Welcome to the 2018 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2018 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will go team by team through the NHL bringing you a look at each Teams Top Prospects. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2018 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2018-19 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
TSP: Chicago Blackhawks Prospects
For many, last season felt like the end of Chicago Blackhawks dynasty. The team plummeted from being one of the best clubs in the NHL for last decade to missing the playoffs and finishing in last place in the Central Division with just 76 points. For others, it was a one-off season, caused by an injury to starting goaltender Corey Crawford and down years for key players like Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad, and others. Those who subscribe to that line of thinking say that the team will bounce back in 2018-19.
General manager Stan Bowman has made changes as he looks to turn things around. The team added Chris Kunitz, Cam Ward and Brandon Manning in free agency. He also created additional cap space by sending Marian Hossa‘s contract and Vinnie Hinostroza to the Arizona Coyotes. Even with these moves, the Blackhawks core is not getting any younger, and the team will need some of its young prospects to step up as part of a turnaround.
2018 NHL Draft Picks: Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, Jake Wise, Niklas Nordgren, Philipp Kurashev, Mikael Hakkarainen, Alexis Gravel, Josiah Slavin
Graduations: Alex DeBrincat, Gustav Forsling, John Hayden, Anton Forsberg,
Top Prospect: Adam Boqvist
The Blackhawks drafted Boqvist with the 8th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Boqvist. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#2 Prospect: Henri Jokiharju
Defence — shoots Right
Born June 17th 1999 — Tampere, Finland
Height 6’0″ — Weight 180 lbs [183 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1st round, #29 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Jokiharju had a massive season with the Portland Winterhawks, scoring 12 goals and 71 points in 63 games. He also added three goals and eight points in 12 games. Jokiharju also had personal success on the international stage. He picked up four points in five games at the World Juniors and three points in six games with Finland’s men’s team at the European Hockey Tour.
Henri Jokiharju is a very good skater. He has excellent edgework and pivots which allow him to transition from offence to defence quickly and efficiently. They also allow him to cover huge amounts of ice. Jokiharju has a very good first step and excellent acceleration. He wins races to loose pucks and quickly starts the transition game. His speed is very good, going both forward and backwards. This allows Jokiharju to join the rush, or pinch in at the blue line, and get back defensively.
Jokiharju is a solid puck handler. He can lead the rush or join in as a trailer. He also has the poise to quarterback the play from the blue line. Jokiharju keeps his head up and makes smart passes. He can make the long stretch pass in transition, as well as make a cross-ice pass to set up a one-timer for a teammate. Jokiharju possesses excellent vision, the smarts to see plays developing before they happen, as well as the skill to fit the puck through tight openings. He makes those passing lanes a little less tight, through his excellent lateral mobility and poise with the puck.
Jokiharju showed an increased willingness to shoot last season and the goal results followed. He has improved his shot, adding power to his slap shot and one-timer. He has a knack for getting it through traffic and through to the net. Jokiharju also makes use of a good wrist shot. He sneaks down from the point and will let it go from the top of the circles. It is accurate and has a quick release. Jokiharju’s added muscle mass has also led to a stronger shot.
Jokiharju has very good positioning and gap control. He keeps his man to the outside and away from the dangerous areas of the ice. His good lateral agility makes him very hard to beat in one-on-one situations. An active stick helps him to cut down passing and shooting lanes. Jokiharju is aggressive physically despite his small frame. He battles hard in the corners and in front of the net, and is also willing to throw big hits. Over the last year, Jokiharju has really started to bulk up. This will help him to play this aggressive style at the NHL level. That said, there is still room to continue to fill out his frame.
Jokiharju will head to training camp looking to make the Blackhawks roster. However, he might still be a year or two away from an NHL impact. While he might get a nine-game tryout at the start of the year, expect Jokiharju to spend another season with the Winterhawks.
#3 Prospect: Dylan Sikura
Right Wing — shoots Left
Born June 1st, 1995 — Aurora, Ontario
Height 6’0″ — Weight 170 lbs [183 cm / 77 kg]
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 6th round, #178 overall at the 2014 NHL Draft
Sikura had a huge final season with Northeastern, putting up 22 goals and 32 assists for 54 points in 35 games and helping the team to a Beanpot tournament title. It also earned Sikura a spot on Canada’s Spengler Cup roster where he had an assist in four games. Sikura signed with the Blackhawks after the season, putting up three assists in five games.
