Blackhawks

Blackhawks 2017 NHL Draft capsules: Scouting reports and analysis

Blackhawks 2017 NHL Draft capsules: Scouting reports and analysis

A recap of the Blackhawks' selections in the 2017 NHL Draft, and their scouting reports, including analysis from Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman and VP of amateur scouting Mark Kelley:

Round 1, pick 29: Henri Jokiharju, Finnish defenseman

Round 2, pick 57: Ian Mitchell, defenseman 

— What you need to know: Mitchell, 18, scored eight goals and added 29 assists in 53 regular-season games with the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, and also scored a goal and recorded three assists in 10 playoff contests.

— Scouting report: Mitchell is a little undersized (5-foot-11, 165 pounds), but is known to be a smooth skater and puck-mover. He carries a right-handed shot, which GM Stan Bowman said is a "commodity" in the NHL these days.

— Analysis from Bowman: "He's got a high skill set. He's not the biggest guy, but he's got great competitiveness, speed, skating, he's got quick hands. We like that part of it."

Round 3, pick 70: Andrei Altybarmakyan, Russian forward

— What you need to know: Altybarmakyan, 18, had 20 goals and 25 assists in 31 regular-season games with the Serebryanye Lvy St. Petersburg of the Maritime Hockey League. He also tallied nine points in 27 games with SKA-Neva St. Petersburg.

— Scouting report: An offensively skilled player with a sneaky good shot. He's 5-foot-11, 183 pounds with a left-handed shot, and is known to be a playmaker.

— Analysis from Kelley: "We started watching him last year's draft. We didn't watch him hard, but he popped up in a few of the international tournaments and we had reports on him. Then going into this year, his name kept coming up, we spent a lot of time at St. Petersburg to see him, we actually brought him into Chicago to get to know him a little bit. Just the way he plays the game, his personality is contagious. We're really excited about him."

— Analysis from Bowman: "He's a real electrifying-type player. His skill set is, he's got great speed, offensive skill, he's a competitive guy too, he's not afraid to throw some body checks. He plays an up-tempo style. He's maybe a little bit off the radar for some people, but we were very impressed with him. I think he's got a chance to be a real special player."

Round 3, pick 90: Evan Barratt, center

— What you need to know: Barratt, 18, scored 18 goals and added 38 assists in 63 games this past season for USA's national under-18 team, and also registered a goal and five assists in seven games to help USA win the gold medal in the IIHF Under 18 World Championships. He will play for Penn State in 2017-18.

— Scouting report: Barratt's biggest strength is his hockey IQ, and playing hard in all three zones on the ice. He's 5-foot-11, 187 pounds, has a left-handed shot and says he models his game after Derrick Brassard.

— Analysis from Kelley: "Every shift, every practice he plays all out. His teammates love him and his opponents don't."

— Analysis from Bowman: "I think the fans here are really going to like what they see from him. Real competitive. Ultra competitive player. He's got skill too, so I don't want to sell him short in that department, but I think the thing we like the most is the way he battles really hard. It was great to see him, he was pretty emotional getting picked, you can tell he wants it pretty bad and I think that's the one quality about him that we like the most."

Round 4, pick 112: Tim Soderlund, Swedish forward

— What you need to know: Soderlund, 19, scored three goals and added four assists in 39 games last season for Skelleftea of the Swedish Hockey League.

— Scouting report: He's an undersized (5-foot-9, 163 pounds) versatile forward with a left-handed shot who's known for his speed, and isn't afraid to go into the dirty areas.

— Analysis from Kelley: "He's energetic. If you go to the game but I didn't tell you who he was, you'd find him. He plays hard, he plays inside. He's not a big guy, but he attacks."

Round 4, pick 119: Roope Laavainen, Finnish defenseman

— What you need to know: Laavainen, 18, had five goals and 16 assists in 48 games last season for Jokerit's under-20 team.

— Analysis from Kelley: "We thought this year, the strides he made from September through April, he just kept coming and coming. He has good size, another right-handed shot, he skates well, he plays really well with his partner."

Round 5, pick 144: Parker Foo, forward

— What you need to know: Foo, 18, had 34 goals and 32 assists in 60 regular-season games with the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, and also added 10 goals and 10 assists in 13 playoff contests. He will play for Union College in 2017-18.

— Scouting report: Foo is 6-foot-1, 170 pounds and carries a left-handed shot. He prides himself on being a reliable two-way player and be responsible defensively. 

Round 5, pick 150: Jakub Galvas, Czech defenseman

— What you need to know: Galvas, 18, scored one goal and added five assists in 36 regular-season games with HC Olomouc of the Czech league.

Scouting report: Galvas is a 5-foot-11, 165-pound right-handed shot defenseman who can be effective both on offense and defense, and contribute on the power play, too.

Round 7, pick 215: Josh Ess, defenseman

— What you need to know: Ess, 18, had two goals and 11 assists in 18 regular-season games with Team Southwest in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League before potting eight goals and 20 assists in 23 regular-season games with Lakeville South High, where he also added three goals and two assists in three playoff tilts.

