ESPN’s Corey Pronman recently ranked the top 50 NHL prospects (ESPN Insiders access), and two players in the Blackhawks system found their way onto the list. Rockford IceHogs defenseman Ville Pokka was ranked No. 24, while 2014 first-round draft pick Nick Schmaltz came in at No. 40.
Pokka was previously ranked at No. 41, but moved up the list due to his impressive start in the AHL this season. He currently has six goals and 10 assists, in addition to being one of the team’s leaders in shots on goal. Chicago’s assistant GM Norm Maciver describes Pokka as a “cerebral defenseman who doesn’t get into trouble.” In other words: not a flashy player, but makes offensive plays by moving the puck well.
Schmaltz is currently playing for North Dakota, and has racked up three goals and 13 assists in 17 games. Pronman said he wasn’t quite sure where to rank Schmaltz, but his talent greatly contributed to his position on this list.
“His skating, puck skills, and vision all get top grades, and he’s a player who can dazzle on the offensive end,” Pronman said. If he continues developing at the college level, it shouldn’t be long before the 18-year-old moves up the rankings list.