Just a week after signing NCAA star Dylan Sikura, the Chicago Blackhawks are expected to sign another NCAA star in Blake Hillman once his season with the University of Denver is over. This according to a report from The Athletic’s Scott Powers:
Powers reports that the 22 year old defenseman has made “astronomical strides” at Denver this year and is a big part of the reason why his team has a chance to claim back to back national championships.
Blackhawks fans may remember that Hillman was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA West just prior to being drafted by the team in the sixth round (173rd overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. This season the Elk River, MN native has put up three goals and 12 points in 37 games while patrolling Denver’s blue line.
“I just feel confident in myself and I feel confident that I can separate people from the puck now unlike maybe freshman year where I was going against older and heavier guys,” said Hillman, who is 6-foot-1 and a left-handed shot. “I only weighed 180 pounds, but now I’m playing at a consistent 195. I feel strong. I feel like I can separate people from the puck easier.”
That’s good news for the Blackhawks moving forward. And because Hillman isn’t some fresh-faced 18 year old rookie, but rather a more mature 22 year old with three years of NCAA seasoning under his belt, it’s not out of the question to consider him an option on the Blackhawks’ blue line in 2018-19.
As for the aforementioned Sikura, the former 6th round pick (178th overall) of the Hawks from the 2014 NHL Entry Draft signed his entry level deal last week. The native of Aurora, Ontario has had a stellar college career with Northeastern. The 22-year-old forward has 17 goals and 48 points in 31 games this season, following up on his remarkable 21 goal, 57 point season from a year ago.
DobberProspects.com’s Tony Carr projects the 6’0”, 165 lb Sikura to be a bottom-six forward in the NHL with some offensive upside. He’ll need to add some muscle and bulk to his 6 foot frame, but once he does he could become the Hawks’ next version of Andrew Shaw or David Bolland.
With the Hawks clearly out of the playoff picture, the team would be smart to audition some of their younger players, including Sikura. Established youngsters like Alex DeBrincat, Vinnie Hinostroza and Matthew Highmore should continue to see some ice time, but don’t be surprised if John Hayden, Nathan Noel and the recently acquired Victor Ejdsell see some action, as well.