Friday, July 21, 2017

Puckin Hostile 2017 Blackhawks
Prospect Camp Wrap-up

The Blackhawks wrapped up their annual post draft summer prospect and development camp early Friday afternoon. The organization changed their focus from a large group of free agent try outs, to a majority of Blackhawks draftees with a handful of mostly local free agents. This is actually a good adjustment for a few reasons. First of all, you don't "muddy the water" with a bunch of player that will probably amount to very little, if nothing at all, in the NHL. Second, the Hawks get more time and space to actually focus on their own assets. Last, and sometimes overlooked, you don't have some dumb, desperate free agent trying to make a name for himself by destroying your prized players in the open ice. It doesn't happen often but every once in a while you get a situation like Cam Barker blowing up Teuvo Teravainen and injuring him. No one needs that when the team is in such a state of transition.

Monday through Thursday the two teams of prospects spent most of their time doing drills, and sprinkled in a little 4-vs-4 scrimmaging. This was just enough to give us a little taste of what these players had at a very basic level. It is true that none of these drills can truly gauge what a player will do in the NHL, against actually adult players, but it did give us a good idea of what raw talent they may have.

The Blackhawks trotted out a few of their golden show ponies, as they do every year, and paraded them in front of the media. High former draft picks like Alex Debrincat and Graham Knott were on hand as well as this year's first round pick Henri Jokiharju. Naturally, the mainstream media spend the week leading up to the camp slobbering all over these players, which turned out to be some time wasted, but this is nothing new.

Unfortunately, last year's bell of the ball, Alexandre Fortin, was recovering from recent sports hernia surgery, so he was not available to participate in on ice activities. I, for one, was looking forward to seeing more of him, after he stormed through camp last year like a bat out of hell and earned himself an NHL contract. I guess we'll have to wait until September to see more of him, but word on the street is that he added about 20 pound since last summer. That could be very dangerous to other prospects looking for a shot, if he carries that weight well and it doesn't slow him down.

The question this year was just who would stand out and, possibly, earn themselves a spot with the NHL club this October. Spoiler Alert; none of them did. This is not a bad thing, though. Rarely do players in these camps stand out so vividly that they force the team's hand. This camp is for assessing future talent, which is something everyone should remember. FUTURE TALENT, not current.

Enough of me yammering on, let's get to the players. First of all, I'll give you the bad news...

  • Alex Debrincat - The first thing I have to express strongly is that I do NOT hate Alex Debrincat. I do NOT want him to fail. I do NOT want him to be a bust. I hope this kid develops into a really good top 6 forward someday. SOMEDAY! At this moment in time, Alex Debrincat is not ready to play in the NHL. Period. Make up excuses all you'd like. The reason I have been so adamant about this kid is the relentless media horseshit we've all been fed by the shovel load about his bum slaying stats in the OHL against kids. He does not have the raw skill to step off the OHL ice and into the NHL. That's the bottom line.

    First of all, you're probably all aware that he's a really short player. He might be 5'6"/5'7" and it "reported" to weigh in the area of 160 pounds. You can rattle off names like Martin St. Louis, Jeff Skinner, Tyler Johnson and Tyler Ennis but he's not as fast as ANY of these guys, nor does he had the lower body strength, yet. He needs to improve his foot speed, or he's going to have an incredibly hard time against much bigger NHL adults. We watched him play 1-on-1, 2-on-1, 2-on-2, 3-on-2, 3-on-3, and 4-on-4. In none of those drills did he stand out. In fact, he struggled against any players that had size or knew how to use a proper gap against him. He would get frustrated, lose the puck, and spend the remaining time unsuccessfully trying to get the puck back. He certainly scored a couple of times, but not anything close to the complete domination that we were all told we were going to see.

    "In those drill you're not going to see his true talent for finding soft spots in the defense". This is something else we've all been fed, right? Friday, they played a full 5-on-5 game situation. He was no more noticeable than the free agent invitees. He didn't pull an end to end Teuvo Teravainen play from a few years ago. He didn't hang out in the slot and snipe lasers from the top of the circle. He was AVERAGE. Like it or not, that's the truth. Accept it, or you're going to be sadly disappointed. Unless he miraculously finds top end foot speed in two months, he needs to probably spend most of the next season in Rockford working on separation speed against pro players. Stop slapping unrealistic expectations on 19 year old players who aren't ready. Let him develop and ease him in. You're only setting him up for failure and yourself for immense disappointment. Haven't we learned by now???
  • Graham Knott - I'll be the first to admit that I rarely know much about these prospects the night they are drafted. I need to see them on the ice, in their element, to know what they bring. Knott puzzled me from the first time I saw him, and puzzles me to this day. He is certainly big, which may be what the Hawks saw. As of the last, THREE prospect camps, he has shown only that. He should change his name to Graham Nott. I certainly like big players. Ones that can actually play, though. I really liked John Hayden in prospect camp. Radovan Bondra was great 2 years ago. Matheson Iacopelli, and Beau Starrett had a nice camp this year. I'm completely baffled as to what the Blackhawks saw, or want from Knott, though. He's not even slightly quick. He's not overly strong. He doesn't shoot exceptionally hard or accurately. He doesn't even get his shot off relatively fast. He is big, slow and lumbering. Just a guy. They played him at center in the scrimmage, so maybe they want him to be the next Dennis Rasmussen. Even that is quite a reach. I'd expect a little more out of a player that was drafted 54th overall.

