The Blackhawks’ annual Prospect Camp opened up this afternoon with two practice sessions at Johnny’s Ice House West. Although the kids mainly just went through typical drills that a normal hockey practice features, it was a great opportunity to impress the coaches, staff and fans with their skills.
The young guns were split up into two groups at Johnny’s: the Free Agent Invitees and the baby Blackhawks. The Free Agents took to the ice first at noon and were on the ice for about an hour. Here’s a look at how the groups broke down:
Red Jerseys: Dario Simion (Lugano HC; forward), Jake Chelios (Yes, Chris’ son; Michigan State; defenseman), Nolan Zajac (Yes, Travis’ brother; Denver; D), Garrett Thompson (Ferris State; LW), Zach Loesch (Lake Superior State; D), Chris McCarthy (Vermont; F), Grayson Downing (New Hampshire; F), Gleb Koryagin (HC MVD Jr.; D), Milos Bubela (RPI; F) and Sam Babintsev (Missssauga; RW).
White Jerseys: Cohen Adair (Northern Michigan; F), Dan Weissenhofer (Naperville native; Air Force; D), Tim O’Brien (Winnetka native; Dartmouth; F), Matt Lorito (Brown; F), Jason Bast (St. Francis Xavier; C), Guy LeBoeuf (RPI; D), Quinn Gould (Merrimack; F) and Luke Curadi (RPI; D).
**The goalies were Matthew O’Connor (Boston University) and Jackson Whistle (Kelowna). All netminders wore red on Day 1.
The guys that stood out the most, to me at least, from the Free Agent invitees were Jake Chelios, Nolan Zajac and Dan Weissenhofer. Throughout all of the skating, puck-handling, passing and battle drills, Chelios showed off his smooth skating and good gaps while defending 1-on-1. He looked very confident with the puck and was very steady. Zajac really stood out because of his speed. The 5-foot-10, 182 pound defenseman was zipping around out there very well. Weissenhofer added some muscle to the battle drills. He was not afraid to throw his body around, whether it was clearing guys out from the front of the net or getting on the body along the boards. The 6-foot-2, 200 pound blueliner also made the effort to block shots, where many of the other campers didn’t attempt to do that. Luke Curadi also stood out, but not necessarily for the right reasons. He’s a big defenseman—6-foot-5, 247—but his skating was not all that swift.
An hour or so after the Free Agents left the ice, the Blackhawks draftees/prospects made their way onto the ice. The breakdown of who-was-wearing-what looked like this:
Red Jerseys: Alex Broadhurst (London; C), Tyler Motte (US NTDP; C), John Hayden (US NTDP; C), Dillon Fournier (Rouyn-Noranda; D), Travis Brown (Moose Jaw; D), Anthony Louis (US NTDP; C), Pat Mullane (Boston College; C), Michael Paliotta (Vermont; D), Justin Holl (University of Minnesota; D), Nick Mattson (North Dakota; D), Sam Jardine (Ohio State; D) and Chris Calnan (South Shore; RW).
White Jerseys: Phillip Danault (Moncton; C), Stephen Johns (Notre Dame; D), Mark McNeill (Prince Albert; C) Robin Norell (Djurgarden Jr.; D), Garret Ross (Saginaw; LW), Robin Press (Sodertalje Jr. 20; D), Viktor Svedberg (Vastra Frolunda HC; D) and Carl Dahlstrom (Linkoping Jr. 18; D).
**The goalies were Mac Carruth (Portland), Kent Simpson (Toledo), Brandon Whitney (Victoriaville) and Matt Tomkins (Sherwood Park).
There were 7 notable absences from this group: Kevin Hayes (Boston College; C) isn’t even in town. He’s still in Massachusetts. The logical guess as to why he’s not in town is because he’s still recovering from that nasty leg injury he suffered earlier this year.
UPDATE: Kevin’s on his way…
Ryan Hartman (Plymouth; RW) is still recovering from shoulder surgery.
Antti Raanta ( Assat Pori; G) is nursing a minor injury, according to the Blackhawks.
Luke Johnson (Lincoln; C) was on the original camp roster, but wasn’t on the updated one and wasn’t at camp. In addition, Vincent Hinostroza (Waterloo; C), Kirill Gotovets (Cornell; D) and Maxim Shalunov (Chelmet Chelyabinski; RW) were not in attendance, at least during the first day.
A new face to the Blackhawks organization is John Hayden (the Hawks’ 3rd round [74th overall] draft choice in 2013) and he impressed on the first day. Every time I looked up, he seemed to be putting the puck in the back of the net with a nice shot. The Greenwich, CT native seems to have a nice set of hands on him. Michael Paliotta and Stephen Johns showed off their physical sides a bit during battle drills. Overall though, both defensemen looked very solid on the ice in all aspects of their game. Johns seemingly excelled in all the drills. Anthony Louis showed off his speed and puck-handling today. Two prospects that seemed to be aboard the Struggle Bus today were Robin Norell and Robin Press. They seemed to not have their skating legs underneath them as they stumbled a lot and fumbled the puck a lot. Hopefully, for their sake, it was just first day jitters that had them so unsteady.
A few guys that Rockford IceHogs fans saw play at the end of the year looked good, as well: Phillip Danault, Garret Ross and Mark McNeill. Ross was always looking to clean up second chance opportunities, Danault was being a work-horse (as always) and McNeill was going about his business, getting work done.
It will be easier to see just how good the goalies are during scrimmages, but during drills, Kent Simpson seemed like he was one of the best—as he should be. He played with the Toledo Walleye (ECHL) all of last season and played 2 solid games with the IceHogs during the year as well.
The little Hawks will be back on the ice tomorrow for 2 practice sessions once again, this time the first group is set to take the ice at 10:00 a.m. If you want more updates from camp, follow me on Twitter: @kimwrona7.