Sikura is a good skater. He has a quick first step along with good acceleration and speed. He has a smooth stride. Good agility and quick cuts make him hard to cover in the offensive zone. He could stand to improve his lower body strength and balance though.
Sikura has excellent vision and passing skills. He thinks the game very well, anticipating where teammates and opponents are going to be. He is able to thread the needle on passes making plays to set up up scoring chances. Sikura gets to open ice after giving up the puck. He is deadly on the give and go. Sikura also has an excellent wrist shot and one-timer. He gets a lot of power on his shot and his release is quick and deceptive.
Sikura also has very good stickhandling skill. He can control the puck and extend plays. Sikura has the ability to speed up or slow down the play. This is very effective in keeping defencemen off balance and creating scoring chances. He can open up passing or shooting lanes with his skating ability and quick movements.
Sikura’s lack of size and strength is an issue in the defensive zone. He has trouble helping to contain the cycle game. He is often pushed around by bigger and stronger forwards. Putting more muscle on his frame should be a priority.
Sikura will look to make the Blackhawks out of training camp. He didn’t look out of place in his late-season cameo, but it remains to be seen if his skinny frame can handle the rigours of the NHL over 82 games. With more physically developed prospects also pushing for spots, Sikura may end up spending a season in the AHL while he continues to bulk up.
#4 Prospect Nicolas Beaudin
The Blackhawks drafted Beaudin with the 27th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Beaudin. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#5 Prospect Ian Mitchell
Defence — shoots Right
Born January 18th, 1999 — Calahoo, Alberta
Height 5’11” — Weight 173 lbs [180 cm / 78 kg]
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2nd round. #57 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Mitchell had a strong freshman season at the University of Denver, putting up two goals and 30 points in 41 games. Unfortunately, the Pioneers were unable to defend their 2017 NCAA title, falling to Ohio State in the Elite Eight.
A little undersized, Mitchell makes up for it with his excellent skating ability. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions. His strong first step allows him to win races for loose pucks. The overall speed allows him to join the rush, or to pinch in at the blue line and still get back defensively.
Mitchell has very smooth pivots and edge work. He can transition from offence to defence quickly (and vice-versa). His lateral agility is also very good. This allows Mitchell to stay in front of the puck carrier, as well as to move and open up shooting and passing lanes. Mitchell needs to bulk up though. His lack of muscle mass allows bigger, stronger forwards to push him off the puck and give him issues in containing the cycle.
Mitchell is very good at starting the transition game. He can skate the puck out of dangerous areas and avoid the forecheck, before making a crisp pass to a teammate. He is especially effective at going for the long home-run pass to a streaking forward behind the defence. Mitchell is also effective at leading the rush himself. He can quarterback the play from the blue line, with the poise to control the puck, and the vision to make strong passes. He can also walk the line to open up shooting and passing lanes.
Mitchell does need some work on his shot. He is smart to keep it low and on the net, leading to rebounds and tip-ins. However, he could stand to shoot harder. A little more muscle in his upper body is likely to make that happen.
Mitchell has good feet and maintains good gap control. His quick stick makes him difficult to beat in one-on-one situations. It also helps him to poke check the puck away from opponents. His size does become a bit of concern when trying to clear the front of the net or battling in the corners against bigger and tougher opponents.
Mitchell is set to return to the Pioneers for his sophomore campaign. If his second year continues to show similar growth to his first season, he could be in line for a pro contract and AHL or NHL debut after the college season ends. The college campaign should give Mitchell plenty of time to bulk up.
#6 Prospect: Jake Wise
The Blackhawks drafted Wise with the 69th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Wise. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#7 Prospect: Chad Krys
Defence — shoots Left
Born April 10th, 1998 — Ridgefield, Connecticut
Height 6’0″ — Weight 185 lbs [183 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2nd round, #45 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Krys had an excellent second season with Boston University, nearly tripling his freshman point total despite playing three fewer games. He put up seven goals and 27 points in 36 games for the Terriers.
Krys is an excellent skater. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions, powered by a fluid stride. Krys has good agility, edgework and pivots, allowing him to cover large swaths of the ice, and transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. He shows decent balance for his size but could continue to improve this by adding more lower body strength.
