By Thomas Gibbons
The Chicago Blackhawks do not rule the Western Conference like they did in the beginning of the decade. They are on the outside looking in and struggling to stay afloat in the playoff conversation.
But who says they cannot get back to the top sooner rather than later? Currently, the Blackhawks have strong, young players in Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach, Dylan Strome and Connor Murphy. These are part of the next “core” for the Blackhawks.
Let’s check in on the Blackhawks prospects
Adam Boqvist, D, Rockford IceHogs
With the Blackhawks: 6 games, 1 goal, +/- 0
With the IceHogs: 13 games, 6 points (1G, 5A), +/- 4
Boqvist has gotten a taste of the NHL this season. He achieved his first career goal on November 3rd in Anaheim.
Boqvist is a cornerstone of the Blackhawks defenseman prospects. While offense has come easy, his defensive skills will have to be polished to play in the NHL full-time. His six games with the Blackhawks this season was filled with some sparks of offensive capabilities but it is still a work in progress in his own zone. His speed and strong skating allows him to grab the puck in the defensive zone and exit into the neutral zone. It is going to be a strong suit of his career but other parts of his game will have to improve.
While having him up in the NHL is beneficial, his time in the AHL should not be overlooked. He plays top-defenseman minutes every night and work on his game. As long as the Blackhawks remain relatively healthy on the blue line, the Blackhawks will not rush Boqvist to the NHL. Also, he is close to the nine game mark of burning a year-off of his entry level contract.
Michal Teply, F, Winnipeg Ice
With the Winnipeg Ice: 27 games, 26 points (11G, 15A)
The Blackhawks selected Teply 105th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft. Currently, the 18 year-old leads the Blackhawks prospects in points this season according to eliteprospects.com
While the Blackhawks have made drafting defenseman a priority in recent years, general manager Stan Bowman has not forgotten about finding forwards. He has acquired Dylan Strome, Alex Nylander and Drake Caggiula along with drafting some young studs. We may not see Teply for awhile in Rockford and the Blackhawks. For all we know his rights may be traded in a deal. But he is making some noise in the WHL right now and it is worth noting.
Evan Barratt, C , Penn. St
With the Penn St. Nittany Lions: 15 games, 20 points (5G, 15A)
Barratt is picking up right where he left off with a hot start to his junior season. Named first team All-Big Ten after a 43 point sophomore season, Barratt is currently riding a three-game goal streak and had 15 of his 20 points this season in the month of November.
Barratt is one of my favorite prospects. I like his style of play and his production speaks for itself. Along with Strome and Dach, Barratt could be the Blackhawks next young center to break into the NHL. He could turn pro after his college season ends and I would give him a great chance to make the team next season if he does not return to school.
Ian Mitchell, D, University of Denver
With the University of Denver: 14 games, 12 points (3G, 9A)
Mitchell surprised a lot of people that he decided to return for his senior season after a strong junior campaign along with playing with Canada at the World Junior Championships posting 3 points in 5 games. He is arguably one of the best defenseman in college hockey this season. A captain for the Pioneers, Mitchell decided to return to school merely because there were parts of his game he wanted to improve before going pro.
In their last contest, a 6-1 win over Western Michigan, Mitchell tallied two assists on the power play. Like Boqvist, Mitchell’s offensive abilities makes him a threat on the power play. Mitchell is also a very driven offensive defenseman but his work in his own zone has improved over his college career.
The best case scenario for the Blackhawks would be for both Boqvist and Mitchell to be full time NHL-ers next season. Their top six could look something like this:
Pretty good top six the way Murphy has developed in the Blackhawks system and Keith is still very efficient and can play top pairing minutes. This would be a great step for the Blackhawks to usher in their next core of young players.
Alec Regula, D, London Knights
With the London Knights: 22 games, 24 points (9G, 15A)
Regula was acquired from the Detroit Red Wings for Brandan Perlini in late October. The Blackhawks were then quick to sign the 19-year-old defenseman to an entry-level deal.
Currently riding a three-game point streak, Regula has the size, 6-4, 205 lb, and the tools to be an NHL defenseman. He has been with the Knights since 2017 and has steadily improved. Enjoy some highlights from this season
Regula is yet another young defenseman to add to the pipeline. The more the better knowing the Blackhawks defensive struggles in recent years. Regula would be one to watch in Rockford next season.
Brandon Hagel, F, Rockford IceHogs
With the IceHogs: 20 games, 11 points (6G, 5A)
After a slow start to his pro career, Hagel has picked up the production as of late. He has three goals in his last seven games and his showcasing his offensive ability.
Last season for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL, Hagel exploded for 41 goals and 61 assists in 66 regular season games. He added four goals in four playoff games in his fourth season with the club. Now, he is starting to break out of his shell in the AHL and certainly a player to keep on an eye on going forward.
MacKenzie Entwistle, F, Rockford IceHogs
Stats this season: 18 games, 10 points (5G,5A)
Entwistle is another prospect I really like. He brought his strong showing in the NHL Prospect tournament into training camp.
Entwistle was acquired in the Blackhawks salary dump trade to the Arizona Coyotes. He started to really takeoff with the Guelph Storm of the OHL, tallying 30 points in 28 regular season games and 21 points in 24 playoff games.
I think Entwistle is a really strong prospect. I project him as a top-9 forward and can help kill penalties. Future line-mate for Kirby Dach? That could be his ceiling. While I do not think we see him this season, he should be ready to go next season.