Blackhawks News

Hawks Prospects in the NCAA Tournament

By Brian Kasnicka
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With playoff hockey less than a month away the Hawks are gearing up for a deep run into the Stanley Cup playoffs, but what about those college kids.  The field has been set and sixteen teams prepare to take home the NCAA hockey championship.  The tournament which starts this weekend, features seven Chicago Blackhawks prospects.  The Hawks aren’t pressed to sign many of these guys since they are all underclassmen with the exception of Michael Paliotta and Nick Mattson, and still have a few years of eligibilty before the Hawks sign them or lose them to free agency, Kevin Hayes is a great example.  The Blackhawks did sign Notre Dame forward Vincent Hinostroza early after a stellar sophomore season, so it’s not uncommon, but don’t count on them signing anymore of their underclassmen.

Nick Schmaltz, Forward, North Dakota, Freshman

Schmaltz was selected in the first round this past year and has demonstrated why he was a first round selection.  I was a little shocked with the Hawks picking him after they swapped first rounders with the Sharks.  With guys like Jared McCann, Adrian Kempe, and Nikita Scherbak still on the board I was surprised when I heard his name called, but he’s shown why.  Schmaltz has unbelievable hands and play-making ability.  His all around skill makes you eager with anticipation to see him don a Hawks sweater.  This season he had five goals and twenty-one assists in thirty-five games played.  Not too bad for a freshman year.

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Luke Johnson, Forward, North Dakota, Sophomore

Johnson is one of the lesser known college prospects for the Hawks.  Johnson doesn’t have a big frame, but he has the ability to play a two-way game which is certainly beneficial at the NHL level.  He can be a shut down forward, but has a high offensive ceiling to his game.  He’s just a sophomore so he still has a couple years of college hockey to fine tune his skills.  Johnson had eight goals and thirteen assists in thirty-nine games this season.

Nick Mattson, Defenseman, North Dakota, Senior

Mattson is one of two senior prospects the Hawks must sign or lose to free agency.  Mattson has registered four goals and sixteen assists in thirty games played.  Mattson is more of a defensive defenseman than an offenisve one.  He excels in shot blocking and makes smart plays.  He won’t wow you with his size or his skill, but he’s a strong skater and could easily be a third pairing defenseman.  It’s yet to be seen whether or not the Hawks will extend an offer to Mattson, but his season hasn’t ended yet, so it will be interesting once North Dakota’s season comes to an end.