POSTED ON Friday, 07.15.2016 / 1:20 PM CT
By Emerald Gao - chicagoblackhawks.com / The Blackhawks Blog
(Chase Agnello-Dean)

For many of the Blackhawks’ top prospects, this was the day they’d been waiting for all week. Friday’s scrimmage at Johnny’s IceHouse West featured two teams comprised of draft picks and players on entry-level contracts, and after a scoreless first period, the pace picked up and the floodgates opened.

It started with Vincent Hinostroza, playing on Team B’s top line with John Hayden and Ryan Hartman, who found the net just 46 seconds into the middle frame. Team A answered almost immediately afterward as camp standout Alexandre Fortin stole the puck at the blue line, leading to a 2-on-0 and a tap-in goal by Tanner Kero,

Team A seemed to find another gear, creating a flurry of scoring chances; Beau Starrett and Nick Schmaltz and Anthony Louis each had good opportunities stopped by goalie Matt Tomkins, before Radovan Bondra broke the tie for Team B.

The loudest play of the second period belonged to Roy Radke, whose breakaway shot 11 minutes in rang off the pipe, eliciting cheers and groans from the capacity crowd at Johnny’s IceHouse West. Just after Radke’s miss, Team B broke through again: Fredrik Olofsson found linemate Mathias From with a drop pass, and the 2016 fourth-round pick’s wrist shot snuck past Wouter Peeters to give Team B a 3-1 lead.

Once again, it didn’t take long for Team A to respond. Nick Schmaltz found Tyler Motte in the slot for a laser that popped the goalie’s water bottle; the two recent ELC signings, along with 2016 second-rounder Alex DeBrincat, showcased noticeable speed and skill throughout the scrimmage. A few minutes later, Radke made up for his near-miss from earlier with a short-side snipe on Tomkins to knot the score at 3-3.

The exhilarating pace continued through the third period, as Team A continued to generate chances, only for Tomkins to hold steady in net. Team B opened up another two-goal lead, first off a tip-in by Jack Ramsey and later off Hinostroza’s second of the game.

Team A closed the gap through Matheson Iacopelli, whose backhand finish in tight was the game’s most impressive finish, but Olofsson’s nifty backhand late in the period beat Jake Hildebrand to ice the game for Team B.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 07.13.2016 / 2:59 PM CT
By Emerald Gao - chicagoblackhawks.com / The Blackhawks Blog
Teams A and B pose with the Prospect Camp trophy after their third and final scrimmage. (Chase Agnello-Dean)

The scoring started early, as players found their legs and upped the intensity on the final day of scrimmages with the full group. Although Team A held a slim lead through two periods, another late surge by Team B’s top players gave them the victory and allowed them to clinch the Prospect Camp trophy.

Nathan Noel, a fourth-round pick in 2016, opened the scoring for Team A (wearing white jerseys) early with a quick wrister that beat goaltender Shane Starrett. Team B (wearing red) ramped up the pressure as 2016 second-rounder Alex DeBrincat created a few scoring chances on successive shifts. They finally broke through on another stellar individual effort by free-agent invitee Alexandre Fortin, who stole the puck at the blue line and took off on a breakaway, deking from backhand to forehand on the finish.

Less than a minute later, Noel put Team A head again, tapping home the puck off a centering feed from linemate Beau Starrett. Late in the period, defenseman Lucas Carlsson embarked on an end-to-end rush, but the 2016 fourth-round pick had the puck poke-checked away.

“We started a lot better than we did in previous games, and that was great to see,” Noel said. “[Beau and Fredrik Olofsson] are both big guys, and we controlled the puck really well. It was just clicking today. Everything was working.”

Team A narrowed the gap 4 minutes into the second period, as 2016 fifth-round selection Mathias From finished a wrister from in close. Team B answered again when Fortin stole another puck to create a 2-on-0 opportunity and fed Matheson Iacopelli, who flicked the puck cleanly into the roof of the net for his second goal of camp. Fortin would have two more prime scoring chances in the second, hitting the post from the right circle on the power play and then having another breakaway chance stopped.

Coming off a hip injury that limited him to 43 points (19G, 24A) in 54 games with Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL last season, Fortin has been a camp standout, excelling in front of notable names like Joel Quenneville and Stan Bowman this week.

“I don’t see [their presence] as pressure; I see it as a boost,” Fortin said. “It’s helped me to be better.”

The 19-year-old from Blainville, Quebec, put an exclamation mark on his day with the tying goal for Team B early in the third period, cashing in on a rebound after setting up the initial shot by Trevor Mingoia.

