It has been well documented that the key to success in the salary cap era is to have a steady and consistent flow of prospects that can step in and contribute. The Hawks have been a successful franchise winning three Stanley Cups recently and the salary cap has taken its toll. It has forced the team to lose key players over the years such as Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Shaw, Brandon Saad to name a few.
However, the Hawks continue to supplement these losses with young and cheap players on entry level contracts that they either draft and develop, or sign as free agents.
Their outstanding scouting and talent evaluation have allowed them to consistently contend for Stanley Cups and more top prospects are on the way.
1. Nick Schmaltz – Right Wing
2015-16: North Dakota (NCAA)
Drafted: 20th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by Chicago
Schmaltz signed his entry level contract which puts an end to his NCAA career. In his sophomore year he posted an impressive 46 points in 37 and leading North Dakota to a NCAA championship on a line with Brock Boeser and Drake Caggiula forming the “CBS line”.
Schmaltz was also a member of Team USA winning the Bronze Medal at the World Junior.
Look for Schmaltz to step right into the Hawks roster and compete for a top-six role on the Toews and Hossa line. Schmaltz could contend for the Calder Trophy.
2. Tyler Motte – Left Wing
2015-16: University of Michigan (NCAA)
Drafted: 121st overall in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by Chicago
Motte is another NCAA star turning pro with Chicago. hE had a breakout year playing for Michigan scoring 32 goals and 56 points in 28 games as a Hobey Baker finalist.
Mott finished the season in the AHL where he played in his first five pro games in Rockford and was solid posting two goals and five points, with another two goals in three playoff games. Following the conclusion of his AHL audition, Motte was added to the USA roster for the World Championship playing at the highest level in his career proving he is NHL ready posting three points in ten games.
Like Schmaltz, Motte will debut in the NHL this year and will challenge for a top-six role and potentially the Rookie of the Year.
3. Michal Kempny – Defence
2015-16: Avangard Omsk (KHL)
Drafted: Signed as a free agent by Chicago in 2016
The Hawks identified their defensive depth as a liability last year and acquired Brian Campbell and Michal Kempny to step in and play an immediate role on the team.
Kempny comes from the KHL where he had a strong season scoring 21 points in 59 games with a plus -18 and was an Alternate Captain for the Czech Republic and posted two points in eight games at the World Championship.
Kempny likely plays in a bottom pairing role with the potential for second unit power play opportunities.
4. Ryan Hartman – Right Wing
2015-16: Rockford (AHL)
Drafted: 30th overall in the first round of the 2013 draft by Chicago
After posting two consecutive seasons in the AHL with over 30 points and 120 penalty minutes, Hartman has shown to be a consistent player at the pro level.
With the departure of Andrew Shaw to Montreal, Hartman is the obvious candidate to fill the role of a bottom-six shift disturber. Hartman has had a couple of cups of coffee already with the Hawks playing a total of eight games with one assist to show for it.
The former first round pick perhaps lacks in top-six offensive upside, but his floor as a pesky checking line winger with offensive upside is just fine. He will compete for a full time roster spot this year.
5. Vincent Hinostroza – Center/Right Wing
2015-16: Rockford (AHL)
Drafted: 169th overall in the sixth round of the 2012 draft by Chicago
The Former Notre Dame star made his pro debut in the AHL last season and as a rookie led the team in scoring with 51 points in 66 games. He was also given a seven game NHL audition but failed to record his first career NHL point.
Following the AHL season, Hinostroza joined Team USA at the World Championship and had an impressive three points in nine games.
The undersized Hinostroza is Johnny Gaudreau small and has to be a prolific offensive force at the NHL level to succeed as he is limited physically in his contributions.
6. Ville Pokka – Defence
2015-16: Rockford (AHL)
Drafted: 34th overall in the second round of the 2012 draft by the New York Islanders
Pokka was the key player acquired in the trade that sent Nick Leddy to the Islanders. Pokka has now had two seasons of development in the AHL with Rockford and has posted 30 and 45 point totals in that time.
Pokka is yet to make his NHL debut, but was a member of Team Finland at the World Championship posting two assists in ten games helping to win the Silver Medal.
With the additions of Campbell and Kempny, his immediate future on the Hawks roster is uncertain, but both of those players are signed to one year deals. Pokka’s long-term competition for NHL playing time likely will come from Gustav Forsling.
7. Gustav Forsling – Defence
2015-16: Linkoping (SHL)
Drafted: 126th overall in the fifth round of the 2014 draft by Vancouver.
The Hawks traded Adam Clendening for prospect Gustav Forsling after Forsling had a breakout performance at the World Juniors with Finland. He had the most goals (3), assists (5) and points (8) for a defenceman in the tournament.
His offensive production in the SHL had been limited until last year where he had a breakout offensive season posting 21 points in 46 games, a 15 point improvement.
Forsling signed his entry level contract with the Hawks in May and will make his North American debut this year, likely in the AHL as he makes the adjustment to the smaller ice. Forsling has solid NHL upside as a puck moving defenceman that can create transition offence with a little more seasoning time.
8. Alex DeBrincat – Right Wing
2015-16: Erie Otters (OHL)
Drafted: 39th overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by Chicago
The Hawks used their first pick in the 2016 draft to select the offensively gifted and undersized DeBrincat early in the second round. DeBrincat has posted back-to-back 50 goal and 100 point seasons in the OHL, but is a gamble based on his size.
The Hawks don’t believe he will ever be a tall player, but do believe that if DeBrincat can add the required strength and develop other areas of his game so he can be an effective pro and NHL level player in the future. There is a lot of raw skill and talent with this prospect, but he is a long term project with significant upside.
9. John Hayden – Center
2015-16: Yale (NCAA)
Drafted: 74th overall in the third round of the 2013 draft by Chicago
The Hawks tried to sign Hayden to his ELC after his breakout season scoring 16 goals and 22 points in 32 games, but Hayden elected to return to Yale for his senior year.
Hayden is a big physical forward that has improved his offensive totals but still projects as a bottom-six forward at the NHL level.
Because he remains unsigned and is entering his fourth year of college hockey, the Hawks run the risk of losing Hayden as a free agent as Jimmy Vesey, and Justin Schultz previously went from college to free agency.
10. Tanner Kero – Center
2015-16: Rockford (AHL)
Drafted: Undrafted, signed as a free agent by Chicago
The Hawks signed Kero out of Michigan after his breakout 46 point season in 41 games in 2015. He made his full time pro debut last year and saw 17 NHL games, but was only able to post one goal and three points.
He played a larger role in the AHL and produced 20 goals and 39 points in 60 games in Rockford, proving his offensive production translates at the pro level.
Kero continues to show development and with the departure of Philip Danault in a trade to Montreal, he jumps up the depth chart in Chicago and could compete for a roster spot this year.