Five forwards in the Blackhawks system have landed on Hockey Prospectus’ annual list of the top 100 NHL prospects. Teuvo Teravainen
, the 18th overall selection in the 2012 Entry Draft, was the highest ranked from Chicago, taking the no. 11 spot, followed by Brandon Saad
(30), Brandon Pirri
(50), Mark McNeill
(63) and Jeremy Morin
(90). Chicago’s five was tied for third among the 30 clubs, as the New York Islanders led the way with seven prospects on the list.
Players 22 and under with 25 games or less of NHL experiences were included in the prospect pool, and ranking guidelines prioritized talent in the area of puck possession, including puck skills, “hockey IQ” and skating for forwards, and additional consideration for physicality among defensemen.
Three of the Blackhawks’ five representatives were drafted in the last two years. Teravainen, a dynamic playmaker who has just started his second full season in the top Finnish league with Jokerit, was the lone 2012 pick to make the list, but his high-end skill set secured a high ranking, with HP’s Corey Pronman stating:
“Teravainen is a simply dazzling offensive talent who can beat a defense in many ways. He's a high-end puck-handler and passer who regularly makes highlight-reel plays, but his vision and patience are even more impressive. Teravainen can make plays through tight spaces, but also has the ability to slow the game down and create from the perimeter. He's also an above-average to plus skater who has a solid one-timer. He can play center and wing effectively, doing the former frequently in recent viewings, and he plays fine defense.”
Brandon Saad, the 43rd overall pick in 2011, surprised many when he made the Blackhawks out of training camp last summer and played in his first two NHL games before spending the rest of the season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit. Saad also made his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut in the spring, appearing in two games against Phoenix. His rebound season and apparent readiness for the NHL game was a big factor in his no. 30 ranking:
“He's an above-average all-around player who can skate, handle the puck, think, and shoot like a pro. His best tool is his hockey sense, which one NHL source describes as "tremendous," as he's a very creative player who can set up his teammates. Aside from making nice plays with the puck, he can also play a good direct game with his speed and power game protecting the puck.”
Mark McNeill, the Blackhawks’ first-round selection in 2011 (18th overall), slotted in at no. 63, and Pronman cited his scouting profile as “the whole package”:
“McNeill is interesting because different scouts will praise him for different things, with one lauding him for his power game, another for his puck possession skills, and another for his defense. McNeill is a solid to above-average skater, puck-handler, passer, shooter, and physical player who plays well in his own end.”
Rounding out the group of five are Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin, who are both entering their third seasons with the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs. Pirri was described by HP as “a top-end puck-handler with terrific hand-eye coordination.” The center led the IceHogs in 2011-12 with 56 points (23G, 33A) in 66 games. Morin ranked third on the team with 18 goals and fourth with 40 points in 69 games, with NHL scouts praising his abilities as a power forward who has “a desirable work ethic, as he will drive the net and wins a fair amount of battles along the wall.”