Winning the Stanley Cup three times in the past six years has only made the Blackhawks hungry to win more, and in order to do that, Hockey Operations is always looking into the future. With that comes making sure the next generation of players are ready when their numbers are called. ESPN Insider Corey Pronman recently ranked the top 100 NHL prospects for the 2015-16 season, and the Blackhawks landed three players on the list: Artemi Panarin, Ryan Hartman and Ville Pokka.
Panarin tops the team’s prospect rankings, coming in at No. 34. The 23-year-old Russian ranked fifth overall in scoring in the KHL, and his exceptional season led to a contract with Chicago. Panarin is small, agile and great with the puck, and Pronman predicts he could slot into a top-nine role in the NHL right away, or maybe even crack the top six.
Pronman ranked Hartman at No. 61 after an impressive first pro year with 25 points in 34 AHL games since January 2015. The right winger’s physicality and defensive skills earned him a brief call-up this past season, where he became a quick favorite in front of his hometown team. Pronman expects Hartman to have a longer stay in the NHL if he gets called up this season.
Just a few spots behind Hartman, defenseman Pokka grabbed the No. 64 spot on the list. Pokka had an impressive first season in the AHL, although the physical nature of the North American pro game was an adjustment. Hockey sense and positioning are some of the 21-year-old’s greatest assets, according to Pronman, and that could be enough to land him a spot in Chicago this season.
Defenseman Gustav Forsling received an honorable mention from Pronman after a successful season in the Swedish Hockey League, as well as an eight-point performance at the IIHF World Junior Championship this year to lead all blueliners in the tournament. Pronman highlights his mobility, puck skills and physical play as the most impressive parts of his game.
Although they did not make the top 100, Nick Schmaltz, Phillip Danault, Mark McNeill and Tyler Motte make up an important part of the Blackhawks’ overall system depth.
Read more about the Blackhawks’ top prospects here.