Team A created several more scoring chances to try and take the lead once more, but it was Team B that found a late breakthrough. Dylan Sikura’s cross-crease pass found John Dahlstrom, who didn’t miss with the goalie down and out. The late goal gave Team B a 4-3 win, marking their second comeback of the week as they swept the main scrimmage series.

Prospect Camp resumes on Thursday with positional drills, as the ELC group combines with the prospects ahead of Friday’s final scrimmage.

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POSTED ON Monday, 05.9.2016 / 2:39 PM CT
By Emerald Gao - chicagoblackhawks.com / The Blackhawks Blog
Vinny Hinostroza is one of five Blackhawks representatives at the 2016 IIHF World Championship. (Getty Images)

As of Monday afternoon, five Chicago Blackhawks representatives have played three games for their countries at the IIHF World Championship, held in Russia (Moscow and St. Petersburg). Below, a summary of how each player has fared thus far:

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 04.19.2016 / 3:58 PM CT
By Emerald Gao - chicagoblackhawks.com / The Blackhawks Blog

While the Blackhawks of today are busy battling St. Louis in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blackhawks of tomorrow are busy with postseason preparations of their own. Two 2015 draft picks are set for a head-to-head battle in the conference finals of the Ontario Hockey League Playoffs, while in Rockford, the IceHogs will begin their quest for the Calder Cup on Wednesday.
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POSTED ON Friday, 04.8.2016 / 2:33 PM CT
By Emerald Gao - chicagoblackhawks.com / The Blackhawks Blog
Nick Schmaltz scored with 56.8 seconds left in the third period to lift North Dakota over Denver, 4-2. (Getty Images)

Among all of the highlight-reel moments that 2014 first-rounder Nick Schmaltz has compiled this season alongside linemates Brock Boeser and Drake Caggiula, there may not be a more important—or exciting—entry than Thursday's late winner to send North Dakota to the NCAA title game on Saturday. They’ll face top-ranked Quinnipiac for their first shot at a title in 11 years, getting past the hurdle that stumped them six times since.

North Dakota and Denver staged a cagey first period, combining for just eight shots on goal despite two power plays for the Pioneers. Caggiula struck twice in 6 minutes in the middle frame to give the Fighting Hawks a two-goal lead heading into the third period. Through 40 minutes, North Dakota’s team defense was a big factor, blocking 16 shots while allowing just 13 on net.

Undaunted, Denver fought back with two goals of their own in the third period, banking the tying goal in off a defender’s stick. For a while, it looked like North Dakota might have let another opportunity to compete for a title slip.

That’s when the “CBS Line” struck.

With a minute left, Boeser won an offensive zone faceoff, and the puck slid to Caggiula. The senior’s initial shot was blocked, and Boeser collected the puck and sent a backhand attempt toward net. Instead of allowing the shot through to the goalie, however, Schmaltz—who had slipped behind his defender and was on the doorstep—caught the puck on his stick and flipped it into the net with 56.8 seconds left in regulation.

Denver fashioned some late opportunities to force overtime, but NoDak held on to cap off another impressive defensive effort, something the team has excelled at all season, ranking second in the nation with just 24.9 shots allowed per game. In the eventual 4-2 victory, they limited the Pioneers to 23 SOG, killing off four penalties along the way.

The one dark cloud to the proceedings was the loss of Luke Johnson, Chicago’s fifth-round pick in 2013 and the team’s best shutdown center. The junior, who has made the Frozen Four in each of his three collegiate seasons, suffered a leg injury in the second period and did not return to the game; he’s unlikely to be available for Saturday's matchup after compiling 21 points (11G, 10A) in 43 games this season.

Earlier on Thursday, Quinnipiac defeated Boston College 3-2 to confirm their own spot in the title tilt, ending Chris Calnan’s junior season. The 2012 third-round pick finished the year with 11 points in 29 games. The NCAA championship game will take place on April 9 at 7 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and available via streaming on ESPN3.

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POSTED ON Monday, 03.21.2016 / 1:52 PM CT
By Emerald Gao - chicagoblackhawks.com / The Blackhawks Blog

On Mondays, the Blackhawks Blog will highlight players who stood out for their minor-league, junior, college, or European teams in the previous week’s action. All prospect/system stats will be updated weekly throughout the 2015-16 season.

(Photo courtesy University of Michigan Athletics)

1st Star: RW Tyler Motte, University of Michigan (BIG10)
The Line: 2GP, 2G, 2A

After a three-year absence from the NCAA tournament, the Wolverines punched their ticket last weekend by winning the B1G title, and Tyler Motte was at the center of the action. In Friday’s 7-2 semifinal win over Penn State, he contributed two assists, giving him 23 on the year. The next night, the 2013 fourth-round pick opened the scoring on the power play against Minnesota with his 30th tally of the season before adding an empty-netter to seal the 5-3 result. Michigan will open the NCAA tournament against old CCHA rival Notre Dame on Friday at 4:30 p.m. CT.

