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31 in 31

Top prospects for Chicago Blackhawks

DeBrincat, Hayden can add to forward depth

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Chicago Blackhawks.

If the Chicago Blackhawks hope to return to making long runs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they must continue replenishing their roster with homegrown talent.

Chicago took a step forward last year, led by rookie forwards Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz, but new players need to emerge. The Blackhawks won't have as many opportunities for rookies as they did last season, but there will be roles up for grabs.

 

[BLACKHAWKS 31 IN 31: Season preview3 Questions | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the numbers]

 

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

 

1. Alex DeBrincat, F 

How acquired: Selected with No. 39 pick in 2016 NHL Draft

Last season: Erie (OHL): 63 GP, 65-62-127 

DeBrincat, 19, has dominated the Ontario Hockey League for the past three seasons with Erie. Playing with highly skilled linemates, he had 332 points (167 goals, 165 assists) in 191 regular-season games. A junior teammate of Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid in 2014-15, DeBrincat had 104 points (51 goals, 53 assists) in 68 games.

DeBrincat needs to prove his size (5-foot-7, 165 pounds) will not limit his effectiveness. He uses a keen hockey sense, quick shot release and grit to overcome it, and is a skilled passer. Adding strength and speed will be essential.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

2. Gustav Forsling, D 

How acquired: Trade from Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 29, 2015

Last season: Chicago: 38 GP, 2-3-5; Rockford (AHL): 30 GP, 1-7-8 

Forsling, selected by the Canucks in the fifth round (No. 126) of the 2014 NHL Draft, made the Blackhawks roster last season and quickly became a favorite of the coaching staff. However, the 21-year-old had trouble keeping up with the speed of the game and was sent to Rockford of the American Hockey League. 

He finished the season in the AHL with a minus-13 rating. Entering his second NHL training camp, the Blackhawks hope Forsling (6-0, 186) can transition into a dependable two-way defender. 

Projected NHL arrival: This season

Video: CHI@DAL: Forsling's blast from the point deflects in

 
3. Dylan Sikura, C 

How acquired: Selected with No. 178 pick in 2014 NHL Draft 

Last season: Northeastern (NCAA): 38 GP, 21-36-57 

Sikura, 22, will return to Northeastern University for his senior year rather than sign an entry-level contract with Chicago, meaning he can become an unrestricted free agent next summer if he opts not to sign with the Blackhawks.
Sikura (5-11, 158) potentially could step into a regular role in Chicago. He showed impressive skills during development camp and has good speed, hands and vision.

Projected NHL arrival: This season 

 

4. Henri Jokiharju, D 

How acquired: Selected with No. 29 pick in 2017 NHL Draft 

Last season: Portland (WHL): 71 GP, 9-39-48 

Jokiharju, 18, was one of five defensemen Chicago took with their nine picks in the 2017 NHL Draft. A right-handed shot, he draws early comparisons to Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith for his skating and ability to play big minutes.

Jokiharju needs to add strength, work on his shot from the point and improve defensively, but his offensive talent was apparent last season as a rookie with Portland of the Western Hockey League. Jokiharju (6-0, 180) was injured playing for Finland in the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan but is expected to build off his first season in North America.

Projected NHL arrival: 2019-20

Video: Jokiharju selected 29th overall by the Blackhawks

 

5. John Hayden, F 

How acquired: Selected with No. 74 pick in 2013 NHL Draft 

Last season: Chicago: 12 GP, 1-3-4; Yale (NCAA): 33 GP, 21-13-34 

Hayden, 22, is a versatile forward with good size and strength, capable of playing all three positions. After completing his collegiate career at Yale, he signed with the Blackhawks on March 12 and quickly earned a bottom-six role. He played one game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when Chicago was swept by the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference First Round. 

Hayden (6-3, 223) should have an inside track to filling a roster spot with the Blackhawks entering training camp and could play his way into a significant role.   

Projected NHL arrival: This season

Video: CHI@TOR: Hayden picks the corner for first NHL goal

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