The Blackhawks development camp came to an end on Friday, and the team’s top two prospects each left lasting impressions.
With four long days jam-packed full of fundamental drills to begin camp, Blackhawks fans were ready to watch the players scrimmage on Friday morning. There was a significantly larger crowd on hand for the 9:30 a.m. scrimmage than there was at 1 p.m. Monday-Thursday. Fifth Third Arena on W. Jackson Boulevard was a madhouse of its own for a little bit.
Throughout the week of practice, all eyes were on Blackhawks’ top prospects Kirby Dach and Adam Boqvist. Nicolas Beaudin, Ian Mitchell, and the newly-acquired Alex Nylander all had their fair share of hype, but Dach and Boqvist were on a different level. They have the highest potential and the best chance to become superstars in the NHL.
While both Dach and Boqvist were impressive in drills during the week, the scrimmage on Friday was where they shined. Early in the 1st period, Adam Boqvist showed off the terrific hands he possesses for a defenseman and completely undressed 2017 7th-round pick, Josh Ess. His between-the-legs maneuver gave Josiah Slavin an open net for his first goal of the game. Boqvist’s move landed as the #6 play of the night on ESPN’s Top 10 Plays.
Throughout the scrimmage, Boqvist stickhandled through opposing defenders with ease. He’s incredibly swift with the puck on his stick, and he has elite playmaking abilities. The 2018 8th overall pick is very instinctive offensively, and it seemed like he was involved in every offensive rush his team had. Boqvist constantly made the right play in the offensive zone and created multiple scoring opportunities. Here’s another disgusting move Boqvist had around Jonny Sorenson that led to a penalty shot.
Adam Boqvist was dominant offensively throughout the scrimmage. He was extremely impressive except for a couple of bad turnovers in the defensive zone. There are still some question marks about his defensive game, but there are no doubts about his offensive abilities. He has the potential to become one of the best offensive defensemen in the league. Boqvist has a big year of development coming up, as he will more than likely be in Rockford to start the season.
As for 2019 3rd overall pick Kirby Dach, he looked strong but a bit unexperienced during some drills throughout the week. Offensively, he looked as gifted as anyone with his combination of skill and size. During the scrimmage though, Dach exploded onto the scene and made a hell of a first impression. Down 3-0 early in the first period, Dach bodied Bolingbrook native Logan Ommen off the puck and made an incredible move to stuff one home past Alexis Gravel.
Dach showed off his incredible size as well as his ability to finish in tight. His speed through the neutral zone didn’t look too bad either. Dach was must-see TV whenever he was on the ice, and he was as tough as anyone to knock off the puck. Dach uses his large frame to his advantage and loves to circle behind the net to generate offense. He’s smart in all aspects of the game and is more of a playmaker than he is a shooter. It’s incredible how gifted he is for an 18-year-old. Later on in the game, Dach dominated a shift and wound up finding the back of the net once again.
Kirby Dach was the most physically dominant player at development camp by far. His ability to get to the front of the net and make plays happen was unstoppable. Dach has remarkably soft hands for a big man, and his ability to finish in tight could be his most lethal attribute. Dach may not be 100% ready for a full NHL season, but a nine-game stint doesn’t seem unrealistic at this point. It’s going to be interesting to see if Dach forces the Blackhawks’ hand after training camp.
The Prospect Pool
Besides Dach and Boqvist turning heads at development camp, there were a few other top prospects that had impressive showings as well.
2017 2nd-round pick Ian Mitchell looked sturdy in just about every aspect of the game. Mitchell displayed his offensive abilities by making a couple of solid passes and scoring an impressive goal during the shootout. Here’s a quick look at those two plays.
Mitchell has a lot of offensive upside, but it was his defense throughout the week the was the most impressive. In every drill, Mitchell seemed to be in the right place at the right time. He was consistently breaking up plays and moving the puck confidently. Despite his lack of size, he didn’t seem uncomfortable in front of the net. Mitchell could probably play professional hockey this season, but captaining Denver for one more year will be positive for his development.
