August 5, 2013 by Cups n Pucks
On Thursday we released the first stage of our top 15 Blackhawks prospects. Kyle Beach, Maxim Shalunov, and Alex Broadhurst received honorable mentions but did not make the list. Chris Canlan kicked off the list at #15, Kevin Hayes took #14, Ben Smith with #13, John Hayden at #12, and Jimmy Hayes ended our post at #11.
*To clarify, all players are ranked in terms of overall potential to be successful in the NHL.
Stage 2 will highlight prospects #10-#6. Please feel free to send us your thoughts in the comment box below, enjoy!
I couldn’t finish up the top ten without including the Hawks shiny new prospect. Ryan Hartman is the type of player you love to have on your team but hate to play against. He has a similar style to Andrew Shaw or Boston’s Brad Marchand. Hartman is a grittier player who is the first in the corners digging out the puck. If you are a fan of Andrew Shaw, you will love Ryan Hartman.
Time table: Hartman will be going back to Plymouth to improve on his 60 points in 56 games from last season. Hopefully he has a good enough year for the Hawks to sign him to a pro contract. If so, we could be seeing Hartman in Rockford in the 2014-2015 season. If his next season isn’t up to the Hawks expectations, then you can expect him to play another two seasons in Plymouth. In other words, Hartman is not close to being ready for play in the NHL.
Let me start off by saying how surprised I am that Stephen Johns isn’t starting his pro career this year. Rather than signing him to a pro contract, the Hawks are letting Johns finish up at Notre Dame. The rugged defenseman plays a similar physical style to Brent Seabrook, which is something the Hawks could use more on their blue line. As I mentioned in the prospect camp post a few weeks back, Johns hits everything that moves, but doesn’t take himself out of position when he steps up. He first needs to clean up some of his passes (from what I saw at the prospect camp) in order to be ready for the NHL. I just hope this year at Notre Dame doesn’t effect his development.
Time table: With Stephen Johns returning to Notre Dame, it will take some time before he is ready. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hawks waited for Oduya’s and Rozsival’s departures before bringing up Clendening and Johns. Something along the line of the 2015-2016 season would be a good time to expect to see Johns as one of the Hawks top six defensemen.
Drew LeBlanc is a feel good story. After having his 4th year (2011-2012 season) in St. Cloud cut short with a horrific leg injury, he came back as a 5th year senior and dominated the NCAA. LeBlanc tallied 50 points in 42 games in the 2012-2013 season leading St. Cloud to their first Frozen Four appearance and he won the Hobey Baker Award. Now LeBlanc will play his first professional season and is looking to turn some heads in an already impressively deep prospect pool.
Time table: LeBlanc comes into his first training camp battling for a spot on the team. Hawks have an opening for a 2nd line center and a couple prospects are fighting to fill to the void. With Hawks draft picks Pirri, Danault, and McNeill all hoping to impress in training camp and win the spot, LeBlanc is going to have to come into camp stronger in order for the coaching staff to steer away from their home grown prospects. This year is extremely important for LeBlanc.
The Hawks have done well with signing undrafted goalies. From Ed Belfour to Antti Niemi, free agent goalies have been the key to great Hawks teams. The Hawks are hoping Raanta can be another great goaltending find. The 24 year old goaltender played for Assat last year in the SM-Liiga and put up phenomenal numbers. With a .943 save percentage and 1.85 goals against average, Raanta won the MVP for the SM-Liiga. Raanta will be coming across the pond this year to get his first taste of North American hockey.
Time table: I was 100% sure Raanta was going to be Crawford’s back-up goalie next season until they signed the grizzled veteran Khabibulin. While I was upset with the signing at first, it does make sense. As it gives Raanta one season to become adjusted to the rink size difference before entering the NHL. The adjustment from European to North American hockey is most difficult for a goalie because they have to rework their angles. We will have a better idea of where Raanta is in his development about half way through next season. He could be a lot higher than number seven on my list in six months.
The 2011 draft could go down in history as one of the best drafts for the Blackhawks. Saad and Shaw have already won a cup with the Hawks and McNeill is the 3rd player in my top 15 from the 2011 draft. McNeill is going to be playing in his first pro season in 2013-2014 after playing his last season with Prince Albert. McNeill put up a respectable 67 points in 65 games last season, but more should be expected from an older player. Now he will need to improve his game in Rockford before he is given a chance at the NHL level.
Time table: Expect the Pirri treatment for McNeill. Even if most think he might be ready for the move to the NHL, the Hawks still might wait another year or two. McNeill plays a gritty style and should look to slide into the 3rd line center once he is ready. That being said, don’t be shocked if he stays 2-3 more seasons in Rockford. The earliest to expect McNeill would be the 2015-2016 season.