Blackhawks Development Camp – Hockey East Style
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By Eric Donnellan HockeyEast/ECAC Editor July 21, 2012
GM Stan Bowman, under the direction of owner Rocky Wirtz, has restored the Chicago
Blackhawks’ “Original Six” brand that was missing in the Windy City for so many years under the
maligned Bill Wirtz. In doing so, the organization has put in place a player development model
that has seemingly filled the Hawks feeder system in Rockford with a bevy of talented, high
character young hockey players.
One could argue that the Hawks affinity for mature, NCAA groomed hockey players has been
the basis for this well-oiled player development machine. Look no further than team captain,
Jonathan Toews (North Dakota) or his high scoring counterpart, Patrick Sharp (University of
Vermont) and you’ll see why Bowman continues to seek out college hockey prospects.
In attending the Blackhawks 2012 Development Camp and following the Hawks NHL entry
drafts for the past few years, it is explicitly clear that the Chicago brass feel that the NCAA
provides the best avenue for the maturation of its young human capital. There were no less
than 30 skaters who came from an NCAA programs on the ice for the development camp -
and that doesn’t include kids like Chris Calnan (committed to Boston college ’13) or Vinnie
Hinostroza (committed to Notre Dame) who are college-bound commitments.
There were a number of interesting story lines emanating from the 2012 Blackhawks
Development camp that took place last week at Johnnies Ice House on Chicago’s west side.
One that garnered most of the attention was the rink chatter surrounding the familial ties of
Blackhawks 2nd round draft pick, Calnan (Norwell, Ma – Nobles + Greenough HS) whose
uncle just so happens to be Chicago icon Jeremy Roenick. As if expectations weren’t high grand
enough for the 6-2 190 lb. 2012 3rd round draft pick, because of his pedigree, Calnan must now
live up to the lofty expectations of one Jeremy Roenick – and in Chicago nonetheless.
Focus on Boston area prospects
A specific focus for the Chicago scouting team seems to be tied to Boston area prospects and
more specifically, Boston College groomed players. This is a testament to the great program
Jerry York has built in Chestnut Hill and the character of players he produces. The 2012 camp
featured 3 players with ties to the BC program - Kevin Hayes, Calnan and Pat Mullane.
They join current Blackhawks organization players Jimmy Hayes and Ben Smith in what appears
to be a Chestnut Hill fraternity club in Chicago.
There was a strong contingent of other Hockey East players (including committed players
and recent graduates) who were invited to the Hawks camp last week as well. In addition to
the aforementioned BC triumvirate, Adam Clendening (Boston University), Michael Paliotta
(Vermont), and Mark Nemec (Maine) were all camp participants looking to make in impact.
The first several days of camp featured skill sessions, power skating and your basic hockey
drills. It was unique to witness such an elite group of talented young men in such an innocuous
setting; especially the cozy vantage points that made you feel as though you were watching a
beer league game.
What I gleaned from the week’s action as it relates to the players with Hockey East ties:
Sorry BC fans, but Adam Clendening was the most NHL ready HEA player in camp. Minus
Brandon Saad, the 20 year old Wheatfield, NY native (2011 2nd round pick 36th overall)
was the most poised veteran like presence on the ice. I thought Clendening coasted
through the first few days of drills and power skating but really shined once the puck
was dropped for scrimmages. He was a calming defensive presence who took control of
the scrimmages. Clendening even caught the eye of Stan Bowman, who had this to say to
Blackhawks TV about the former BU Terrier:
“[Clendening] is probably the one [prospect] defenseman who has the most potential to
make a jump. It’s good for him to look at this year as a learning year, but also one he can
make an impact for us,” said Bowman.
The former BU Terrier standout spoke of the importance of making an impression in the
development camp in an interview with Blackhawks TV. One would expect Clendening
to start the year in Rockford and be one of the first call ups to Chicago should a
defenseman go down. This scenario is very similar to the path Jimmy Hayes (Boston
College – Dorchester, MA) took last year.
Kevin Hayes (Boston College – Dorchester, MA), younger brother of current Hawk Jimmy
Hayes, was one of the most highly-touted Hawks prospects at the development camp.
I thought Hayes skating ability stood out in the power skating and drills portion of the
camp – he somewhat reminds me of a Bob Sweeney type. During the scrimmages at
the end of the week, Hayes lined up with Calnan and Saad. I thought he
saw the ice well and made some nice passes. At times I felt he played too passive and
his moves in the offensive zone were slow to develop – he was broken up several times
before getting his shot off. The Chicago Sun Times had a good article on the familiar
paths of Hayes and his development camp roommate, Calnan.
Calnan plays a physical game so watching him conduct the skating drills didn’t
convey his true talents. I thought Calnan more than held his own and certainly exuded
enough confidence to be mic’d up for the last day of camp. He seemed to work all
the dirty areas of the ice well and was a force in front of the net. The Norwell native
had some familiar faces to play with as he was slotted on the same White Team line
as fellow Nobles and BC product, Kevin Hayes. Calnan should look to his other camp
linemate, Saad – same type of power forward type of player – to emulate his
game for the future as the young 18 year old continues his development. Calnan, who
could have gone to Harvard, seems to have all of the intangibles and leadership qualities
that will make him a successful player at the next level.
Pat Mullane came to camp as an invitee and like he has done throughout his young
hockey career, he played with something to prove. Mullane has been a winner ever
since his days at Avon Old Farms and the 5-11 190 lb Wallingford, CT native showed
off his speed and high hockey IQ. Mullane used his excellent speed to create several
opportunities throughout the week and seems to have a nose for the net.
Mullane heads back to the Heights for his final season and has been named captain of the 2012-
2013 BC Eagles by coach Jerry York.
Maine’s Mark Nemec was one of the most physical forces on the ice at Friday’s
scrimmage. He used his entire 6’4” frame to his advantage and although he was only an
invitee, I thougth he did a nice job at camp.
Michael Paliotta (70th overall pick in 2011) from the University of Vermont played well
amongst the rumors swirling that he was leaving UVM for the CHL. Paliotta is a raw
talent who has a USTD pedigree and is slated to attend the US Junior evaluation camp
this summer. Paliotta didn’t do anything to hurt his professional chances at the camp
but didn’t stand out in any way either. His game is not flashy and he will need to put on
a few pounds to develop his game and take it to the next level.
At the conclusion of the camp, the Blackhawk’s website consolidated all of the prospect
goodbye tweets. In reading the tweets, a few things were evident – 1) everyone definitely
enjoyed their week in the Windy City. Chicago in the summertime is one of the truly great
places in America. 2) All of the Hockey East kids seemed to congregate towards one another
and hung out all week.
Some Development Camp YouTube Highlights:
Day 5 Recap:
Day 2 Recap with some great footage on Chris Calnan:
All in all, a fantastic week of hockey for the players and fans alike.