) pick Nylander's pocket: pic.twitter.com/YQlIXmYEvC— Dave Melton (@_DaveMelton) July 20, 2019
Nylander loses the puck in a board battle here, then doesn’t do much else for the remainder of the shift. He slowly drifts toward his own net and watches the play as his goalie made a save and froze the puck.
Here’s another Nylander shift from the second period:
Later on the scrimmage, especially in the third with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, Nylander looked more of a difference maker. Here, he wins a puck battle against Adam Boqvist navigates around Nicolas Beaudin then sends a feed between Josiah Slavin’s legs to Ian Mitchell, who finds Mathias From for a goal.
Nylander wins the puck, gets it to Mitchell and he sets up From pic.twitter.com/c2ym6VS3x9— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) July 19, 2019
Nylander had a disappointing showing Friday at the start, but later on his skillset was on display. The first portion isn’t going to offer much optimism regarding some of the knocks on Nylander that followed him from Buffalo.
The AHL six
Six forwards that are set to play in the AHL next season were in action: MacKenzie Entwistle, Brandon Hagel, Mikael Hakkarainen, Reese Johnson, Philipp Kurashev and Dylan McLaughlin.
Hagel and Johnson (CHL free agent signees), Kurashev (2018 fourth-rounder) and McLaughlin (NCAA free agent signee) all played with the Rockford IceHogs at the end of last season. Entwistle, who was acquired in the Marian Hossa deal with Arizona, enters the pros after back-to-back OHL championship seasons. Hakkarainen, however, comes in after his third USHL season that was interrupted by a one-game stint with Providence College last fall before he decided to return to the USHL with Muskegon because he thought it was best for his development.
Hagel was drafted by the Sabres in the sixth round in 2016, but Buffalo let his rights expire. The Blackhawks scooped him up, hoping he would bounce back from a wrist injury that plagued him. He did just that with a 102-point (41 goals, 61 assists) campaign in 66 games for the Red Deer Rebels. He scored a goal with a big one-timer.
Hagel was one of the consistently noticeable players, frequently being in possession of or very close to the puck:
Hagel certainly could be a candidate for a call up at some point next season.
Oddly enough, the Coyotes picked Entwistle one spot ahead of the Blackhawks taking Andrei Altybarmakyan at No. 70 in 2017. And now both players are in Chicago’s system. Entwistle put up 57 points (30 goals, 27 assists) between Hamilton and Guelph this past season in the OHL while primarily playing a second-line role. But for Canada at World Juniors, he was a fourth-line shutdown winger that could offer some offense with three goals in five games.
Entwistle will play in the AHL next season and could be a candidate to see NHL time on an injury call up.
Kurashev shined most at the faceoff dot, where it seemed like we won every draw. Often, those victories came at the expense of Dach:
Dach vs. Kurashev for a faceoff. Kurashev won. This was a theme on Friday. pic.twitter.com/Bxm8B2VwzN— Dave Melton (@_DaveMelton) July 21, 2019
Some more Dach vs. Kurashev faceoff and in-zone time. pic.twitter.com/2Hwe2vO6Jr— Dave Melton (@_DaveMelton) July 21, 2019
Kurashev was also noticeable during this sustained possession in the offensive zone in the second period:
Kurashev, a 2018 fourth-rounder, is a smooth skater and playmaker. He should play a big role for the IceHogs.
The rest of the pack
Slavin scored a hat trick in the scrimmage, including the game-winner on a nice breakaway with 6.9 seconds remaining. He worked with Darryl Belfry and the Chicago Steel after the USHL club acquired him from the Lincoln Stars. The 2018 seventh-rounder played at center due to being an older player with size (6-3, 190 pounds), but is probably better suited at wing long term. He scored seven less points in five fewer games with the Steel compared to the first half of the season as Lincoln’s captain.
The Erie, Colorado native will head back to his home state to play for former Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland at Colorado College.
The Czech winger will likely make the transition to North America and play in the WHL for the Winnipeg Ice, who drafted him fourth overall in the CHL Import Draft. The 2019 fourth-rounder hasn’t signed a player agreement with them yet, but mentioned at the NHL draft that he wanted to play in the CHL next season.
With time winding down in the scrimmage, Teply found a seem to spring Slavin on a breakaway for a goal.
Michal Teply sends a 100-foot feed to Josiah Slavin for the regulation game winner with 6.9 seconds left on the clock. #Blackhawks prospects wrapping with a shootout now just for fun. pic.twitter.com/1LbkSL9vxX— Carter Baum (@CarterBaum) July 19, 2019
Saarela, another 2019 fourth-rounder, scored two goals with one on a penalty shot. He skates well and has some offensive upside to his game. He’ll play in his native Finland for Ilves in Liiga next season.
The Blackhawks invited three forwards to camp: Kyle Olson, Logan Ommen and Jonny Sorenson (Minnesota commit).
Kyle Olson stood out among the three. He was drafted by the Ducks in the fourth round in 2017, and his rights expired in June when Anaheim decided not to sign him. He had a 70-point (21 goals, 49 assists) in 62 WHL games for the Tri-City Americans. He’ll be the team captain next season.
Olson scored a goal in the scrimmage off a shot from Joshua Ess.
Ommen is the son of Blackhawks senior executive director of team services Tony Ommen, who has been employed by the team in some capacity since Logan was born. That’s all you need to know about that.
There were six forwards that did not participate in the scrimmage: Evan Barratt (right hip), Parker Foo, Dominik Kubalik (rest), Niklas Nordgren (undisclosed injury), Tim Soderlund (visa issues) and Jake Wise (shoulder). Wise did participate in on-ice activities earlier in the week, but sat out the scrimmage. During drills the 2018 third-rounder showed his quickness and accurate shot. He’ll be a sophomore next season at Boston University. Soderlund, a 2017 fourth-rounder, will play in the AHL for the 2019-20 campaign after three seasons in Sweden.
He expects to be ready for preseason work prior to his junior season at Penn State, where he scored 16 goals and 27 assists in 32 games last season. He’s expected to sign next spring, but with the Blackhawks’ center depth in the organization he’ll probably be better suited as a left winger in a bottom-six role as a pro.
Andrei Altybarmakyan and Artur Kayumov
Kayumov (2016 second-rounder) and Altybarmakyan (2017 third-rounder) are two of the Blackhawks’ top forward prospects, but they’re not allowed to attend camp due to their KHL contracts.
The 21-year-old Kayumov’s 13 points for Lokomotiv tied for 11th among under-22 players in the KHL during his first full senior season. He added six points in 11 playoff games. On Wednesday, Bowman singled him out as a player that took a step in his development. He could sign after next season and join the AHL.
Altybarmakyan, 20, had two goals and four assists in 38 KHL games last season and two goals in five playoff games. He had more ice time after he was traded from SKA to Sochi. From the handful of games Brandon has watched, Altybarmakyan is a great skater that has some skill but doesn’t drive the play. Altybarmakyan probably needs two more KHL seasons before coming to North America.