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Top prospects for the Chicago Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks have supplemented their core group with prospects who helped them win championships in 2013 and 2015.

That's their approach again, but on a broader scale. Their forward depth at the NHL level has been depleted by two years of losing veterans and prospects in trades or free agency. Three low-cost free agents were signed this summer, headlined by defenseman Brian Campbell.

But the Blackhawks believe there's enough talent left in the system to remain a contender. This season will be a test to see if that's true.

Here are the Blackhawks' top five prospects, according to NHL.com:

1. Nick Schmaltz, C

How acquired: Selected with No. 20 pick in 2014 NHL Draft

Last season: North Dakota (NCAA): 37 GP, 11-35-46

Schmaltz, 20, centered the top line at North Dakota as a sophomore last season, helping it win a national title. He's more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer and contributes at both ends of the ice, evidenced by his plus-44 rating last season. Schmaltz's size (6-foot, 177 pounds) and style are comparable to former Blackhawks forward Teuvo Teravainen.

"[Nick] has elite talent," said Mark Kelley, Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting. "It's his ability of recognition and execution. A lot of us see the play, but by the time we see it, he's already making the play. As a player, he's really matured. What really stands out for us is how hard he's worked on his play away from the puck."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

2. Michal Kempny, D

How acquired: Signed as free agent, May 24, 2016

Last season: Avangard Omsk (KHL): 59 GP, 5-16-21

Kempny, 25, most likely will play on the left side of the third pair with Trevor van Riemsdyk. Kempny (6-0, 194) makes smart plays defensively, and his offensive skill has improved the past two seasons.

"The question is, 'What's not to like about him and the evolution of his game?'" Kelley said. "His game is just continually improving. Right now, he's a perfect piece of the puzzle to fit in for what we needed."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

3. Vincent Hinostroza, C

How acquired: Selected with No. 169 pick in 2012 NHL Draft

Last season: Chicago: 7 GP, 0-0-0; Rockford (AHL): 66 GP, 18-33-51

What Hinostroza lacks in size (5-9, 173), he makes up for in speed, skill and aggressiveness. It took some time for him to adjust in his first full season of professional hockey, but Hinostroza, 22, excelled at Rockford of the American Hockey League.

"He's always on the puck," Kelley said. "What you see and what we really like about Vinnie is his speed. He plays a fast game. He has puck skill too, and even at his size, he's full of grit."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

4. Gustav Forsling, D

How acquired: Acquired in trade with Vancouver Canucks for defenseman Adam Clendening, Jan. 29, 2015

Last season: Linkoping (SWE): 48 GP, 6-15-21

The Blackhawks' replenished depth on defense means Forsling, 20, likely will head back to Linkoping to play another season in the Swedish Hockey League. His ranking on the Blackhawks depth chart, however, isn't indicative of his potential.

"He has a really good hockey IQ and really good puck skill," Kelley said of Forsling (5-11, 186). "He's a defenseman where the puck is on his stick a lot, so he makes plays at both ends of the ice. He's made strides every year."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

5. Tyler Motte, LW/RW

How acquired: Selected with No. 121 pick in 2013 NHL Draft

Last season: Michigan (NCAA): 38 GP, 32-24-56; Rockford (AHL): 5 GP, 2-3-5

Motte, 21, was one of the highest-scoring players in the NCAA last season at Michigan, where he finished his career with 105 points (50 goals, 55 assists) in 107 games. Another undersized forward (5-9, 188), Motte's tools are similar to former Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw.

"With Tyler, it's the whole team concept," Kelley said. "I think he's a complete, honest player. What stands out about Tyler is his [defensive] responsibility and his play away from the puck. I think sometimes that kind of masks the skill set that comes with it. His skill set is very underrated."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

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