Every year the draft occurs, people get jacked up about the new crop of hungry young pups, and talk turns to which of these sled dogs will be mushing with the team straight out of camp.

Settle down, people. This year’s draft picks still aren’t weaned yet…

Let’s start with the basics. Camp was scaled down this year, and that was a very smart move. The camp was a lot more focused, there was a lot more opportunity for the coaches to pay attention to a given individual’s skills, and I did see a fair bit of one-on-one and small-group instruction going on.

Additionally, the new format made it much easier for armchair talent scouts and bloggers to identify who is going to cut it, and who isn’t.

I didn’t get to as much of camp as I was hoping to, and from the reports I am seeing elsewhere, I saw the crappiest day of camp. Everyone looked like they had too much iced tea (WINK, WINK) the night before and got into bed a little later than expected.

The other thing to note is, this event is every-man-for-himself. There are very few attempts at teamwork at this camp, because nobody wants to make a weak link spoil their chances to make a good impression. Better to take a stupid chance and put your destiny in your own hands, than hand it over to the guy you just met in the locker room two days ago. Not a good environment to judge how these boys will play in a real team situation.

I tend to be overly-critical of young players, because I compare them to current NHL standards. But hey, that’s what they’re going to be up against, so why grade on a curve? This isn’t Bantam house-league tryouts, it’s the big time. And if you can’t catch a pass on the backhand at speed, you don’t belong here.

I’m going to keep this short, because as it pertains to the Blackhawks’ short-term plans, there isn’t much to tell. With that in mind, here are my observations.


Jimmy Hayes, 22, 6’5″, 233 lbs (est.), acquired from Toronto in 2010: From this group, we will see Jimmy in a Blackhawks uniform the soonest. He is one big kid, and he’s got very good straight-ahead speed. He doesn’t go around defensemen so much as brush them aside on his way through. He’s got a fast shot with a quick release and good placement. His weakness is his maneuverability, particularly at low speed. But make no mistake, this kid is a moose, and he is likely to make a big impression in the NHL.

Kevin Hayes, 19, 6’2″, 210 lbs, drafted 1st round in 2010: First, a correction. If there is one inch in height difference between Kevin and his big brother, I’ll eat my keyboard. When you see them next to each other that’s very obvious. Kevin doesn’t have the speed, the shot, or the smarts that Jimmy has developed… yet. That having been said, we need these two together. There is a telepathy between them when they are on the offensive, and that’s going to pay big dividends down the road.

David Gilbert, 20, 6’2″, 185 lbs, drafted 7th round in 2009: There’s balance here. This may turn out to be one of those gems grabbed in the last round that turn out to be something worthwhile. Hard working, plays bigger than his physical description would suggest. Quick for being as big as he is, and has a terrific view of the ice.

Ludvig Rensfeldt, 19, 6’3″, 192 lbs, drafted 2nd round in 2010: Big boy, coasts too much. Needs urgency in his game. Has exceptional speed, needs to learn to use it.

Rob Flick, 20, 6’2″, 205 lbs, drafted 4th round in 2010: Sizable, serviceable, solid. Developing nicely.

Mark McNeill, 18, 6’1″, 211 lbs, drafted 1st round in 2011: Not this year. Sorry, folks.

Philip Danault, 18, 6’0″, 181 lbs, drafted 1st round in 2011: Even less impressive than McNeill. Several years away.


Joe Lavin, 21, 6’1″, 199 lbs, drafted 5th round in 2007: It’s the do-or-die year for Lavin, and my gut reaction to him from this weekend is, die.

Adam Clendening, 18, 5’11″, 187 lbs, drafted 2nd round in 2011: Defensemen generally take 3 – 5 years to fully mature, so the jury’s still out here. We’ll see what he looks like next year.

Stephen Johns, 19, 6’4″, 221 lbs, drafted 2nd round in 2010: Didn’t stand out as particularly good or bad, which for now is good. Needs more time.

Dylan Olsen, 20, 6’2″, 206 lbs, drafted 1st round in 2009: If we see a good year from him at Rockford this season, he could be seeing call-ups for injury issues on the big club.

I’m not going to waste my time or yours by going over the individual goaltenders at camp. Nobody here will see a Blackhawks uniform. Sorry Heeter fans, he’s gone like a quarter down the sewer grate.

Now as I press on here, remember that these are mostly guys who are not under contract with the Blackhawks. There is an entire roster of players in Rockford who are far more likely to dent the Blackhawks’ lineup than any of these whelps. I’m not going to blow smoke up anybody’s skirt about these kids being the next Patrick Kane — they just aren’t.

So with that thought in mind, who goes where?

Blackhawks Roster straight from camp: Nobody.

Rockford, with the possibility of getting called up: Jimmy Hayes, Dylan Olsen.

Rockford: Rob Flick, David Gilbert, Joe Lavin.

College/Juniors with the possibility of being called up to Rockford in March/April: Kevin Hayes, Mark McNeill.

College/Juniors/Europe and thanks for coming: Ludvig Rensfeldt, Philip Danault, Adam Clendening, Stephen Johns, everyone else I didn’t cover here.

Will any of the invitees get signed to a tryout contract? Doubtful. Steve Moses was the only one that jumped out at me, but at 5’9″ I think everyone realizes he’s not cut out for the NHL.

So, long and short, wait until next year. That’s not bad news, it just means that we have let go of some of our older picks that didn’t work out, and we’re nurturing a new batch. So we’ll feed them well, trim their nails, brush their coats, clean out their cages regularly, take them for walks, and we’ll see them at next year’s event.