With the recent signings of Blackhawks prospects Byron Froese and David Gilbert, an introduction to the rest of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) prospects is in order. For those of you who aren’t familiar the Canadian Hockey League, it’s composed of three different leagues across Canada and the US: the Western Hockey League (WHL), the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
The Western Hockey League, with which I am most familiar, is made up of 22 teams located in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba in Canada; and Washington and Oregon in the US. The Blackhawks have three current prospects in the WHL: Froese of the Red Deer Rebels, drafted in the 4th round (119th overall) in 2009; Kent Simpson of the Everett Silvertips, drafted in the 3rd round (58th overall) in 2010; and Mac Carruth of the Portland Winterhawks, drafted in the 7th round (191st overall) in 2010.
The Ontario Hockey League is made up of 20 teams located in Ontario, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The sole Blackhawks prospect in the OHL is Rob Flick of the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, drafted in the 4th round (120th overall) in 2010.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is made up 17 teams located in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. There are three Blackhawks prospects currently in the QMJHL: David Gilbert of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, drafted in the 7th round (209th overall) in 2009; Philippe Paradis of the P.E.I Rocket, drafted by the Hurricanes in the 1st round (27th overall) in 2009 (he was acquired in the trade from Toronto involving Kris Versteeg); and Mirko Hoefflin of the Quebec Remparts, drafted in the 6th round (151st overall) in 2010.
Flick and the Majors were ranked all 26 weeks of the CHL Top 10 poll, the only OHL team to do so, and the only other team to match that feat were the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades. They ended their season on top of the OHL with a final record of 53 wins, 13 losses and 2 shootout losses. To match a stellar season by his team, Flick, who served as an alternate captain, had success of his own with 57 points, 27 goals and 30 assists in 68 games — a 23 point increase from the previous season’s 34 points (15 goals, 19 assists) in 65 games. While his penalty minutes also increased from 157 to 167, the stat that most jumps out is the improvement of his plus minus rating of Â +2 to +28.
Flickâ€™s success carried over to the playoffs as he posted eight goals and eight assists in 20 games. The Majors swept the Belleville Bulls and Sudbury Wolves and then dispatched the Niagara IceDogs in five games. Sadly, they fell to the Owen Sound Attack in seven games for the OHL title.
The Majors were then selected as hosts of the Memorial Cup, a four-team tournament featuring the champions of the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL, as well as the host cityâ€™s team. The tournament determines the champion of the CHL. It consists of round-robin play, with every team playing each other once. The team that finishes in first place gets a bye into the final game. Meanwhile, the second and third place teams play in a semi-final game. If teams are tied for third place, a tie-breaker game is played before the semi-final.
Flick and the Majors dropped their opening game to the QMJHL champion Saint John Sea Dogs 4-3, but posted wins over the WHL champion Kootenay Ice, and a 3-1 score over Owen Sound in a bit of revenge. This loss would send Owen Sound to the tie breaker for third place, which led to their eventual elimination at the hands of the Kootenay Ice. Meanwhile, the Majors ended their round robin play with a record of 2-1, good enough for second place in the tournament.
Flickâ€™s standout game was against the Ice in the round robin. He posted a goal, an assist, and four PIMs. For the Majorsâ€™ first goal, Flick was a force to be reckoned with on a strong drive to the net that Kings prospect Maxium Kitsyn finished off. He later scored the game-winning goal just over halfway through the third period with a similar strong drive that he finished himself. Highlights of that game and both goals can be found here, while the highlights of the game against the Attack featuring Flick’s top-shelf, game-winning goal are here.
After defeating the Kootenay Ice 3-1 in the semi-final, another heartbreak on home ice awaited the Majors in the Memorial Cup final. They fell 3-1 to the Sea Dogs, who were ranked number one in the CHL for a majority of the season. Flick ended the tournament with three points (two goals, one assist), a +3, and 12 PIM in five games.
From what I saw of Flick in the Memorial Cup, he is the type of player who has speed, strength and plays right on the edge. To compare him to another Blackhawks prospect, he reminded me of a smarter version of Kyle Beach — he plays on the edge without going over as much as Beach does. However, my observations are only based on Memorial Cup games and not his entire season.
Flick appears to be that type of physical, hardworking, checking depth forward with a scoring touch I would love to see on the Blackhawks. He plays a physical game, which was largely missing from the Blackhawks last season. Simply put, I liked what I saw, and he definitely won me over. Next season, the 20-year old will enter his last year of junior eligibility, which he could forgo to play in Rockford. This seems likely, pending Flick and the Blackhawks agreeing to terms.