Rockford Shuffle: Which prospects could we see in Chicago in 2014-15?
With opportunities likely few and far between for youngsters to crack the lineup, which Blackhawks prospects have a legitimate shot at seeing time with the big club this season?
Over the past couple of weeks, we've mentioned some of the more notable prospects throughout the Chicago Blackhawks organization. However, a mere mention is all it has been, for the most part. Much of the discussion regarding any young talent making its way to Chicago really has been a subheading over the larger discussion of trade talks, given the current salary cap situation in which the club currently finds itself.
Nonetheless, there are some intriguing names to be paying attention to, from training camp right up on through the start of the regular season. It's difficult to project what prospects will get a look initially to start the year, much like Joakim Nordstrom did last year, but we can very easily speculate that a few will make at least brief appearances with the Blackhawks throughout the year. This will, of course, remain pure speculation until a trade takes place, as well as how the final roster shakes out.
Teuvo Teravainen (C/RW) -- Any prospect talk really begins and ends with the Finnish product. He's the organization's top prospect, and with good reason given the skill set he brings to the mix. A supremely talented offensive player, there's a reason that so many have likened him to Patrick Kane. He's undersized, but he brings excellent hands to the equation and has the ability to consistently make highlight reel plays on offense, whether scoring or distributing. That size is a regular knock, as his defensive play. Make no mistake about it, though, as soon as the kid's ready, he'll be in Chicago.
Projecting that time is a bit tricky, though. Originally thought to get a crack at the No. 2 center role to start the year, any expectation of that taking place was complicated by the signing of Brad Richards. He could see time on a third line if the Blackhawks choose to go with more of an offensive third unit, and leave the defensive responsibilities to the fourth line. We'll get a better idea of what the immediate future holds for Teuvo towards the end of the month, but every bit of hype he's received to this point appears to be completely warranted.
Adam Clendening (D) -- Clendening certainly won't be the last defensive prospect mentioned here, but he's a name that has been lingering around in the system for quite some time. Clendening's skill set is a reason that many wouldn't be too heartbroken over a Nick Leddy trade, as they play a similar game. He brings a similar offensive upside to that of Leddy, but some believe that his game in his own zone would actually play a little better than Leddy. He could be a suitable replacement for Leddy in the event of a trade, or even next to Niklas Hjalmarsson if Johnny Oduya should find his way out. The contrast in styles, especially if Clendening can showcase some steadiness in his own zone, could play well on that second pairing.
Klas Dahlbeck (D) -- Something of a dark horse among Hawks' prospects, Dahlbeck is looked at as a player who could absolutely get a shot with the Blackhawks at some point this year. Fitting more of the defensive d-man mold, Dahlbeck brings good size to the mix and is responsible in his own end. He also brings an underrated offensive game, making him a very intriguing commodity. A figure of consistency, Dahlbeck could get a long look as a potential third pairing guy -- or maybe even someone the team looks at next to Hjalmarsson -- in the preseason.
Stephen Johns (D) -- The player Johns often draws as his most immediate comparison is that of Brent Seabrook. He's a bruiser on the blue line and plays the physical game very well. He does bring some offensive touch as well, though that aspect of his game isn't nearly as advanced as that of the Hawks' veteran d-man. Regardless, he could project as a longer term replacement for Seabrook in the somewhat distant future, as he isn't projected to be with the Hawks right out of the gate. If he does appear with the team, it'll likely be at the tail end of the year, as the most likely route includes a hefty amount of professional games for Johns in his first full year out of the University of Notre Dame.
Mark McNeill (RW) -- A first-round pick of the Blackhawks a couple of years ago, McNeill is heading into just his second full season at the professional level. He could get a look sporadically at some point throughout the year, but is still developing his offensive game. He does bring a physical game that the Hawks lack and has good size, which definitely helps his chances of appearing at some point in 2014-15. However, a logjam up front will make it tough for any forward to break through to the big club for more than a short stretch.
Phillip Danault (C) -- Looked at as a successor to Dave Bolland, Danault will likely have some waiting to do before he finally gets his shot. When he does, it should be a joy to watch as he brings that type of two-way play that could make him a long-term solution in the middle of that third line. He doesn't bring quite the offensive upside that the likes of a Jeremy Morin or other forward prospects might, but that defensive ability up front still makes him highly intriguing.
Ryan Hartman (RW) -- When the Blackhawks selected Hartman at the tail end of the first round of last year's draft, many likened him to another Andrew Shaw. The comparisons are certainly evident in Hartman's game. He's a bit undersized, but plays bigger than he is. He plays with an edge and brings that GRIT factor that is so popular among fans of today's game. If the Hawks are looking for a bit of extra tenacity at some point throughout the year, Hartman could absolutely get a look.
Jeremy Morin and David Rundblad, as well as Joakim Nordstrom, were left out of here intentionally. We know that they're going to get opportunities at some point this season. For Morin, it could, and probably should, be immediately. Nordstrom may have to rotate in and out of the lineup in the same way that he did last year. Rundblad might have to blow some folks away to crack the defensive lineup regularly, and that's after a potential trade of a blue liner takes place.
The Blackhawks don't exactly have a wealth of opportunities for young players to come in and grab regular starts on a nightly basis, especially up front. It's part of the reason Kevin Hayes went on to sign with an organization outside of Chicago. But we could see some of these guys at different points throughout the year. Whether that comes as a result of an outstanding performance in the minors, an injury to someone on the Hawks' roster, or some otherworldly reason remains to be seen. The point remains that even with all of the talent on this current Blackhawks roster, there is still plenty of intriguing talent to be seen throughout the organization, and it may get a chance to shine on a larger stage later on this year.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.