Chicago Blackhawks prospect Blake Hillman and No. 2-ranked Denver are looking to repeat as NCAA champions, but Hillman isn’t the only possible Blackhawks tie who could make this year’s Frozen Four
As 2017 is coming to a close, Chicago Blackhawks fans are left pondering whether their team will be a contender for the Stanley Cup. In what seems to be a time of transition for the ‘Hawks, many of their prospects in college hockey have more than just contending on their minds.
This year’s NCAA Frozen Four will be taking place in St. Paul, Minn., a hotbed for several levels of hockey. But that’s not the only big event for prospects next year. In just a couple weeks, some Blackhawks prospects will be showcasing their talent at the World Juniors in Buffalo, N.Y.
Let’s take a look at some college hockey teams who have Blackhawks ties that could end up in St. Paul for the Frozen Four this year.
University of Denver – Blake Hillman, Ian Mitchell
For the second straight year, the University of Denver is considered to be one of the favorites to win it all. The Pioneers have been good this year, but they haven’t been perfect. Their conference, the NCHC, is probably one of the deepest this year in college hockey and includes St. Cloud State and the University of North Dakota.
The Blackhawks have two defensemen on the Pioneers this year in Ian Mitchell and Blake Hillman, who have both progressed nicely in their own ways.
University of Notre Dame – Dennis Gilbert
Another possible contender could be the University of Notre Dame. Winners of 13 games in a row, the Fighting Irish have surprisingly been steamrolling their opponents even after losing two captains in Cal Petersen and Anders Bjork.
The Irish were beaten by the Pioneers in a Frozen Four semifinal last season. Blackhawks prospect Dennis Gilbert is having a fine season with the Irish as a big part of one of the best defensive cores in the NCAA.
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Northeastern University – Dylan Sikura, Ryan Shea
One team that has taken the Hockey East Conference by storm is Northeastern. ‘Hawks prospects Dylan Sikura and Ryan Shea have both been impressive and have the Huskies just one point behind Boston College for first place.
It will be interesting to see if Boston University, which is four points behind Northeastern, has a better second half. But so far the Huskies look pretty solid, especially the line of Sikura, Nolan Stevens and Adam Gaudette.
Boston University – Chad Krys
As for a dark horse, Boston University should never be left out of a Frozen Four conversation. It is a team that tends to be a perennial contender and has multiple top NHL prospects. One of those top players is Blackhawks defenseman Chad Krys.
Krys has been lighting up the scoresheet and has been working on his defense and physical game. As stated above, if the Terriers go on a win streak of any sorts, they are not a team you want to see late in the year.
You may have noticed there are a few Blackhawks prospects on this list who are defensemen, and you are correct. Hillman, Mitchell, Shea and Krys are all in the ‘Hawks system, and some of them will be making the jump to the pros soon.
It’s interesting players like Luc Snuggerud are getting their first year of pro experience in Rockford. Snuggerud came from the NCAA and the Blackhawks are very high on him, but it’s possible there will be an influx of good defensemen that could log-jam the system.
Having a plethora of good defensemen is a great problem to have, and there’s no telling if all of them are NHL material. But the Blackhawks have selected a number of defensemen high in the draft with hopes they can fill up their roster for the future.
Regardless, the NCAA is a great place to watch players develop. We’re seeing more players like Clayton Keller and Brock Boeser come out of college and be well prepared for the pro game. Let’s hope the Blackhawks can find the right path for their young players to get to the pro level as well.