Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks Prospect Matthew Highmore Could Be Next Call-Up

By Matt Morrow
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 31: The puck is loose between Cleveland Monsters goalie Brad Thiessen (39) and Rockford IceHogs left wing Matthew Highmore (9) during the third period of the American Hockey League game between the Rockford IceHogs and Cleveland Monsters on October 31, 2017, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH. Cleveland defeated Rockford 3-2. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 31: The puck is loose between Cleveland Monsters goalie Brad Thiessen (39) and Rockford IceHogs left wing Matthew Highmore (9) during the third period of the American Hockey League game between the Rockford IceHogs and Cleveland Monsters on October 31, 2017, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH. Cleveland defeated Rockford 3-2. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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Many are calling for the Chicago Blackhawks to look to a highly successful Rockford IceHogs team to improve their roster after a subpar regular season start. But who exactly is the best choice for a first call-up?

With the Chicago Blackhawks struggling to start their season, Vinnie Hinostroza is the most popular call-up request from the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. Some are also citing the hot start of previous “failed experiment” Tomas Jurco as a reason for him to be called up as well.

Matthew Highmore, often overlooked, may have something to say about all of this.

When his signing with the Blackhawks was originally announced, I completely overlooked it. Through the past few weeks, his hot start in Rockford has made him a name that needs to be known. He’s near the top in his team in points with eight in 10 games, and it is notable that he leads the entire team in powerplay goals with four.

Additionally, his name has been brought to my attention through a few blogs by John Jaeckel, as well as the following tweet:

Isn’t that what the Blackhawks are missing right now? A kid playing his heart out during his first shot in the NHL? Someone who thrives in the area just outside the blue paint?

Furthermore, John had the following to say about Highmore in a recent blog:

"A guy I would look at giving a shot—perhaps even swapping him out for DeBrincat (there I said it)—is Matthew Highmore. Highmore is a kid I pointed out in the Hawks’ first exhibition game as always being around the puck and creating havoc around the net. He’s small but fast and plays big. And he produces."

As well as this, in another recent blog:

"…Highmore might bring more of—push up the ice and opportunities through getting the puck behind opponents."

You get the point.

Scouting report

Matthew Highmore is a 21-year-old undrafted forward (C/LW) to whom the Blackhawks gave a three-year deal in March of this year. His most successful season came last year with the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL, where he put up an astounding 1.39 points per game. He’s not exactly the biggest guy at 5-foot-11 and 181 pounds, but he plays a lot bigger than his size, something that is characteristic of many Blackhawks stars.

A very detailed scouting report of Highmore can be found here. I’m just going to highlight some points illustrating what makes him so intriguing to the Blackhawks.

First of all, it would be completely out of the realm of possibility for him to come in and play on the Patrick Kane line. But, who needs a player around him to do the following:

"An elite, effortless skater, Highmore has the ability to make his teammates look very good on the ice as he rarely looks for the spotlight, preferring to let the guys around him enjoy it."

That’s right, Kane, along with every other star player on any NHL roster. Could you imagine Highmore paired with Alex DeBrincat? Highmore could provide the above service to DeBrincat in being his setup man, while giving him some physical protection as well.

Furthermore, the more all-around players on a roster, the better. The scouting report also had the following to say about Highmore:

"Highmore has the ability to dominate a game with his world-class speed. More than that, he is a true 200-foot player, being counted on to win faceoffs late in games in the offensive and defensive zones, which he has been doing at better than 50 per cent."

I was just thinking the other day about games during the glory days, where Kane would just completely take over and single-handedly win the game for the Blackhawks. While Highmore realistically wouldn’t be able to do that right away, the Blackhawks could use another energizer bunny with that mentality in pressure situations.

Also, the faceoff part of this excerpt is key. Faceoff winning, especially situationally, has been a question mark for the Blackhawks early this season. Could someone who has had high success rates in lower levels of hockey potentially have success at the NHL level?

Speaking of early question marks, the atrocious early-season Blackhawks powerplay could use a spark as well. Guess what? Highmore can provide there.

"Highmore plays in all situations (32 PP points, five SH points) and shows up when the game is on the line (five game-winning goals)"

He can play on both sides of special teams, and seems statistically to excel on the powerplay. Showing up when the game on the line is key as well for a Blackhawks team that lost 13 one-goal regular-season games last season, if my counting is correct.

Visual analysis

The Blackhawks have plenty of players who have scored big-time goals in big-time situations, and coincidentally, Highmore has experience doing that as well.

Fundamentals are just as important though, and thanks to The Athletic’s Scott Powers, we got to see Highmore working on just that during prospect camp.

Powers provided two more videos for further analysis:

While these all take place during prospect camp, it is immediately shown that Highmore is strong on the puck and plays a fast game with the goal of being a nuisance.

The following video is a little bit more lengthy, but it includes interviews with Highmore, others talking about Highmore and a lot of impressive highlights of Highmore.

Lastly, just for fun, can you be a member of the Blackhawks if you can’t score a shootout goal and follow it with a sick celly? Kane says no. Highmore changes direction and speed, blows it by the goaltender, and does his best Kane impression, seen below.

After all of this, is it realistic for Highmore to be called up and be the missing piece this team needs to return to its powerhouse standard? Probably not. But, could Highmore come up and make an impact? Probably. From his excelling on the powerplay to his strength in winning faceoffs and his nose for the net, it’s worth giving Highmore the chance to provide some of the things this team is missing.

Regardless of whether or not a call-up or a trade of any magnitude happens, I am very hopeful for this team. With a lot of new pieces this season, it may take some time, but this team will start to gel, and they will get back to the top.

Next: Chicago Blackhawks’ Vinnie Hinostroza Could Be Spark Team Needs

This team has a skating core of Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Brandon Saad. They are surrounded by the likes of Richard Panik, Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz, DeBrincat, Patrick Sharp, John Hayden and an influx of young defensemen. How can you write them off, regardless of their record? You can’t.

Dynasty Reign!

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