- Jesse Rogers, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- While everyone can “look good” at a prospect’s camp, there were some players who truly stood out after a week of practice and scrimmages with 52 players in the Chicago Blackhawks organization in attendance.
Draft picks from recent years, including several selected this past June, took the ice. Here’s a few things I gleaned from this week’s sessions:
The 18th overall pick in the 2012 draft might indeed be the steal everyone thought he was in Pittsburgh on draft night. Teuvo Teravainen wowed the crowd at Johnny’s IceHouse almost immediately, producing a goal and assist in the opening minutes on Wednesday. He continued with that kind of flashy play throughout, earning praise along the way.
“It’s great to see a young kid like Teuvo be as good as he is,” general manager Stan Bowman said Friday. “He’s the youngest kid at the camp here, and I think he’s probably been one of the best kids here all week.”
As impressive as Teravainen was, fans won’t see him in Chicago -- or even Rockford -- this fall. He’ll play in his native Finland, and when he puts on some weight, he might be ready for the NHL by the 2013-14 season.
Bowman praised 2011 top picks Mark McNeil and Phillip Danault and didn’t rule them out of contributing this coming season. At this point, Brandon Saad, a second-round pick in 2011, is the best bet to make the team this fall. He’s a man among boys. Saad, a star left wing in the OHL this past season, even moved over to center for prospect’s camp.
“He asked us,” Bowman explained. “He said he’d like to try playing in the scrimmage here. Why not, it’s a good opportunity for him.”
Bowman said it’s up to coach Joel Quenneville whether Saad lines up at center during training camp. If it was the 19 year-old’s call, he would do it.
“It’s something I’m willing to try, for sure,” Saad said. “To play more positions and be helpful in the ways I can, that’s something I’m willing to do.”
The other player who could contribute this coming season is 2011 third-round pick Adam Clendening. He’s an offensive oriented defenseman who can move the puck in the style the Hawks like out of their blue-liners. He also claims to have been working on the defensive part of his game. He played both ends nicely during scrimmages and Bowman says to keep an eye on him.
“Adam is the one defenseman who has the most potential to make a jump this year,” Bowman explained. “He has that offensive ability and seems to read the play really well…This year is a learning year but he could make an impact for us.”
As has been the Hawks pattern over the last few years, expect Clendening to start the season in Rockford. If injuries pile up or the team struggles at some point, he would be a mid-season call-up.
In all, the Hawks’ touted prospect group is making strides. It starts with Saad and soon enough Teravainen. And in between there could be others, just as Andrew Shaw grabbed the spotlight last season.
“It’s exciting to see this many young players that are close to being contributors to the Blackhawks,” Bowman said.