    Maybe he develops into something handy, but at the moment, he's JUST a big dude, which isn't going to earn you an NHL job.

    ...unless you can fight. Then it gets you in the All-Star game.

You can poke your head out from under the covers, because now I'm going to give you the good news (and prove to you that I'm not all doom and gloom)...

  • Dylan Sikura - This kid is something else. Most of us have heard that he had a nice season at Northeastern University in New England, but he delivered the payload, and more. This all from a SIXTH round pick. He came into camp and backed up his reputation from the moment he stepped on the ice, and never let off the gas. He was scoring goals, using his speed, and looking like a high round draft pick. I will be utterly shocked if he doesn't place high for the Hobey Baker this year. The Blackhawks need to sign him to a contract the second his college season ends, too, because he's got the tools to be a valuable player. If you don't believe me, look at this play during the scrimmage from our boy Aaron at Blackhawk Up. Sikura doesn't score on the play, but that is only because of a great effort by Matt Tomkins. The moves and skill are exciting as hell.
  • Collin Delia - OK, Egregious goalie fanboy time. You all know I'm a goalie, and I pay close attention to the position. I'm a goalie geek, and this kind of camp might be the best opportunity for me to see the raw skills of young goalies. This also especially important right now, with the turnover of the depth in the organization. That said, I saw this free agent kid play last summer, and didn't know a damn thing about him. Immediately, I really liked what I saw. He had really compact stance, and a quick glove. He was smooth side to side, and didn't over slide the play. He was calm, and relaxed most of the time. Just a good looking player. He went back and played his Junior year at Merrimack and played very well. These were all reasons I was stoked to hear he was coming back this summer. He did not disappoint me at all, and he actually made me look like I might know something (Thanks Collin, I owe you a $20).

    From the moment he stepped on the ice, he was the best goalie in camp. He looked better and even more composed than last year. His glove looked better and he was very loose. I don't often get excited about goalies in prospect camp, because in a butterfly style world most goalies looks very similar. If the Blackhawks don't scoop him up (and they definitely should) some team will snatch him up and you'll hear his name again. This is a player you take a chance on. I'm standing by my word.
  • Tim Soderlund - Scott Powers gave us a little taste of the Tim Soderlund show before he ever stepped on the ice for the Blackhawks, and Soderlund showed everyone that attended what Scotty was talking about. He is a smallish player, which scares me right out of the chute, but he has something Debrincat doesn't have; speed. Granted, he is a couple of inches taller but not much. Another trait Soderlund has is that he goes hard to the net, no matter who is in his way. He plays the puck tough in the corners and he can dish the puck, as well. He's a well rounded player. Keep your eyes on this guy, because he will be in the mix shortly, until they have to throw him in to get out from under Seabrook's deal.
  • Mathias From - Not a guy that received a lot of mainstream attention, but he reminded me a little of Phillip Danault, even though From is a wing. He has very deceptive speed and whizzed by defensemen more than a couple of times on 1-on-1 drills. The place where is lacks is finishing. In camp and in his stats, you don't see many goals out of him. This doesn't mean he can't turn into a bottom 6 bulldog of a forechecker and speedy defensive specialist. He has the size, at 6'1" 190. He is worth keeping an eye out for.
  • Jack Ramsey - I didn't have anything worth noting last summer with Ramsey, but he definitely gave us all a show this week. He was named the best player on the winning white team, in Friday's scrimmage, and was very noticeable mostly because of his size. Did I mention that he had 2 goals in that scrimmage?

    The first thing, though, that caught my eye was his quick, accurate shot. Monday, In a couple of drills, he sent some laser beam, one timers over the goalie's blockers. This continued the entire week. Now don't get me wrong, Ramsey is a SEVENTH round draft pick (208th overall). He has a combined ONE goal and TEN points in his entire two year, 67 game college career, but he was on fire this week. Might be the best hockey he has played in his entire life. Good for him.
  • Chad Krys - I had heard about his disappointing season this last year, which left him off the USA U-18 roster, so I wasn't expecting much. The only thing I can imagine is that he was injured, because Krys looked like a really nice player in this camp. Not many defensemen stood out, but Krys showed his great skating off the entire week. If he has a bounce back year at Boston University, there could be a lot of attention paid next summer. Luckily the Blackhawks have the option of letting him marinate in college and don't need to rush him along.

These are just a few of the highlights, but players like Iacopelli, Will Pelletier, Matthew Highmore, Roy Radke, Henri Jokiharju and Matt Tomkins all had a nice week, as well. Feel free to take a look at my notes below. If you have any more inquiries, please email me at


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