— Additional info: Ess, who's 5-foot-11, 183 pounds, will play college hockey next season at Wisconsin, where he will be coached by Tony Granato — older brother of Blackhawks newly-hired assistant Don.

— Analysis from Kelley: "He has very good instincts and skates really well."

Reasons to be optimistic about a Blackhawks turnaround

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USA TODAY

Reasons to be optimistic about a Blackhawks turnaround

It's mid-November, and the Blackhawks are on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. It's unfamiliar territory for Chicago, which is accustomed to seeing its team as a perrenial Western Conference favorite and Stanley Cup contender.

Since starting the season 3-0-1, the Blackhawks are 6-8-1 in their last 15 games and haven't won more than two in a row yet. It's a little concerning.

But there are reasons to be optimistic about a potential turnaround.

Let's start with the obvious concern: The offense.

If you take away the first two games in which they combined for 15 goals, the Blackhawks would rank 27th in the league in goals per game (2.59). They also went through a stretch where they scored only two goals or fewer in nine of 12 games.

Since then, the Blackhawks have erupted for 15 goals in three games and they're continuing to generate shots at a high rate.

In their last nine contests, the Blackhawks are averaging 38.9 shots per game and rank fifth overall at 34.6. The problem on offense has never been the quantity of shots, it's the quality. They're slowly starting to get both.

And the weird part is? Patrick Kane has four goals in his past 17 games, Duncan Keith has zero goals in 19 games this season, Brandon Saad has one goal in his last 13 and Jonathan Toews has two goals in his last 14, one of which was an empty netter. Those are Chicago's top four horses who are struggling collectively to get on the scoresheet.

Their individual track records suggest they won't stay dry forever.

The Blackhawks' recent offensive hot streak is being spearheaded by role players such as Artem Anisimov (eight goals in his last nine games) and Alex DeBrincat (six goals in seven games this month), the latter of whom has emerged as a darkhorse candidate for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie. While it would be unfair to expect him to continue scoring at a goal-per-game pace, DeBrincat's emergence shows he's starting to get comfortable in the NHL and we're seeing exactly what he can bring to the table.

The biggest reason the Blackhawks are staying afloat while the offense figures itself out is the elite goaltending they're getting from Corey Crawford.

Chicago is giving up 33.8 shots per game, which is fourth-most, yet Crawford is making an early case for the Vezina Trophy, sitting at fifth with a 2.26 goals against average and tied for second with a .930 save percentage, including two shutouts.

If there are any doubts about Crawford coming back down to earth, he had a 92.99 save percentage at even-strength last year and 93.32 in 2015-16. Through 16 appearances this season, he's actually a bit below that at 92.47, according to naturalstattrick.com.

Now, in the previous two seasons, the Blackhawks averaged 31.4 and 30.8 shots against, respectively, but the point remains the same that you can consistently count on Crawford playing at a high level.

Did we mention the Blackhawks have the sixth-best penalty kill percentage (82.9) dating back to Oct. 29, 2016? That's a great combination, especially when you have one of the league's best goaltenders to bail you out at times.

Ultimately, the Blackhawks' success hinges on their star players playing like it. Once they get going, the rest will follow. The question is, when will that happen?

Second line back? Anisimov, Kane, Schmaltz looking to build on wonderful Wednesday night

Second line back? Anisimov, Kane, Schmaltz looking to build on wonderful Wednesday night

Artem Anisimov was creating at the net, much like he did on a regular basis the last two seasons. Nick Schmaltz looked as comfortable on the wing as he did at center, and Patrick Kane was getting better shots on net. On Wednesday night the second line of this season looked like the line of the past. Now to build off it.

The way things have been going for the Blackhawks so far this season, you take any one game for what it’s worth. For the Blackhawks’ second line, Wednesday’s outing was a good one, as it was a big part of the team’s comeback victory over the New York Rangers. And the quicker that line finds consistency, perhaps it spreads throughout the lineup.

“Some good things,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Schmaltzy on the wing gives us some speed off the attack, and it’s not just Kaner coming up with the puck. Arty’s got some familiarity with Kaner, and he goes to the net and all of a sudden scores three goals by being right at the net. So I think with Schmaltzy and Kaner and their patience and ability to travel, they bring something different to the table. It was an effective night.”

Schmaltz has said before that he feels best at center, but the move back over to wing hasn’t slowed him down a bit. That helps Quenneville keep Schmaltz and Kane together and brings Anisimov, who thrived in his time with Kane in the past, back into the second-line fold.

“Yeah, just play the game,” Anisimov said. “It doesn’t matter where you play; just go out there and play as hard as you can and have fun.”

Well, sometimes it might matter where you play. Anisimov has shown he just works better with Kane, who holds onto the puck more and allows Anisimov to focus on getting to the net. So if they can all recapture the magic, so be it.

The Blackhawks’ offense has come back to life in their last three games. On Wednesday the second line had a big hand in that offense. Now to find consistency.

“It felt pretty good,” Schmaltz said. “The Rangers did a pretty good job of limiting time and space, so I thought we did a god job of managing the puck, getting it into their zone and forechecking and creating some turnovers that way. We got a few big goals there and got some contributions with a few guys last night.”