Krys adds good puck handling ability to his strong skating skills. This ability allows him to avoid forecheckers and skate the puck out of danger. He can also lead the rush, creating offensive chances with a good vision, passing skills, and an accurate wrist shot. Krys has very good agility, allowing him to walk the line and create passing and shooting lanes on the power play. He shows good instinct, knowing when to join the rush and when to hang back. He also makes good decisions when pinching to keep things in at the blue line.
Krys quarterbacks the offence from the point, making smart plays with the puck and anticipating openings before making a tape-to-tape pass to a teammate. He has a hard shot. He has worked to get his shot off quicker and to use more one-timers. This lets him get more shots through traffic and on the net. Krys keeps the puck low, allowing his teammates to get deflections and pounce on rebounds. He has the poise to control the puck and wait for opportunities to present themselves.
Defensively Krys has good instincts and solid positional play. He has worked on getting stronger and was more physical in his sophomore campaign. Further steps can be taken before he is ready for pro competition though. Krys has a quick stick which he can use to poke check opponents or to cut down passing lanes. Krys still needs to put on a bit more weight in order to be able to win battles in the corners and help to clear the front of the net. The lack of size can also be an issue when trying to contain bigger forwards in the cycle game.
Krys heads back to Boston University. He is expected to take an even bigger role in his junior season and has been named an alternate captain. If Krys shows the same improvements between his sophomore and junior season that he did last year, he could earn his pro contract when the season is complete.
#8 Prospect: Victor Ejdsell
Center — shoots Left
Born June 6th, 1995 — Karlstad, Sweden
Height 6’5″ — Weight 214 lbs [196 cm/97 kg]
Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Nashville Predators in May 2017.
Traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in February 2018
Ejdsell put up 20 goals and 34 points in 50 games with SV71 in the Swedish Hockey League. He capped off the strong season in Sweden by coming over to North America and playing six games for the Blackhawks, picking up his first NHL point. In five regular season games with the Rockford IceHogs he picked up just one assist. However, he was a huge part of the team’s playoff run with seven goals and 12 points in 13 games.
Ejdsell is a good skater for his size. While he’s not an absolute burner, he has the speed and power necessary to drive the net. His first step and acceleration are a bit awkward and clunky but that is the case with many players of his size. Ejdsell has decent edgework and agility and can maneuver well enough through traffic.
At 6-foot-5 and 214 pounds, Ejdsell brings an intriguing frame. He uses his size to maintain puck possession and shield it away from defenders. Strong stickhandling ability and his long reach also help Ejdsell generate offence. He can extend the play and make slick passes to teammates. Ejdsell has high-end hockey IQ and seems to make the right play with the puck on his stick.
Ejdsell is more of a goal scorer than a playmaker though. He has a strong wrist shot and gets it off with a quick release. He is also able to use his size to establish his position in close to the net. Once there, he has the hand-eye coordination to tip-in pucks as well as the reflexes to pounce on rebounds and deposit them in the back of the net.
Edjsell is also good in his own end. He is strong in the face-off circle. He is also good at cutting down passing and shooting lanes with his long stick and big frame. His hockey IQ extends to the defensive zone, as he reads the play well and has good positioning.
After Ejdsell’s strong AHL Playoff performance, he heads to Blackhawks camp looking to make the NHL on a full-time basis. The battles will be tough, but he is a bit older and bigger than many of the players he will compete with. There is a real chance that Ejdsell could earn a spot this year. If not, expect him to be called up if injuries hit.
#9 Prospect: Evan Barratt
Centre — shoots Left
Born February 18th, 1999 — Bristol, Pennsylvania
Height 6’0″ — Weight 188 lbs [183 cm / 85 kg]
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 3rd round, #90 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Barratt put up 11 goals and 18 points in 32 games in his freshman campaign with Penn State. The Pennsylvania native is a big part of the Nittany Lions growing hockey program.
Barratt’s skating is a bit of a work in progress. His first step is sluggish, and his stride is a bit awkward. This really takes away from his top end speed and acceleration. His agility and edgework are decent. He can quickly change directions, and get around a defender. Barratt also has good lower body strength. His balance is good, and he can fight through checks when carrying the puck and take it to the net. Overall though, this is the biggest concern about Barratt’s game. He could stand to work on his lengthening his stride and making it less choppy going forward.
