You really have to tip your hat to the Hawks the way they have managed their roster around the salary cap. You can’t argue with success and the Hawks have three Stanley Cup Banners hanging inside the United Center. The team core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Corey Crawford combine for almost $40 Million and over half of the entire cap budget.
This has forced the team to walk away from talent in need of a raise and turn to more affordable players on their Entry Level Contract. This constant need to supplement the roster with cheap affordable youth means the scouts have their work cut out for them.
What makes the Hawks success even more impressive is the fact they traded away their first round picks from 2015 and 2016, and yet they still are able to find players that can step into the roster and have an impact.
Off Season Transactions
Once again the cap has forced turnover on the roster. Gone are sniper Artemi Panarin, Brian Campbell, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and goalie Scott Darling to name a few. While the Hawks brought back some familiar faces in veterans Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad there are openings for some young players to seize a roster spot.
The first player added was 27-year-old free agent Jan Rutta, an offensive defenseman from the Czech Republic. It’s difficult to call Rutta a prospect at 27, but he is new to the NHL and posted some pretty solid numbers last year. He has a strong shot at making the Hawks roster and having a fantasy impact. Put him on your watch list.
Sticking to prospect transactions, the Hawks acquired Anton Forsberg as the backup replacement. The Hawks also added goalie J-F Berube as a free agent. The pair will compete for starts behind Crawford, both are still young in goalie terms and with no pressure coming from the prospect pipeline one of them could be the long term replacement in time, but which one?
Laurent Dauphin was acquired from Arizona, who have a bevy of offensive prospects and Dauphin, a 2013 second round pick was falling down the Coyotes depth chart and in need of a fresh start.
Another free agent acquisition was Jordan Oesterle, a prospect I really like and I see as a modern day NHL style defenseman. He is a terrific skater and can carry the puck up the ice in transition.
Going a little far back to early March, the Hawks signed free agent Matthew Highmore, an undrafted free agent out of the QMJHL. Highmore had a banner fourth year with the Saint John Sea Dogs posting 89 points and going all the way to the Memorial Cup. Highmore is a speed demon and plays a two-way game. His elite offensive production may not fully translate to the NHL, but he should be a reliable bottom six option with good peripheral stats.
Alex DeBrincat, LW
The super sniper just posted three consecutive 50 goal seasons in the OHL, a feat not equalled in 40 years! Steven Stamkos, Eric Lindros, John Tavares, not even Patrick Kane could achieve the 50 goal plateau three times. Now taking his prolific goal scoring prowess to the pro level, DeBrincat will be given every opportunity to make the NHL.
John Hayden, C/LW
Few prospects had as significant a rise as Hayden did last year. In his senior year at Yale as Captain, Hayden posted over a point per game offensive production. Upon completion of his academic career Hayden quickly signed his ELC and suited up for the final 12 NHL regular season games posting four points. He has great size, can skate, is a versatile forward and has some finish.
Luc Snuggerud, D
In his junior NCAA year with University of Nebraska-Omaha Snuggerud was named a Second Team All-Star and posted a career year of 31 points in 39 games. The offensive defenseman also signed his pro contract at the end of the year, leaving college one year early and scored five points in 13 regular season games in the AHL to finish the season.
Dylan Sikura, C
It’s hard not to make this list when you get a Hobey Baker Award nomination. Sikura had a breakout season with North Eastern posting 57 points in 38 games. Sikura is returning for his senior year in the NCAA.
Kyle Baun, RW
His first pro season in 2015-16 was a disaster. After starting the season with the Hawks, an injury had him on the sidelines and when he returned he was assigned to the AHL where in 43 games he produced just one goal and nine points. Last year was a bit of a bounce back season in the AHL, staying healthy he posted 34 points in 74 games but didn’t get a sniff of NHL ice.
Erik Gustafsson, D
It’s a good sign he was resigned to a one year deal this offseason, but his window to break the NHL roster is closing. After signing with the Hawks in 2015 he played in 41 regular season games in the NHL. Last year he spent the entire season in the AHL, and while he posted decent numbers (30 points in 68 games) he seems to be being overpassed by other prospects.
Viktor Svedberg, D
Like Gustafsson, Svedberg was signed as a free agent, and in four years in the organization, all but 27 games have come at the AHL level. Another prospect that is being surpassed by other players
The wait time may not be over on these players for your fantasy roster, but they are now playing at the pro level and could at any time be called up to the NHL if they don’t make the team out of training camp.
Breaking Full Time NHL players
A.K.A graduates, some of these players may already be considered full time NHL players.
Coming to America
Organizational Prospect Depth Chart
Top Ten Prospects
1. Alex DeBrincat
2. John hayden
3, Henri Jokiharju
4. Luc Snuggerud
5. Graham Knott
6. Jan Rutta
7. Gustav Forsling
8. Chad Krys
9. Anton Forsberg
10. Dylan Sikura