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POSTED ON Sunday, 03.20.2016 / 4:30 PM CT
By Emerald Gao - chicagoblackhawks.com / The Blackhawks Blog
Five Blackhawks prospects will be in action in the NCAA Midwest regionals next weekend in Cincinnati.

Any Blackhawks fans living in the vicinity of Cincinnati, Ohio, might want to swing by U.S. Bank Arena next weekend, as five prospects will be in contention for a trip to the 2016 Frozen Four in Tampa Bay early next month.

The NCAA revealed the field of 16 on Sunday. Here’s how the regional brackets break down, along with the full list of Blackhawks representatives:

East (Albany, N.Y.) - March 26-27
1 Quinnipiac vs. 16 RIT
8 Yale vs. 9 UMass–Lowell
Prospects: Yale C John Hayden (2013, 3rd)

West (St. Paul) - March 26-27
2 St. Cloud State vs. 15 Ferris State
7 Boston University vs. 10 Denver
Prospects: none

Midwest (Cincinnati) - March 25-26
3 North Dakota vs. 14 Northeastern
6 Michigan vs. 11 Notre Dame
Prospects: North Dakota C Nick Schmaltz (2014, 1st), North Dakota C Luke Johnson (2013, 5th), Northeastern C Dylan Sikura (2014, 6th), Michigan RW Tyler Motte (2013, 4th), Notre Dame D Dennis Gilbert (2015, 3rd)

Northeast (Worcester, Mass.) - March 25-26
4 Providence vs. 13 Minn–Duluth
5 Boston College vs. 12 Harvard
Prospects: Boston College RW Chris Calnan (2012, 3rd)

All regional games will be broadcast on the ESPN network, and the Blackhawks Blog will have continuing coverage of the NCAA tournament.

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POSTED ON Monday, 03.14.2016 / 4:56 PM CT
By Emerald Gao - chicagoblackhawks.com / The Blackhawks Blog

On Mondays, the Blackhawks Blog will highlight players who stood out for their minor-league, junior, college, or European teams in the previous week’s action. All prospect/system stats will be updated weekly throughout the 2015-16 season.

(Tyler Ingham/UND Sports)

1st Star: C Nick Schmaltz, University of North Dakota (NCHC)
The Line: 2GP, 3G, 3A

Last weekend produced another offensive outburst for Schmaltz, who picked up six points for North Dakota in a two-game sweep over Colorado College. The 2014 first-round selection contributed two goals and an assist—his first multi-goal game in the NCAA—in Friday’s 7-1 win, then added a tally and two helpers in the 5-1 clincher the next night. Schmaltz now has 40 points in 31 games this season and shares fifth in the nation with 32 assists. UND will face Minnesota–Duluth in the NCHC semifinals on Friday.

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POSTED ON Monday, 03.7.2016 / 2:25 PM CT
By Emerald Gao - chicagoblackhawks.com / The Blackhawks Blog

On Mondays, the Blackhawks Blog will highlight players who stood out for their minor-league, junior, college, or European teams in the previous week’s action. All prospect/system stats will be updated weekly throughout the 2015-16 season.

(UND Athletics/Peter Bottini)

1st Star: C Nick Schmaltz, University of North Dakota (NCHC)
The Line: 1GP, 1G, 3A

Schmaltz may have scored just five goals for North Dakota this season, but a couple of them have been highlight-reel material. Case in point: this beauty from UND’s big 8-1 win over Western Michigan on Friday. Chicago’s first-round pick in 2014 also added three assists to match his season high of four points in a game, and the sophomore now ranks third on the team with 34 points in 29 games, while his 29 helpers are seventh in the nation.

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POSTED ON Monday, 02.29.2016 / 12:07 PM CT
By Emerald Gao - chicagoblackhawks.com / The Blackhawks Blog

On Mondays, the Blackhawks Blog will highlight players who stood out for their minor-league, junior, college, or European teams in the previous week’s action. All prospect/system stats will be updated weekly throughout the 2015-16 season.

(Photo courtesy Rockford IceHogs)

1st Star: C Tanner Kero, Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
The Line: 3GP, 4G, 3A

Kero collected points in all three of Rockford’s contests last week. On Wednesday, the 23-year-old matched a season high with three points—a goal and two helpers—to help the IceHogs post a 6-4 win in Milwaukee. Kero then tallied twice in a 5-4 loss to Lake Erie on Friday before adding a helper the next night in a 3-2 overtime loss. The Michigan native now has a four-game point streak going and paces Rockford with 16 goals this season; he ranks sixth with 26 points in 38 games.

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