It was just over a year ago that Blake Hillman was part of a mass exodus from the University of Denver, signing his two-year entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks after three seasons at the school. Hillman had just recorded 12 points in 41 games as a junior, and jumped immediately to the NHL to play four games down the stretch. He even scored in his second ever professional game, and logged more than 20 minutes of ice time for the Blackhawks in the last game of the 2017-18 season.
He spent last season with the Rockford IceHogs, suiting up 54 times for the AHL club and recording four points. The 23-year old defenseman was obviously not able to create much offense, but perhaps he could still develop into a legitimate option in his own zone. Unfortunately the Blackhawks didn’t feel strongly about that possibility and decided not to issue him a qualifying offer, leaving him an unrestricted free agent. He hasn’t been able to find another opportunity in the NHL or even the AHL, and has signed on with the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL for the 2019-20 season.
It’s an unfortunate fall for a player who looked like an up-and-coming prospect out of college, but perhaps it will give him the ice time and confidence to secure another contract down the road. Still just 23, he already has more NHL action under his belt than most of his competition this season.