Sunday, July 7, 2013
Hawks prospect camp: 5 players to watch
By Scott Powers
The Chicago Blackhawks will host 51 players at their 2013 Prospect Camp this week at Johnny’s IceHouse West. Here are five players to keep an eye on.
Antti Raanta, Goaltender
The Blackhawks signed the 24-year-old Raanta to a one-year deal in June. He had a breakout season in SM-liiga in Finland last season and was named the league’s regular-season and playoff MVP. He had a 21-10-11 record with five shutouts, a 1.85-goals-against average and a .943 save percentage in the regular season for Assat Pori. If he can make the transition to the North American game quickly, he could see time with the Blackhawks next season. Corey Crawford is also set to become an unrestricted free agent after next season.
Mark McNeill, Forward
The 20-year-old McNeill may still be a year or two away from being in the NHL, but he’s one of the centermen Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman will be watching closely. McNeill was selected No. 18 overall by the Blackhawks in 2011. He led the Prince Albert Raiders with 67 points, which included 42 assists, in the Western Hockey League last season. He finished the year with the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.
Phillip Danault, Forward
Like McNeill, the 20-year-old Danault could be in the mix at center for the Blackhawks in the next few years. Bowman recently mentioned Danault, McNeill, Drew LeBlanc and Brandon Pirri as potential future centers for the Blackhawks. Danault was taken No. 26 overall in the 2011 draft. He had 85 points, which included 62 assists, in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season. He also finished the year with the IceHogs.
The Blackhawks’ 2013 first-round pick Ryan Hartman will only be an off-ice participant in the camp, so the 18-year-old Dahlstrom, who was taken in the second round, will be the highest pick from this year’s draft on the ice. Dahlstrom was one of three Swedish defensemen the Blackhawks drafted this year. They have had some luck with Swedish defensemen, i.e. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya, in the recent past. The 6-foot-4 Dahlstrom has the potential to be a shutout defenseman.
Garret Ross, Forward
The 21-year-old Ross had one of the more impressive 2012-13 seasons among the Blackhawks’ past draft picks. Ross, who was a fifth-round pick in 2012, had 44 goals and 46 assists for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League last season. Blackhawks rookie Brandon Saad also previously starred for the Spirit. Ross was a runner-up for the Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy, which goes to the OHL’s Overage Player of the Year. He played two games with the IceHogs at the end of the season. The Blackhawks signed him to a three-year deal in April
Teuvo Teravainen, the Blackhawks’ 2012 No. 1 pick, will not attend the camp.
All eight of the Blackhawks’ 2013 draft picks will be present at the camp.
Six of the camp’s participants were born in Illinois.
There will be 25 forwards, 19 defensemen and seven goaltenders attending the camp.
Defenseman Viktor Svedberg will be the tallest player in the camp at 6-foot-9.
Goaltender Jackson Whistle will be the youngest player in the camp. He was born on June 9, 1995.
Defenseman Jake Chelios, who is Chris Chelios’ son, will participate in the camp. Jake plays at Michigan State.
Stan Bowman on camp: “For next week at prospect camp, what we’re trying to do and what we’ve had a lot of success is to bring our young players in and sort of show them a glimpse of what the Blackhawks are all about,” Bowman recently said. “Some of these guys have never been to a camp before. You can’t cover too much ground in terms of instruction in a one-week camp, but I think we want to try to get them acclimated to how we do things in terms of preparation and training and nutrition and skill development and positional work. I think we got a great development staff that goes on the ice and hits those points.
"We also want to get them familiar with the city of Chicago and some teammates they’re going to be with in the future. It’s something we’ve put a lot of time and focus on, and it’s always nice to see the young players because it wasn’t too long ago that we had [Andrew] Shaw and Saad and [Nick] Leddy at this camp. There’s going to be some top-end players this year. Hopefully not too far down the road, they’ll be in the Blackhawks lineup as well.”