Fellow defenseman prospect Nicolas Beaudin demonstrated his offensive abilities throughout development camp as well. Beaudin moves the puck confidently and is smart in transition. He was just as aggressive offensively as Adam Boqvist was during the scrimmage. Beaudin recorded a primary assist on Brandon Hagel’s one-time goal that made it 5-3.
The former 2018 first-round pick seems offensively mature and ready for pro hockey. Beaudin has spent the last four years playing for the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL. One possible weakness for Beaudin as he turns pro could be his lack of size. He seems a little skinny for his height, and he was hit hard a couple of times during the scrimmage. It will be fun to watch Nicolas Beaudin develop in Rockford next season.
Alex Nylander, the newest member of the Chicago Blackhawks, had some impressive moments of his own throughout the week. Nylander was more offensively mature than any other prospect, as expected. He’s already played three seasons of professional hockey. Nylander could control the puck for a minute if he wanted to during the drills. He knows how to use his size and can create plays out of nothing. As for his lack of motivation, that didn’t seem to be a problem at camp. Nylander looked involved during the scrimmage but didn’t generate many chances. He missed the net on his best chance of the day.
Nylander has the potential to become a solid NHL player, but he has to put it all together. There aren’t any doubts about his talent. Alex Nylander needs to produce at whatever level he plays at this season.
2019 2nd-round pick Alex Vlasic was quiet for most of camp, but that might be a good thing. He’s still very raw in his development, but he handled the competition well all week. The offense wasn’t quite there yet, but Vlasic moved the puck out the defensive zone and was confident in his decisions. His speed stood out for someone that’s 6-foot-6. Two or three years at Boston University will be great for Alex Vlasic’s development.
Some other prospects that were impressive during the week were Philipp Kurashev, Brandon Hagel, and MacKenzie Entwistle. Kurashev, a 4th-round pick in 2018, displayed his strong shot on multiple occasions. He was quiet during the scrimmage, but he was responsible defensively and had a couple of chances. During the drills in practice, Kurashev was impressive and demonstrated his offensive skillset.
Brandon Hagel, a 2016 6th-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, turned a few heads during the scrimmage. He was as involved as any player offensively and rifled home a one-timer past Mareks Mitens. Hagel spent the last four years playing for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL and averaged a point-per-game in the last three.
MacKenzie Entwistle, one of many players involved in the Marian Hossa deal, once again had a strong camp. Entwistle is a big prospect at 6-foot-4, 181 pounds, but he has some offense to his game. The 2017 3rd-round pick averaged over a point-per-game for the OHL champion Guelph Storm this season. Entwistle also recorded seven goals and 14 assists in 24 playoff games. While Entwistle didn’t show off his offense too much this week, he did pick up a primary assist on Cole Moberg’s goal during the scrimmage.
Entwistle may not be an offensive wizard at the NHL level, but he has all the tools to be a solid player. He does all of the little things well. Entwistle has a crucial season coming up in Rockford.
The Blackhawks had a couple of standouts besides Dach and Boqvist during Friday’s scrimmage. 2018 7th-round pick Josiah Slavin picked up a hat trick in the scrimmage, including the game-winning goal with just 6.9 seconds left. Slavin is the brother of Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin.
Blackhawks 2019 4th round pick Antti Saarela was also very impressive during the scrimmage. Saarela scored two goals during the first period and remained aggressive throughout. His skating, puck-handling, and quick shot were on display all afternoon. He was offensively sound during practice throughout the week as well.
Overall, there is a LOT to look forward to with the Chicago Blackhawks current prospects. Kirby Dach and Adam Boqvist appear to be stars in the making, and other prospects look impressive as well. It’s been a long time since the Blackhawks had this much depth in their prospect pool. The Blackhawks prospects certainly gave fans hope during development camp this past week.
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