Throughout the past decade, the Chicago Blackhawks have mostly coasted through the second half of the season, when no game was a must-win even if the result affected playoff positioning. The majority of the team seemed to go through the motions of playing and eventually flipped a switch when the playoffs neared and games started to ‘matter’.
Now, in the midst of an uncharacteristic season, the second half has been about looking towards the future. Many fans are aware of the prospects in Rockford awaiting a call-up, but what about the players who are a few years away?
Be on the lookout for analysis of the team’s overseas prospects as well as players down in the AHL/ECHL sometime in the near future. But first, here’s a look at every Blackhawks prospect playing in the NCAA:
Blackhawks Defense Prospects
The Blackhawks have seven defense prospects playing in the NCAA. For a full prospect list, click here.
Dennis Gilbert was selected in the third round of the 2015 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-2 junior is playing for Notre Dame, which happens to be the top-ranked college hockey team in the nation. In 106 games, he has 40 points and 212 blocked shots.
As a freshman, he led the team with 70 blocked shots; as a sophomore, he was ranked Hockey East’s Best Defensive Defenseman and a Hockey East third-team All-Star. He was also given the title of Hockey East’s Defensive Player of the Week.
Do his shot-blocking and defensive style remind you of anyone the Blackhawks are dearly missing this season? Niklas Hjalmarsson. I’m not saying Dennis Gilbert will be the next Hjalmarsson, but if he can work his way into the NHL and continue that style of play, he could become a very effective shutdown player.
Before he played for Notre Dame, he spent some time with the Chicago Steel of the USHL. There, he was named to the 2014-15 USHL All-Rookie First Team and was given the opportunity to play in the 2015 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
Ian Mitchell is probably the most exciting of the NCAA Defensive prospects that the Blackhawks have. The 5-foot-10 freshman was selected in the second round of the 2017 NHL Draft. He plays for the University of Denver, where he has contributed 22 points in 28 games while logging top pairing minutes.
As a freshman, he has had a significant impact on special teams, breaking out as a power play quarterback for one of the top power plays in the NCAA.
As far as international play goes, Mitchell has played for Canada in three different tournaments. He helped the group win gold at the 2015 World U17 Hockey Challenge, he played in the 2016 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament, and he helped Team Alberta win silver at the 2015 Canada Winter Games.
Before he started skating for Denver, Mitchell skated in the AJHL for the Spruce Grove Saints.
While he has some raw talent, it will be a few years before we see Mitchell in an NHL game. He weighed in at only 180 pounds, so putting on some weight and becoming stronger should be a priority. Over the next year or so, we should be able to watch his game grow but his immediate success on the power play is something that should have Blackhawks fans excited.
Are you excited about Ian Mitchell yet? If you are, I have news for you. Blake Hillman together with Mitchell make up the top defensive pairing at the University of Denver. While it may be a long way off, imagining their chemistry translating to the NHL is exciting.
Hillman was selected in the sixth round of the 2016 NHL Draft by the Blackhawks. After the draft, DobberProspects had the following to say about him:
An all-around defender who doesn’t have any glaring warts in his game. Capable of making an eye-raising play from time-to-time, but you’d hope it would happen more consistently…Projects to be a bottom-pairing guy in the show, but one who could likely eat the odd 20-minute night if need be.
An overall solid defenseman who can eat up minutes when needed seems like a useful player for any team, at any level.
The 6-foot-1 junior is a defenseman at the University of Denver. As a freshman, he was named the Most Outstanding Player of NCAA West Regional; as a sophomore, he was one of Denver’s 16 Academic All-Conference members. During this season, he was named Bauer NCHC Defenseman of the week. Furthermore, he was able to participate in the 2015 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
Josh Ess is a name that we likely won’t see for a long time in the NHL. The 5-foot-11 defenseman is a freshman at the University of Wisconsin and was chosen in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Draft by the Blackhawks. He doesn’t have much big-time hockey experience other than at UW, so your best bet to learn about Ess is to check out this quick draft profile:
Jake Massie is another defenseman that Blackhawks fans likely won’t see for a while, if ever. Massie was a 2015 sixth-round draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes. His rights were traded to the Blackhawks in 2015.
The 6-foot-1 sophomore plays for the University of Vermont. In 45 career games with Vermont, he has nine points, all assists. Honestly, at this point, Massie just seems like a “guy.” He would have to improve greatly to get a shot with the Hawks. In my eyes, he fits in as organizational depth, behind guys like Mitchell and Krys.
With that being said, I hope I’m wrong. I hope this kid turns out to be a complete stud. But for now, don’t focus too much on Jake Massie.
Chad Krys was selected in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft by the Blackhawks. The 6-foot defenseman is a sophomore at Boston University where he is playing with Jordan Greenway and Brady Tkachuk.
In 52 total games with BU, Krys has 19 points. At the beginning of the season, coach Dan Quinn said he expects Krys to be one of the best defensemen in college hockey.
But even before BU, Krys had a large International resume. He played for both the U.S. NTDP U17 and U18 teams in the 2015-16 season, won a bronze medal at both the 2016 World Championships and the 2016 U18 World Championship and won a gold medal in the 2015 U18 World Championship.
DobberProspects had the following to say about Krys:
…Krys is an effortless skater who is able to make plays in both the offensive and defensive zones simply by using his great speed. Making up for his lack of size with superior on-ice IQ and vision…
So, he’s a little bit undersized, pretty fast, and has a high hockey IQ with great vision. Who does that sound like? Alex DeBrincat. If Krys ever has a rookie season like DeBrincat’s, fans are in for a treat.