Barratt is a sniper. He has the hockey IQ to read the play and settle into a soft spot in the offensive zone, waiting for a pass from a teammate. Once he gets that pass, he can fire the puck. He has an outstanding wrist shot, and his release is NHL ready. He also has a very good one-timer. Most of his goals come from the slot, but he can also set up in the right face-off circle. Barratt can also create his own shot as well as shots for linemates. He has the soft hands to protect the puck, and the passing skill and vision to set up a teammate.
Barratt can also play a gritty game. He chases down loose pucks and gets involved in board battles. His motor is relentless and helps him to manufacture something out of nothing. Barratt isn’t afraid to throw a hit or to take a hit to make a play. His forechecking ability causes issues and creates turnovers. Despite his average size, Barratt plays with reckless abandon, to the point where he can sometimes get himself into penalty trouble by being too aggressive.
Barratt is advanced defensively. He brings the same relentless puck pursuit and gritty play in all three zones. This made him a key penalty killer for the US NTDP, as well as someone trusted in all situations. He was not given the same responsibilities as a college freshman but should grow into the role. His positioning is good, as is his anticipation, helping him to create turnovers.
Barratt will return to Penn State for his sophomore campaign. Expect to see him take a big jump in ice-time and to see his point totals follow suit. He could fight for a spot on Team USA’s entry into the World Juniors.
#10 Prospect: Niklas Nordgren
The Blackhawks drafted Wise with the 74th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Nordgren. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
Sleeper Prospect: Dominik Kahun
Centre — shoots Left
Born July 2nd, 1995 — Plana, Czech Republic
Height 5’9″ — Weight 175 lbs [175 cm/79 kg]
Signed by the Blackhawks as an undrafted free agent
Kahun played in the OHL for the Sudbury Wolves but went undrafted. Following the completion of his junior career, he returned to Germany and has steadily improved over the last four seasons. Last year, he had 12 goals and 41 points in 42 games as well as four goals and 14 points in 17 playoff games. Kahun was also part of the German National Team that shocked the hockey world at the Pyeongchang Olympics, taking home the silver medal. he put up five points in seven games in the tournament.
Kahun is undersized but makes up for it with his skating. He is very fast and gets up to speed in just a few strides. What is really exceptional though is his edgework and agility. He can stop and cut on a dime, helping him to create space from defenders. He also has a low centre of gravity. This helps him to be stronger on the puck and fight his way through checks.
Kahun is a very good stick handler. He pairs this with his skating ability to open up passing lanes and set up plays. His quick changes in directions and stick movements create space. He sees the ice well and is able to feather passes through traffic to teammates. Kahun is a very smart player who anticipates where teammates and opponents are headed and makes plays accordingly. He is particularly good on the power play.
Kahun is much more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. His soft hands help him to finish in close to the net. However, his wrist shot lacks power. It is very accurate and has a decent release though, so he can score if given a strong opportunity. However, he is not going to beat many NHL goalies on a clean look from the circle.
Kahun’s intelligence extends to the defensive zone. His quickness and anticipation create turnovers and he transitions quickly to offence. However, Kahun’s lack of size can be a detriment in his own end. He struggles to contain bigger forwards down low. This could prevent him from being a centre in the NHL.
Kahun will likely start with the Rockford IceHogs where he will look to re-adjust to North American ice. If things go well, Chicago has shown that they will find room for talented forwards, even if undersized. While Kahun was a centre in Germany, it would not be a surprise to see him converted to the wing.
Over the last year, the Blackhawks have really improved their prospect pool. A great draft, along with a few trades, and a few players taking big steps forward have made their outlook a lot better than it was a year ago.
The Hawks now have real depth up front with Sikura, Wise, Nordgren, Ejdsall, Barratt, Kurashav, Kahun, MacKenzie Entwistle, Alexandre Fortin, Artur Kayumov, Andrei Altybarmakyan, Matthew Highmore, and Tim Soderlund. In net, Collin Delia had a breakout performance in the AHL playoffs, however, it was in a small sample size. The Hawks might have got a real steal in the sixth round with Alexis Gravel.
The real strength of the system is on the blue line. Boqvist is a high-level puck-moving prospect, Jokiharju is close to blue-chip status. Beaudin, Krys, and Mitchell are a strong group in the next tier. Blake Hillman, Lucas Carlsson and Joni Tuulola are also solid prospects, while Jake Ryczek is an intriguing dark horse.
Main Photo: DALLAS, TX – JUNE 22: Adam Boqvist poses after being selected eighth overall by the Chicago Blackhawks during the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018, in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)