Welcome to another summer of Blackhawks’ Future Friday. In this weekly column, we explore some of the prospects in the Blackhawks’ system, and see how far they’ve come in the past year, as well as discuss their future with the club. This Friday, we take a look at a blue-liner that has been sneaking up through the Blackhawks’ prospect pool, and is now poised for a good look at training camp: Klas Dahlbeck.
Although Dahlbeck isn’t as well known as fellow defensive prospects Stephen Johns or Adam Clendening, even Trevor Van Reimsdyk, Dahlbeck has arguably one of the best shots to get an extended stay at Blackhawks’ training camp in September, and is considered in the mix for a defensive replacement, depending on how the off-season shakes out for GM Stan Bowman.
How did Dahlbeck gain such a lofty position in the Blackhawks’ system, without garnering the attention of many fans? The answer lies in his rapid improvement in the 2013-14 season. Before we take a look at this season, however, we must travel back to 2011, where Dahlbeck’s journey with the ‘Hawks started.
Born in Katrineholm, Sweden, Dahlbeck kept the roots planted in his homeland throughout his junior career, spending time with Gislaveds and Vaxjo at the senior, U20, and U18 level. Two years before his draft year, Dahlbeck made his Swedish Elite League debut, skating with Linkopings HC, while spending the majority of that season with their U20 team. By 2010-2011, Dahlbeck was full-time with the big club, playing 47 games that season in a second-pairing role, putting up 8 assists, 12 PIMs, and a +7 rating.
That was enough to impress Bowman and Blackhawks’ management, who selected Dahlbeck in the third round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, at #79 overall. With young blue-liners such as Nick Leddy on the rise at the time, there was no rush for Dahlbeck to make the move to North America, and he played his final SEL season with Linkopings, finishing the season with a +3 rating, 20 PIMs, 2 goals, and 4 points in 57 games.
In 2012-13, it was time for Dahlbeck to make the move, and he joined the Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks’ top affiliate. Dahlbeck saw limited ice time in his rookie campaign, but managed a solid +11 rating, one goal, and 6 points in 70 games.
One year later, it was time for Dahlbeck to step up, and he did just that. In 75 games with the ‘Hogs this season, he had 10 times as many goals, 6 times as many points, and was a stellar +21 on the season. His breakout year undoubtedly propelled the prospect to the level he is at today, considered one of the gems in the Blackhawks’ prospect pool, especially among defensemen.
Despite the great season and fantastic outlook for the 23-year old, he still has his work cut out for him before he dons the Indian Head sweater. Adam Clendening’s offensive smarts could be what the Blackhawks are looking for if they opt to bring a defenseman up for the start of the season, but if it’s defensive play that the Blackhawks want, it comes down to Dahlbeck and Stephen Johns.
If Dahlbeck isn’t the one the Blackhawks take (if they take any) the second battle begins; lead the IceHogs to their first playoff appearance in five seasons as a top pairing defenseman.
Recently, we ranked the Blackhawks’ top five defensive prospects, and Dahlbeck landed in the third position, behind Clendening and Johns, respectively. In the end, all three are nearly interchangeable, and it is very likely that two, or all of these prospects find themselves in the Blackhawks’ lineup at some point in 2014-15.
For more Blackhawks conversation, like us on Facebook: Blackhawk Up, and follow us on Twitter: @Blackhawk_Up.