As the long month of August continues to drag on for Chicago Blackhawks fans, Blackhawk Up takes a moment to give fans an update on one current prospect, Finnish center Mikael Hakkarainen.
Mikael Hakkarainen, or “Hakk” as nicknamed by teammates for his USHL team, the Muskegon Lumberjacks, was drafted in the fifth round, 139th overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Before I start, I’d like to give a special thanks to Rachel Anderson who covers the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks for tagging our blog on a story she did regarding Mikael earlier this week.
Hakkarainen Before The Blackhawks
Hakk has consistently made himself noticeable going back as far as 2012-13 when he put up 19 points in 10 games for the Blues U16 II. That season was just the beginning for Mikael as he continued to impress in the following campaign.
Not only was Hakk moved up that next year, he was also awarded the title of alternate captain during that 2013-14 season.
(Sidebar: Is it too early to say Hakkarainen needs to be added to the list of guys who could take over wearing the “A” down the road?)(Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself)(Parts I, II and III of that series are here if interested).
Hakkarainen clearly took the promotion to alternate captain in stride as he had arguably his best offensive season that year. Hakk averaged over two points a game, scoring 24 goals and tallying 25 assists for a total of 49 points in only 24 games.
That’s pretty good.
It’s also worth noting that in the playoffs that year he tallied 3 goals and 8 assists in 10 games played. “Alternate Captain Mikael Hakkarainen” certainly has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
I digress. Perhaps we should let the Chicago Blackhawks sign him to a contract first.
Since that season, Hakkarainen’s play-making ability has only continued to grow as his assist column continues to trend in the right direction. He had two back-to-back rock-solid seasons with the Blues U18 club in 2014-15 and the NAHL’s Brookings Blizzards in 2015-16. In those years, he put up 51 points in 43 games (21 G and 30 A) and 40 points in 54 games (13 G and 27 A), respectively.
However, following those two years, he struggled during the 2016-17 season putting together just 18 points and a +/- of -7 over 48 games. Mikael spent 16 games with the USHL’s Chicago Steel before being traded and spending the rest of those 48 games with the Muskegon Lumerjacks.
Mikael With The Blackhawks
After that less-than-admirable season spent between two clubs, Hakk responded incredibly well in the next year with the Lumberjacks. He put up 15 goals and 31 assists in 36 games which undoubtedly helped him to catch the Blackhawks’ eyes.
After that tough season statistically, Mikael clearly felt something needed to change. In the following year, he did his best to adjust and ultimately got the results he was looking for.
Now, Hakkarainen is applying that same concept to the Blackhawks’ Development Camp. Hakk told Access Hockey MI’s Rachel Anderson, “I felt I did good, there are some areas i need to improve, which are my strength and skating.” The hope is that Mikael can work on those things and have another successful season next year when he takes the ice with NCAA’s Providence College. That college decision leaves the Blackhawks four years to decide whether or not they’d like to ink Hakkarainen.
My guess? They do.
Put simply, Mikael is already making it tough on Chicago to say no. The team needs help in the forward portion of their prospect group, and Mikael looks to not-so-quietly be making a difference. During Development Camp, it was clear how hard the kid played. He fought hard in front of the net in an Andrew-Shaw-type way. He’d get pushed down and cross-checked, but kept his position screening the goaltender and continued to fight.
During one such scrums, Hakk got pushed down to his knees. He then proceeded to get up, regain position, and get his stick on a shot for a deflection. The puck didn’t find its way into the net, but with that play Mikael stood out in a big way. At 20, he stands 6’0, 194 pounds. The kid plays the game hard.
That being said, he isn’t limited to that style of play, either. He did well playing that role, however he told Access Hockey MI that he “can standout with my playmaking ability and skating ability, also with my work ethic.”
His skating and playmaking ability were undoubtedly on full display during development camp, as he helped create and finish a handful of odd-man rushes. Hakk made a lot of smart plays with the puck and his agility when carrying the puck stood out significantly. Additionally, his ability to finish scoring chances caught my eye. During camp, he topped off multiple odd-man rushes by going top-shelf on the goaltender.
For now, Blackhawks fans should enjoy watching him compete in college for Providence and patiently await the #AlternateCaptainMikaelHakkarainen movement.