In the middle of the NHL/NHLPA lockout there is something interesting and refreshing that is occurring on Canadian ice. The future of hockey is being showcased as juniors from the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League ) and the OHL (Ontario Hockey League) and WHL (Western Hockey League) each being essentially an All-Stars team will face off against Russia junior All Stars in three separate series. There will be one two game series pitting the Russian juniors against the QMJL then the OHL and wrapping up with the WHL.
This contests with the QMJHL wrapped up and the OHL series midway has given us a great opportunity to scout the Chicago Blackhawks’ young prospects. On the QMJHL the Hawks prospects were Phillip Danault C & Dillion Fournier – D while on the Russian team was forward Maxim Shalunov C/RW.
What may surprise some, while everyone has heard a great deal about Nail Yakupov the Oilers prospect not too much fanfare has been given to Maxim Shalunov. He has impressed in the games played so far. He has 2 goals and 1 assist in three games and looks like a real offensive threat. Shalunov’s success maybe surprising but, probably not to the Blackhawks scouts and coaches. He was taken by the Blackhawks in 4th round in 2011 and is a pure scorer. Shalunov is a big power forward and should translate well in the NHL.
Phillip Danault did not dent the stat sheet but he is solid on the defensive side of the puck and is a consistent winner in the faceoff dot which is something that the Blackhawks themselves could use. Danault is almost NHL ready and if there is any silver linings to this lockout this series gives him some exposure to pressure series and playing against international talent.
Danault is an extremely smooth skater which is probably what prompted the Blackhawks to take him. He went in the first round 26th overall in 2011 entry draft and the finish to his game whether he is checking, skating, blocking shots or on the rush is apparent. No wonder the Blackhawks wanted this kid.
Danault was an assistant captain which speaks volumes on an all star team to his leadership skills and how his peers respect him. Jonathan Huberdeau Florida Panthers highly touted #1 prospect was the captain of team QHJML. I had the chance to see him at the Blackhawks prospect camp and can attest this guy is an extremely hard worker and his love of the game is apparent. Look for Danault down the line to make the big club at a center position.
Dillion Fournier is coming back from injury and while he got light up a couple of times and did not have the best +/- numbers showed great puck moving abilities.
The Blackhawks have no prospects on the OHL or WHL teams but between Fournier, Danault and Shalunov were well represented. If this is what the talent pipeline down the road is for the team it is very bright indeed. Shalunov goes into action again Monday night for team Russia vs the OHL.
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