Which Blackhawks prospects to watch for at 2019 World Juniors


Which Blackhawks prospects to watch for at 2019 World Juniors

The Blackhawks have seven prospects participating at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, which is the most of any NHL team.

With the tournament kicking off on Wednesday and running through Jan. 5, 2019 in British Columbia, here are the seven players to keep an eye on:

Evan Barratt, F — USA

Barratt has been a pleasant surprise for the Blackhawks organization this year. He's had a breakout season in college, where he leads the NCAA in scoring with 29 points in 17 games.

A third-round pick (90th overall) in 2017, Barratt is the first player in Penn State history to participate in the World Juniors and has a chance to prove himself against the elite at his age on a big stage.

Adam Boqvist, D — Sweden

Taken No. 8 overall in June, Boqvist is the Blackhawks' top prospect and also the youngest one participating in this tournament. He turned 18 in August, and has been a driving force for the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League.

Boqvist had only one goal in his first 15 games, but since then has eight goals in as many games and leads all London defensemen with 64 shots on goal. Expect him to play a top-four role for Sweden.

MacKenzie Entwistle, F — Canada

The Blackhawks may have found a hidden prospect in Entwistle, who was acquired from Arizona as part of the package that got Marian Hossa's contract off the books. He has 27 points (15 goals, 12 assists) in 29 games for the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL, already surpassing his goal total from last year (13) and doing so in 20 fewer games. 

Entwistle had a strong showing at the World Juniors Under-18 tournament in 2016-17, potting four goals and adding three assists in five games. He's likely to be competing for a fourth-line role and on the penalty kill.

Entwistle was drafted in the third round (69th overall) in 2017.

Jakub Galvas, D — Czech Republic

In his second go-around at the World Juniors, Galvas will serve as an alternate captain for the Czech Republic. He had two assists in seven games last tournament, which ended in an 8-3 loss in the bronze medal game.

Galvas has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 26 games for HC Olomouc after having 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 42 games last season in the Czech Republic's top division.

He was drafted in the fifth round (150th overall) in 2017.

Henri Jokiharju, D — Finland

Chicago is already well familiar with Jokiharju, who has played on the top pairing for the majority of the season and was second on the Blackhawks in even-strength ice time for defensemen before getting loaned to Finland for the World Juniors. He has 11 assists in 32 games.

A first-round pick (29th overall) in 2017, Jokiharju had four points (two goals, two assists) in five games at last year's tournament and is serving as an alternate captain this year. He's surely to play a big role for Finland, both on the ice and in the leadership department as someone who's become a staple in the NHL at 19 years old.

Philipp Kurashev, F — Switzerland

Kurashev has had a breakout season for the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, leading the team with 43 points (18 goals, 25 assists) in 33 games.

Drafted in the fourth round (120th overall) in 2018, the Blackhawks are hoping Kurashev can take that next step this year and showcase his talents after having three points (one goal, two assists) at last year's tournament.

Ian Mitchell, D — Canada

Mitchell had an unbelievable freshman season at Denver, where he recorded 30 points in 41 games playing alongside current Blackhawks prospect Blake Hillman. And he's certainly elevated his game to another level as "The Guy" on the back end, leading all Denver blue liners with 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 14 games; both of his goals have been game-winners.

This will be Mitchell's first year participating at the Under-20 World Juniors, but he's grown into a leader on and off the ice and is one of three alternate captains for Canada.

Mitchell was drafted in the second round (57th overall) in 2017, and could sign an entry-level deal with the Blackhawks after this season ends.

Brian Campbell on Adam Boqvist's progression and preaching patience in his development

Brian Campbell on Adam Boqvist's progression and preaching patience in his development

The breakout star of Blackhawks development camp in July was undoubtedly Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018. It was evident how much his game has grown over the past year.

Former Blackhawks defenseman — and now player development coach — Brian Campbell worked closely with Boqvist this past season and raved about the steps he took with the London Knights in the OHL. But Campbell is also preaching patience in Boqvist's development. Boqvist just turned 19 on Thursday, and it's important to let him develop at his own pace.

“Yeah, I was impressed," Campbell said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Obviously, he’s come a long way in a year from last development camp. There’s no pressure being put on him. He’ll develop at his time. If he pushes for a spot, great, but I just don’t want people to get away. There’s a lot to keep learning and he wants to learn, which is the greatest thing. His teammates love him: great thing. He wants to do extra and learn the game: great thing. He is preparing himself days before, even in development camp, he’s preparing himself days before. So all great things and he’s on the right path.

"Hopefully that happens and maybe it does happen but if it doesn’t then that’s not the case and he keeps getting better and wants to keep getting better. Definitely, we know his skill level is there and I think he’s taken a huge step in the last year in preparing himself and knowing how to prepare as a pro player now. There’s a lot of great things there, and hopefully he does do that, but for me, I just don’t want to put too much on him right now. He’s turning 19 soon so he’s still a really young kid and it’s a tough position to play at a pro level. Believe me, I’m smiling, but I just don’t want to force the issue too much. Hopefully he can do some great things, but if he doesn’t, then that’s OK too.” 

Drake Caggiula looks back on how he could've played with Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome in OHL

Drake Caggiula looks back on how he could've played with Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome in OHL

Drake Caggiula had a successful college hockey career. He compiled 127 points (62 goals, 65 assists) in 162 career games across four seasons at North Dakota, and served as an alternate captain during his senior year.

But before committing to college, Caggiula was being recruited by the Erie Otters of the OHL and there could've been a moment where he played with Connor McDavid and current teammates Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome all at the same time.

“I remember telling Sherry Bassin, the GM of Erie, how I was going to go to college," Caggiula said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "He kept reiterating that, 'at 16 years old, we’re not going to be that great. But at 17, we’re going to be a little bit better, but not great. But at 18 and 19, those are going to be your big years and we’re going to have a really good team and we’re going to surround you with good players.’ I mean, that’s two years in the future so it’s hard to really see that.

"Looking back at it now, the players that I could have played with, they had some pretty talented players go through Erie. Even Dylan Larkin was an Erie draft pick and ended up going to Michigan. It could have been a pretty talented team there so it’s kind of funny to see how it all works out. We’re all here today coming from different paths so it’s pretty cool.”

Any chirps from the guys about his decision now?

“Yeah, Connor [McDavid] used to make fun of me all the time, you know? ‘Oh, we would have won the Memorial Cup if you would have joined the team!’ and all that sort of stuff," Caggiula joked. "We talk about it a little bit just here and there saying, ‘what a team we could have had and imagine who we would have been playing with and now we’re all here together. What if we all would have started in Erie together and now we’re here together?’ It just would have been a pretty cool story. It’s obviously something that we can’t control but it’s definitely something that you can look back at and laugh at.”

Check out the interview in the video above.

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