Hawks Sign Top Prospects Trio
The Blackhawks signed seven draft picks prior to the June 1 deadline. Here is a rundown of who was signed -- and who wasn't -- with comments from Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon. Signed prospects are ranked in order of potential impact this season as projected by chicagoblackhawks.com. 2006 Player Tracker>>
The prospect with by far the best shot of cracking the Blackhawks lineup this year, Nordqvist recorded a team-high 41 points in 46 games for Lulea HF of the Swedish Elite League. He tallied 19 goals to lead the team and added 22 assists. He notched three points (1-2) in six playoff contests and was a member of Sweden's gold medal winning World Championship squad.
Tallon's Take: "He's a good two-way player. He's a very smart player, good passer, good defensively and on faceoffs. He doesn't make many mistakes. He's gotten better every year and really performed well in Sweden this year -- the last two years as a matter of fact. We just liked his overall play and how smart he is."
The most offensively gifted player in the Hawks system, Bolland co-led the OHL runner-up London Knights in goals with 57 and was second in points (130) and third in assists (73). His 130 regular season points placed him second in the OHL and his 57 goals tied him for first with teammate Rob Schremp. He added 24 playoff points (15-9) in 15 contests as the Knights fell to the Peterborough Petes in the OHL championship series. Bolland was named an OHL All-Star and notched an assist for the West team in the OHL All-Star Game. He was a member of Team OHL in the CHL's Canada vs. Russia Challenge and recorded five points (2-3) in two games. He was also a member of Canada's gold medal-winning WJC U20 squad, recording three goals and two assists in six contests
Tallon's Take: "Bolland is a guy with tremendous character and passion for the game. He has tremendous hands and vision, plays with grit. He's got all the things you like. Obviously he'll have to develop his size and strength, which will happen. He's a real hockey player. He's a great passer with a good shot and is willing to get his nose dirty. He was quicker this year than he was before and I think once he gets stronger and bigger, his skating will improve as well. I don't think it will take him long to adjust to the American Hockey League."
Blunden -- a 2005 draft selection -- didn't have to be signed by June 1, but why wait? The 6-3, 208-pound winger posted his best season yet last year, totalling 84 points in 60 games for Erie (OHL). He led the Otters in goals (46) and was third in assists (38). He was named to the OHL All-Star team where he represented the West. He recorded an assist during the CHL's Canada vs. Russia Challenge and was also a member of Team Canada's gold medal-winning WJC U20 team, as he recorded five points (2-3) in six WJC contests. Blunden was signed by Norfolk to an amateur tryout contract at the end of the year and appeared in 11 regular season games for the Admirals, scoring a goal and adding five assists. He also appeared in one playoff game for the Admirals.
Winner of the Bobby Clarke Trophy as the WHL's leading scorer, Brouwer amassed 102 points in 72 regular season contests for the Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL). He was second in the WHL in goals with 49 and tied for second in assists with 53. He recorded a plus-37 rating and added 122 penalty minutes. In 17 playoff games, Brouwer recorded 10 goals and four assists and added 34 penalty minutes for the WHL runner-up Warriors.
Bickell shed his inconsistency tag last season, doubling his previous career high in goals with 45. The 6-4, 221-pound winger split this past season between Ottawa and Windsor and totalled 83 points (45-38) in 67 games. In 41 games with Ottawa, he recorded 28 goals and 22 assists for 50 points and added 41 penalty minutes. In 26 games after being traded to Windsor, he totalled 33 points (17-16) and 19 penalty minutes. Bickell recorded 5 goals and 5 assists in 7 playoff games for Windsor.
A two-year captain at the University of Wisconsin, Burish led the Badgers to its first national championship since 1990 with a 2-1 win over Boston College. He recorded 28 points (8-20) in 38 games for the Badgers with a plus-13 rating. In four playoff games, he recorded a plus-4 rating and notched a goal and four assists, including two assists in the Frozen Four final.
Another big winger (6-3, 198) who can skate, Berti split time between Oshawa and Erie and totalled 63 (33-30) points in 62 contests. In 23 games with Oshawa, he notched 34 points (16-18) and added 28 penalty minutes. He recorded 29 points (17-12) and 24 penalty minutes in 39 games with Erie
Tallon's Take: "We've boosted our right side with Blunden, Brouwer, and [2005 1st round pick] Jack Skille coming. Guys with good size but also skill. Burish has always been a leader and a quality person on and off the ice. He'll help our young guys down in Norfolk. So the right side is pretty good ... On the left side we've got Berti, Bickell and Karel Hromas coming. Adding Bolland and Nordqvist and possibly a centerman in this draft, we have depth at every position."
Unsigned North American Prospects
The Blackhawks give up their rights to these players. All three are eligible to re-enter the draft.
C Ryan Garlock (Rd. 2, '04)
Garlock notched 52 points (20-32) with a plus-6 rating in 62 regular season contests for the Windsor Spitfires (OHL) and added five points (2-3) in seven playoff games. Garlock was also a member of Team OHL in the CHL's Canada vs. Russia Challenge ... In 66 games with the OHL runner-up London Knights, Kell recorded 10 goals and 28 assists along with a plus-14 rating. He tallied five points (1-4) and a plus-5 rating in 19 playoff contests ... A Windsor teammate of Garlock's, Maunu recovered from a disappointing Prospects Camp in August and had a solid season, recording a plus-24 rating in 58 regular season games. He tallied 27 assists and nine goals for 36 points. He saw action in seven playoff games, scoring two goals and two assists.
Tallon's Take: "It's just a matter of numbers. That's the one thing about having so many draft choices. You just can't sign them all. You can only have 50 contracts. Now with the new rules in Europe we used to have their rights for [basically] forever and now you have to sign them. There's not a lot of room. We're right at the number now; we'll be under it after July 1. But now we're right there."
Unsigned European Prospects
The Blackhawks give up their rights to these players
Jari Viuhkola (Rd. 6, '98)
The Blackhawks wanted the highly-skilled centerman and did everything they could to bring him over, but Viuhkola -- who has a baby on the way -- chose to remain in Finland. Viuhkola tallied 39 points (12-27) in 46 regular season contests to lead Karpat of the Finnish Elite league in scoring and notched a plus-21 rating. In 10 playoff contests, he recorded six assists and a goal along with a plus-5 rating.
D Teemu Jaaskelainen (Rd. 7, '01)
Jaaskelainen recorded five points (1-4) in 22 regular season games with Ilves of the Finnish Elite league and recorded one assist in four playoff contests ... Kantee tallied three points (1-2) in 45 contests with Jokerit of the Finnish Elite league ... Malmivaara recorded a plus-16 rating and 134 penalty minutes in 54 regular season contests with SaiPa of the Finnish Elite league. He scored 11 goals and added nine assists. In eight playoff contests, he recorded a plus-4 rating, 12 penalty minutes and tallied a goal. Malmivaara also represented Team Finland in the Karjala Cup and the Rosno Cup this past season ... Wennerberg saw action in 50 games with Timra IK of the Swedish Elite league and recorded three goals and five assists.
Tallon's Take: "Three of these five players are defensemen and basically our depth chart on the back end is solid. We only have so many contracts to give and we had to at least get Viuhkola or Nordqvist; it ended up being Nordqvist."