Ryan Shea is often overlooked when it comes to Blackhawks NCAA Prospects. The 6-foot-1 sophomore was selected by the Blackhawks in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL draft and plays for Northeastern University alongside Dylan Sikura (!).
The scouting report on Shea by SB Nation stated:
His poise and confidence is evident as he slows the game down and makes precise lead passes…He has a good stick and makes a lot of good poke checks. His gap control is probably the most suspect part of his defensive game, but with a little more consistency, that could be shored up.
Shea doesn’t necessarily stand out, but is that a bad thing? Look at Connor Murphy. It seems like his best games are when he goes unnoticed; when he does his job and shuts the other team down. Shea isn’t anywhere near earning an opportunity with the Blackhawks, but if he continues to improve maybe he can get a shot down the line.
Blackhawks Forward Prospects
The Blackhawks have seven forward prospects playing in the NCAA. For a full prospect list, click here.
Sikura is general manager Stan Bowman’s Prodigal Son, the “big trade deadline addition” and 2018 Hobey Baker Nominee. Fans have some pretty high expectations for this prospect.
Sikura is a senior at Northeastern University, where he has made quite the name for himself. The 5-foot-11 forward is second on the team with 41 points in 27 games. Check him out:
Here he calmly eludes two defenders, finds open space, pulls the goalie out of the crease, and scores. The keyword is ‘calmly’. He has his head up the whole way. His pure offensive talent is what sets him apart from others and what makes many think he is NHL ready. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville went as far as to say that as long as he is good enough, there will be a spot for him immediately if he decides to sign with the team.
Liam Coughlin was a fifth-round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers back in 2014, and his rights were traded to the Blackhawks in 2015. Coughlin is a junior at the University of Vermont, where he is teammates with another Blackhawks prospect, Jake Massie. The 6-foot-2 forward has played in 79 games for Vermont, with 24 points.
Before his time at Vermont, he played for the Vernon Vipers in the BCHL where he was a stud.
Evan Barratt is only a freshman at Penn State but he is already raising some eyebrows, having scored 13 points in his first 24 games. The 5-foot-11 forward was drafted by the Blackhawks in the third round of the 2017 NHL Draft.
Before his time at Penn State, Barratt played two seasons with the United States National Team Development Program in the USHL. Due to that experience, his international hockey resume is lengthy.
When he was on the U.S. National U17 team, they placed sixth at the 2015 World U17 Challenge, where he had five points in six games. The same team placed third at the 2015 U17 Four Nations Tournament, where Barratt had seven points in four games. He had five points in six games again when the team placed third at the 2016 U17 Five Nations Tournament.
He was also successful with the U.S. National U18 team. He had three points in four games when the team won the 2016 U18 Five Nations Tournament. When the team won the 2017 U18 Five Nations Tournament, Barratt scored six points and managed to be plus-eight in four games. In 2017, he was also a part of the U18 team that won gold at the IIHF U18 Men’s World Championship, where he had six points in seven games.
Barratt has produced and won at every level and that should continue. While he is a few years off from AHL action, he is a prospect to keep tabs on.
Fredrik Olofsson was drafted by the Blackhawks in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Draft. Olofsson currently measures in at 6-foot-2, so its likely that his size is one reason the Blackhawks were interested in him.
The junior forward currently plays for the University of Nebraska-Omaha where he has scored 61 points through 96 games. Before his time in Nebraska, he played for both the Chicago Steel and Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. In 117 USHL games, he scored 81 points.
Aaron Goldschmidt of the-rink.com provided the following information on Olofsson:
He uses his 6-foot-2 frame to protect the puck well, especially below the goal line. His skating up the middle of the ice shows his great speed, vision, and a knack for making the smart play. Now that he plays a lot more of the center position, Olofsson has a lot more ice to cover and defensive responsibility.
It sounds like Olofsson is progressing well. He’s using his size to his advantage which is something the Blackhawks desperately need. Learning the center position can’t hurt his chances either, as the team is weak up the middle and are looking for players who are strong in the dot. Should Olofsson emerge as a faceoff specialist, he might get a shot sooner than we think.
Parker Foo was chosen in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Blackhawks. The 6-foot-1 forward is a freshman at Union College, where he has put up five points in 29 games.
While he hasn’t had much success at the college level, he excelled in the AJHL for the Brooks Bandits. In the 2016-17 season, he not only helped win the championship but he finished fourth in the league with 67 points.
Similarly to Josh Ess, Foo is just a freshman and has yet to really make a name for himself. Hear from Parker and see him in action here.
Beau Starrett is a junior at Cornell, where he broke out during his sophomore year because of an injury-plagued freshman campaign. He was selected by the Blackhawks in the third round of the 2014 NHL draft. Before the draft, he played three seasons in the USPHL for the South Shore Kings. He was a USPHL All-Star in the 2013-14 season.
The main thing that stands out about Starrett is his size, measuring in at 6-foot-5. With how small the Blackhawks prospects are and the direction that the team is headed, I bet the Hockey Ops will do everything they can to get this guy a look down in Rockford. If his game translates to the pro level, he could really become a force.
Jack Ramsey was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 NHL Draft by the Blackhawks, so he has been in the system for some time now. Fun fact: His dad is Mike Ramsey, a member of the historic 1980 Miracle On Ice team.
Ramsey is 6-foot-3 and that size is likely one of the factors that caught the team’s interest. He is a junior at the University of Minnesota where he has amassed a total of 103 points in 99 games. Being a point-per-game player over that many games is impressive but it’s uncertain whether the Blackhawks want to give him a chance at the next level.
Before Minnesota, he played in the BCHL for the Penticton Vees where he was an alternate captain in the 2014-15 season. He helped the Vees win the league championship in 2015. In 2013, he participated in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game.