Without a doubt, the Chicago Blackhawks have one of the best groups of center prospects in the NHL. That group was bolstered as well by a recent trade which gave the Blackhawks Peter Regin and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, two NHL caliber players.
In the AHL, the Blackhawks also have relied on Brandon Pirri, and he has done an average job filling in. Despite his high ceiling, it seems there is simply no room for him at the NHL level, meaning he may be on his way out rather than festering in the minor leagues.
Teuvo Teravainen will likely find a home at the NHL level immediately, and someone will have to step up as a premier center for Rockford. That player, even if it’s not next season, looks to be Phillip Danault.
Danault is only 20 years old, and is playing his first season professionally with Rockford. A natural leader, his junior team’s captain at 17 years old, his set of skills reflects that of Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews. Danault is a traditional center in the sense that he passes first. He has amassed 15 points in 47 games during his rookie campaign in Rockford.
The thing that will benefit Danault the most is his ability to consistently perform as a two way player. Blackhawks Coach Joel Quenneville has made defensive consistency the emphasis of his centers, the reason Joakim Nordstrom has seen NHL time, and Brandon Pirri cannot find a consistent home.
Danault obviously needs seasoning, but the Blackhawks now have a unique blend of prospects and NHL veterans within their AHL system. That blend of talent will only benefit a natural leader and smart hockey player such as Danault, as he moves up the rankings and towards the NHL.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486