Part 26 in my "State of the Franchise" series. Final 5!
Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great.
Current Rankings List:
7. NY Rangers
20. Tampa Bay
22. Los Angeles
25. New Jersey
30. San Jose
#5: Chicago Blackhawks
Top Fws: Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane
Top Ds: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook
Top G: Corey Crawford
Top 3 Under-23s:
1. F Patrick Kane (23)
2. D Nick Leddy (21)
3. F Marcus Kruger (22)
Top 5 Prospects
1. F Teuvo Teravainen (17)
2. F Brandon Saad (19)
3. F Jeremy Morin (21)
4. F Mark McNeill (19)
5. F Brandon Pirri (21)
Prospect Pool Rating:
Bluechip Talent: B
The Blackhawks are blessed with some of the best players in the NHL at the front of their team. The forward corps consist of such luminaries such as Toews, Kane, Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland. Not to be outdone, the backend also has some top talent with Keith, Seabrook, Nick Leddy, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Johnny Oduya. With a core that's as good as any, the Hawks are a highly skilled and speedy team that scores a lot of goals on the transition.
Depth throughout the pro system is thin. The offense is extremely top-heavy; after the aforementioned Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp and Viktor Stalberg, the rest of the forwards have been marginal in terms of production. On the backend, Duncan Keith has been merely ordinary since his glory year in 2010, while names like Leddy and Hjalmarsson have been on and off in their own ends (a fact only compounded by a goalie who is merely "good"). The team lacks a capable number 2 center up front.
The Hawks have a potent group of forward prospects. Some, like Morin and Pirri, are already top contributors at the AHL level and look to be NHL-ready, if not now then sometime soon. At the wings, names like Teravainen, Philip Danault, Jimmy and Kevin Hayes and Ben Smith all look like potential NHL players. Overall, it's a very well-balanced and deep development system that should churn out some assets for the Hawks.
While they have a good number of goalie prospects, none of them can be considered high-end (unless one comes out of nowhere and surprises). Similarly, while they have a good group of defenders (Dylan Olsen, Adam Clendening, Dillon Fournier, Stephen Johns), none of them look to be top quality prospects. In general, beyond a small group of forwards, none of the Blackhawks' prospects can be considered high-end players or bluechip talents.
The Hawks are coming off a second straight 1st-round ousting in the playoffs. Just two years removed from a Stanley Cup victory, the team has had to weather just about everything from management miscommunication to injuries to inconsistency over the last two years. To be fair, the Blackhawks had to gut their championship-winning support almost immediately after that win; while their star-studded core remains the same, the oh-so-important role players (guys like Ladd and Versteeg) were shipped off, leaving the team with a group of 6-7 really good players and a whole bunch of less-effective-than-thou players.
The Blackhawks have found a silver lining in those trades though, as it allowed them to rebuild their prospect pool. The Hawks, a prime example of a team that built itself through strong drafts and young players, have seemingly found a new group of young guns. While it's unlikely there's another Kane or Toews among the group, the prospects should eventually be able to provide the secondary contributions that the Hawks have lacked. Combine that with the aforementioned Kane and Toews, as well as names like Hossa, Keith, and Seabrook, and the Hawks have all the pieces required to remain contenders for a long time.
Unless their team defense implodes on itself (unlikely in its own right considering Seabrook, Keith, Toews and Hossa remain on the team) the Blackhawks can be counted as a postseason team again next season and for what they hope will be a long time.