Over the next six days, 55 prospects and free-agent invitees will take the ice at Johnny's IceHouse West for the Blackhawks' annual Prospect Camp, a whirlwind of on- and off-ice drills, scrimmages and activities around the city that gives future Blackhawks a glimpse into what the organization is all about. Players from juniors, college and Europe arrive, ready to get to work and make an impression on the coaching and hockey operations staff.
Whether it's a 2015 draft pick who is brand new to the organization, or a frequent returnee, everyone has a chance to impress at Prospect Camp. Below are nine to watch over the next week:
ELC Group/Team C
C Marko Dano
The 20-year-old Slovak was one of the main pieces of the trade that sent Brandon Saad to Columbus, and fans will get their first look at Dano this week. The 2013 first-round draft pick is known for his tenacious forechecking and ability to play at both ends of the ice, which should stand out in scrimmages. Dano split last season between the AHL and NHL levels, tallying six points in 10 games with Springfield and an impressive 21 points (8G, 13A) in 35 games with the Blue Jackets. He also appeared in five games for Slovakia at the 2015 World Championship, posting three points (2G, 1A) before sustaining an injury.
D Erik Gustafsson
Signed as a free agent during the playoffs, Gustafsson's place in the organization's defensive depth chart should become clearer after Prospect Camp, where he and several other rising blueliners are looking to fill the shoes left by Stephen Johns, who was traded to Dallas on Friday. Gustafsson is known for his skill and vision, and he recorded a career-high 29 points (4G, 25A) in 55 games with Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League last season. He also compiled 19 points (6G, 13A) in 13 Champions League matches, an impressive result for a 23-year-old.
RW Mark McNeill
The Blackhawks' first-round pick in 2011 has spent several seasons in the system already, and he's entering his fourth Prospect Camp coming off a 23-goal, 44-point season with the IceHogs. With a couple forward spots potentially open heading into Blackhawks training camp, this week is a perfect opportunity for McNeill show off a well-rounded game and prove that he's just about ready to take the next step to the NHL.
RW Radovan Bondra
The first thing fans will notice about Bondra, a fifth-round pick at the 2015 draft, is his size. At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, the Slovakia native is one of the biggest bodies on either team, and he's got the offensive instincts and skating ability to be a menace in the offensive zone. Bondra had four points in 15 regular-season games and three points in 15 playoff outings for HC Kosice in the Slovakian League last season, and he also starred for Slovakia's junior national teams, appearing in seven games at 2015 World Juniors.
D Robin Press
Press was one of three Swedish defensive prospects to finish the 2014-15 campaign in Rockford, playing two games in the regular season and four more in the playoffs. The 2013 seventh-round pick may not get as much exposure as his countrymen, but he enjoyed somewhat of a breakout season, leading Sodertalje defensemen with 30 points (13G, 17A) in the Allsvenskan, Sweden's second-tier league. A converted forward, Press likes to jump into the play and get in scoring areas, qualities that have stood out at previous Prospect Camps.
C Nick Schmaltz
Schmaltz, the Blackhawks' first-round selection in 2014, was a Prospect Camp standout last summer and finished a successful freshman season at North Dakota. He ranked second on the team with 21 helpers and fourth with 26 points in 38 games while getting plenty of opportunities to showcase his hands and playmaking ability. Schmaltz also played five games for Team USA at 2015 World Juniors, and all eyes are on the 19-year-old to see what strides he's made in the last year.
D Gustav Forsling
Originally a fifth-round pick by Vancouver in 2014, Forsling was VP/GM Stan Bowman's target in a trade for Adam Clendening last season, and after a breakout World Juniors in January, fans can see why. He led all defensemen in the tournament with eight points (3G, 5A) in seven games, running Sweden's power play and getting shots through to net regularly. Forsling also compiled six points (3G, 3A) in 38 regular-season games with Linkoping in Sweden last year as one of the youngest skaters on the team. Although he's still likely a couple years away, Forsling's offensive skill set should turn some heads this week at Prospect Camp.
C John Hayden
Hayden was arguably last year's most impressive prospect at camp, displaying an impressive power game and finding great chemistry with linemates Schmaltz and Anthony Louis. He tallied 18 points (7G, 11A) in 29 games with Yale during his sophomore campaign, and he also served as an alternate captain for Team USA at 2015 World Juniors. Hayden can certainly dominate games with his scoring ability and willingness to battle, so it's worth watching to see whether he can top his camp performance from last summer.
RW Matt Iacopelli
An injury kept Iacopelli from participating in Prospect Camp last summer, and anticipation has built to see the 21-year-old's sniping abilities in action. A year after winning the USHL scoring race, Iacopelli had a streaky year, notching 37 points in 56 regular-season games and seven points in 11 playoff tilts with Muskegon, but he still collected 28 goals over that span.