It seemed like only a little while had passed since the Chicago Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup when they held their annual Prospect Camp for their draftees last week. For the group of young men, seeing the Cup up close in the Blackhawks locker room not only reinforced their dreams of playing in the NHL, but it also made them more determined to impress members of the front office who were watching them on the ice.
Out of the entire group of prospects, a few stood out in their performance. Forwards John Hayden and Anthony Louis were very impressive with their puck skills. Hayden did very well in scrimmages, while Louis, all 5-foot-7 of him, showed the same traits that Patrick Kane does because of his size. Defenseman Stephen Johns compares with Brent Seabrook in terms of size, his patience with the puck and physical game. All three are headed to college this fall: Hayden has committed to Yale and Louis is committed to Miami University of Ohio, while Johns is committed to finishing his senior year at Notre Dame.
There weren’t any prospects who could be deemed ready for the Blackhawks this season. The only one who comes close is Phillip Danault, who played for the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigres as well as the Rockford IceHogs this past season, but he’d need a full season in Rockford to adjust. The next closest, albeit distantly, is Johns, but he would have to give up college for that.
Unfortunately, a few notable names were absent from Prospect Camp. Antti Raanta, a Finnish goalie who was thought to be Corey Crawford’s backup until Nikolai Khabibulin was signed, had the dreaded lower-body injury and was held off the ice for the week by team doctors. Ryan Hartman, who was the Blackhawks’ first round pick this year, had shoulder surgery a few weeks earlier and was still recovering. Kevin Hayes ventured onto the ice after scrimmages for the first time since multiple surgeries on his quadriceps in February, but he looked rusty. And Teuvo Teravainen, the young Finnish forward who was drafted last year, wasn’t injured but was training with the Finnish junior team in New York and decided not to fly back and forth for both practices.
We’ll see all these names again sooner or later. They’ll take the time to develop their talent, and someday they could take the ice with the likes of Kane and Jonathan Toews. When they do, we can think back to this year’s camp and remember where it all started.