May 18, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane warms up across the center ice logo before game one of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
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The Chicago Blackhawks’ NCAA prospects pipeline is full of potential
While a lot of attention is paid to the Chicago Blackhawks prospect system when it comes to foreign players or players in the Canadian Junior system, Chicago has plenty of quality young players that are playing their hockey in the NCAA ranks.
The organization is giving a lot of their younger talents opportunities to make impact at the NHL level this season. Head coach Joel Quenneville seems to be giving those players a longer leash, and if it works well this year, then why not try it over the next few years?
Chicago has already signed a number of prospects playing in Canada this season, so where does that put their NCAA prospects who are unsigned?
Here is a rundown of such prospects who are in the Blackhawks system, playing in the NCAA.
Calnan is the nephew of former Blackhawks great Jeremy Roenick. The Massachusetts native has been battling injuries the past season and looks to bounce back in his senior year. Through 103 career games, he has 18 goals and 22 assists. Sometimes overshadowed by the bigger-name prospects at Boston College, Calnan, when healthy, is an effective two-way center who can take key faceoffs in the defensive zone and be heavy on pucks.
Coughlin was acquired by the Blackhawks in the summer of 2015. Coughlin notched three goals and nine assists in 35 games as a freshman at the University of Vermont and has tallied three points through the first seven games this season. He is a long ways from being NHL-ready, but given the right time to develop, his size and scoring touch could translate to the professional level in a big way.
Gilbert has ties to the Chicago area, having played in 2014-15 with the Chicago Steel of the USHL, and looks to be a sizable defender in Chicago’s pipeline. He skates extremely well for a defenseman of his size, listed at 6-foot-2, 200-pounds. He plays a controlled game and has jumped right into the heart of the Notre Dame lineup in a big way after an impressive freshman year.
Krys is not the most imposing defender, but his ability to move the puck and see the ice well makes him an intriguing talent for the Blackhawks. He has the ability to play in all special-teams situations and uses his skating and stickwork effectively in his own zone. Krys has a goal and an assist through the first seven games of Boston University’s season.
Massie was acquired by the Blackhawks through a trade in 2015 and in the spring of 2016 switched commitments from University of Massachusetts-Amherst to Vermont University. In his first four games, he has one assist for the Catamounts. Massie is a solid defender in his own zone, but needs to improve his skills in the offensive zone before being ready to make an impact at the professional level.
Through his first nine games of his NCAA career, Shea has tallied four points with a goal and three assists. Shea’s skating and puck-moving skills are solid, but his ability to play consistently in his defensive zone has been a concern heading into his freshman year.
Sikura is a “late-blooming” prospect who has made waves so far in his junior season. Through nine games, he has 12 points. Sikura’s size may be a concern moving forward as he is listed at 5-11 and 160 pounds, but adding strength and filling out his frame could boost his stock. Sikura returned to Northeastern for his junior season and will likely speak with the Blackhawks about a contract next spring.
Apr 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks fans celebrate during the third period in game six of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Chicago won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Blackhawks Prospects: National Collegiate Hockey Conference
Hillman is entering his sophomore season at Denver University after an impressive freshman year in which he tallied 11 points and skated in 39 games. At 6-1 and weighing 190 pounds, Hillman possess the size to be a successful NHL defender and his puck moving abilities are what drew Chicago to him. Sharpening his skills as a sophomore will be important to see what Hillman can make of his raw talent.
Iacopelli had big expectations put on him in his freshman season at Western Michigan and failed to reach them after a seven-point season in 27 games played. As a “late-bloomer,” Iacopelli’s standards are different those of from the usual NCAA prospect. At 22-years-old and entering his sophomore season, he has already surpassed last season’s point total. With 10 points, including nine goals, Iacopelli is showing his scoring touch is back. He has the size to succeed at the next level, but lacks the speed and skating ability of a typical top-six forward, so Iacopelli will need to continue on the scoring rate he is on to fulfill his potential.
Louis is an Illinois native and in his career with the Redhawks has skated in 109 games and tallied 87 points heading into his senior season. Through the first nine games of this season, Louis has notched 11 points with seven goals and four assists. Louis looks to be an undersized scorer who uses his skating and quickness to create his own space, but his lack of size could be too much to overcome at the NHL level.
Another Chicago Steel alum, Olofsson is coming off an impressive first year at Nebraska-Omaha, where he tallied 17 points in 34 games. Olofsson’s potential is high as his combination of size, skating and finishing ability could make him a very good mid-line forward at the NHL level. Through the first seven games as a sophomore, Olofsson has three points.
Also playing at Nebraska-Omaha, Snuggerud is an offensive-minded defenseman who can create his own offensive space with his exceptional skating. Snuggerud is still a work in progress defensively and would benefit from filling out physically to survive in the NHL. Through two seasons with Nebraska-Omaha, he has tallied 34 points in 74 games and as a junior has five points through the first eight games of the year.
Jun 11, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; A general view of the Chicago Blackhawks logo on the ice during media day in preparation for game one of the 2013 Stanley Cup Fina against the Boston Bruins at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Blackhawks Prospects: Big Ten/Eastern College Athletic Conference
Hayden returns to Yale as a senior and was named captain of the team this year. To do so, Hayden turned down the entry-level deal the Blackhawks offered him this offseason. He is a large-bodied power forward, listed at 6-3 and weighing 230 pounds, and had his career best season as a junior. So far, Hayden has notched four points through Yale’s first three games. He remains in interesting prospect to watch because of the ELC turndown. Chicago does not want to lose another top NCAA player.
The son of longtime NHL defenseman and 1980 US Olympian Mike Ramsey, Jack is a 6-2 winger and has the size and skating ability to be an effective two-way forward. He posted just five assists in 37 games as a freshman last year with the Golden Gophers, but has already shown progress as a sophomore with a goal and assist through the first seven games this year.
Starrett’s start at Cornell as a freshman was a bit underwhelming, and he will have to put injuries and frustrations behind him to make the right strides in his development. He brings a large-bodied, physical power-forward presence to the ice, standing at 6-5 and weighing about 210 pounds. He doesn’t shy away from the physicality of the game and uses his frame to create space for his linemates. If his development at Cornell progresses well, Starrett could be a very interesting prospect to keep an eye on.
After a promising start with the Buckeyes as a freshman, Tomkins lost his starting job as a sophomore and didn’t return to that position until this season as a senior. A lot of Tomkins’ problems with rebound control and positioning seemed to be relatively fixed during this summer’s prospect camp, and his start to the season is promising again. In eight games played this season, Tomkins is posting a 2.64 GAA and a save percentage of 90 percent. Nothing that jumps off the page, but the numbers are better than what he posted in his sophomore and junior years. If Tomkins can continue to lead Ohio State in net this year, the Blackhawks could have another promising talent in their future in net.
While there may be a good number of prospects who never see the NHL ice with Chicago, there’s plenty of potential in their NCAA pipeline, that the next Tyler Motte or Nick Schmaltz is in this group. Only time will tell, and by the looks and early success of the current Blackhawks roster, there’s time.