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Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks Are Lacking Defensive Prospects

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Feb 4, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars right wing Brett Ritchie (25) and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Gustav Forsling (42) in action during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks defeat the Stars 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 4, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars right wing Brett Ritchie (25) and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Gustav Forsling (42) in action during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks defeat the Stars 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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"Gustav Forsling (42) in action during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks defeat the Stars 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports"

The Chicago Blackhawks announced that they signed Czech Republic Player Jan Rutta. Most people now believe that the Rutta signing makes Trevor van Riemsdyk expendable.

I would argue it doesn’t make him expendable, but instead exposes a flaw. The Hawks have ONLY ONE NHL ready defensive prospects. If they did have any more, they would not be signing international free agent defensemen for the past two years to fill holes on defense.

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While it has been pointed out before that the Blackhawks might have some in house defensive replacements for the departing Johnny Oduya and Brian Campbell. I would argue that most of them are not long term solutions but short term fixes.

While the system appears to filled with forward prospects in John Hayden, Vinnie Hinostroza, Anthony Louis, Alex Debrincat, and several others.

As far as long term solutions on defense, the Blackhawks are sorely lacking Top defensive prospects.

Top Defensive Prospects:

Gustav Forsling is the Blackhawks top defensive prospects. He should make the leap to the NHL this season and play bottom pairing minutes. My hope is that he evolves into a top 4 pairing defenseman after this season.

Carl Dahlstrom and Robin Norell could be a season away from being ready to play in the NHL. Both guys are 21 years old and just completed their first season of North American Hockey. There is adjustment period coming over from Europe, so maybe in 2018-19 they compete for a spot in the NHL. The Blackhawks need them to be ready because Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could price themselves out of the Hawks salary cap range by 2018-19.

Luc Snuggerud is another prospect that could be a season away from being ready. He just finished up his four year career at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He appeared in 13 games with the Rockford Icehogs this past year. He could need a little bit more seasoning before making the jump to the NHL.

The Rest of the Defensive Prospects:

Here are my musings on the rest of the Blackhawks defensive prospects:

In my opinion,Viktor Svedberg who I love, is just a fringe NHL guy and not a prospect anymore. We have seen that in limited duty he is okay at best. He did not play in the NHL 2016-17 and was pressed into action in 2015-16 because the Hawks were worse off defensively than this past season.  Erik Gustafsson is the similar to Svedberg. He is an organizational depth guy with some offensive skill who only played in 2015-16 because there was NO depth on defense. Both players also international free agent signings and not drafted by the Blackhawks.

  • Ville Pokka: He is going to be traded out of the organization at some point.
  • Robin Press: He signed an AHL contract with the Rockford Icehogs. This means he will be an Icehog all season long.
  • Nolan Valleau: He is 25 and never been promoted to the NHL. He looks to be a career AHL player.

The jury is still to be undecided on the NCAA prospects, although I have hope for Chad Krys and Blake Hillman, however, we might have to wait four years for them. The European prospects also might have hope but their future rests on signing ELC’s with the Hawks.

Bottom Line: The Blackhawks need more NHL ready defensive prospects otherwise future off-seasons will be filled with more stop-gap free agent signings.

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