Editorials

For Chicago Blackhawks, 2018 Prospect Tournament Holds Importance

By Colin Likas
KELOWNA, BC - OCTOBER 20: Henri Jokiharju
KELOWNA, BC - OCTOBER 20: Henri Jokiharju /
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With the Chicago Blackhawks teetering somewhere between rebuilding and reloading, the 2018 Traverse City Prospect Tournament will hold heavy importance

Five Chicago Blackhawks who competed in the 2017 Traverse City Prospect Tournament saw time with the big-league club during the 2017-18 NHL campaign. That number probably could’ve been higher, too.

Basically, the Blackhawks are stuck between a rebuild and a reload in an increasingly strong Central Division. It’s not an enviable spot to be in, and there’s a fair chance the squad finishes last in the division once again in 2018-19.

With a bleak outlook such as that, it’s clear the 2018 Traverse City Prospect Tournament will hold a high level of importance to the Chicago Blackhawks. They’re the reigning event champions, and you may remember Alex DeBrincat scoring the championship-winning goal.

DeBrincat then went on to have a really great rookie season with the Blackhawks, one of the lone bright spots in a lost year. David Kampf, Matthew Highmore, Carl Dahlstrom and Collin Delia also went on to see anywhere from a little to a lot of NHL time after they competed in the most-recent prospect event.

There’s a good chance at least a few guys on the Blackhawks’ 2018 prospect tournament roster will make the trip up to the NHL this year. That makes the Traverse City event a good testing ground for Blackhawks youngsters.

Who could be at this tournament?

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For an idea of the Blackhawks’ roster for this event, we can look at who will be part of the upcoming development camp roster. That event is set to take place July 16-20 at Chicago’s practice facility, MB Ice Arena.

A lot of the names that jump out come from the defensive side. Henri Jokiharju, the Blackhawks’ first pick in the 2017 draft, is going to be at this camp.

Joining him will be the team’s most-recent first overall draftee, blueliner Adam Boqvist. Also among the defensive corps are Blake Hillman, Chad Krys, Ian Mitchell and Ryan Shea. That’s a good group of guys who are expected to make an NHL impact in the near future.

Among the forwards is Alexandre Fortin and Radovan Bondra. Wouter Peeters, though he doesn’t seem terribly interested in sticking with the Blackhawks, is scheduled to suit up in net during this camp as well.

It’d be easy to see all of the guys I’ve just mentioned playing at the Traverse City tournament after they take part in the Blackhawks’ camp later this month. While the team-centric event is certainly important, Traverse City is where these guys will get to test their mettle against other guys who are or may be future NHLers.

This will give Stan Bowman and Co. an idea of what exactly they have in their back pocket when it comes to prospects. It could give them an idea of how quickly some guys might be able to make the jump. And, biggest of all, it could help the Blackhawks decide whether they need to rebuild or reload.

Worst-case scenario, the Blackhawks learn they’re essentially going into opening night with a roster similar to what’s already constructed. Best-case scenario, some of these guys impress at both the Blackhawks’ camp and the prospect tournament and have a chance to bolster the NHL crew.

Next: Can Henri Jokiharju Make Jump To NHL?

Either way, these events for the Blackhawks’ youngest athletes are going to be critical to the team’s immediate direction.

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