As the Blackhawks push for a secure spot in the postseason, Chicago has received an incredible contribution from rookies.
In fact, looking deeper into the numbers indicates the Hawks have relied on their rookies more than almost any other team in the postseason hunt.
Consider that through Wednesday night's action, only 22 rookies in the NHL have scored five goals this season and three of them - Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes - are Blackhawks.
But the impact runs deeper than three guys scoring a few goals.
When the dust settled from Wednesday night's games, there were 11 teams with a realistic chance at playing in the Western Conference playoffs. Four of those 11 teams are in the Central Division, of course. And each of the 11 teams have been impacted by rookies.
Look at the number of rookies that have played in a game for each of those 11 teams (standings thru Wednesday):
- St. Louis - 2
- Vancouver - 6*
- Dallas - 4
- Detroit - 5
- Nashville - 9
- Chicago - 9
- Phoenix - 5
- Colorado - 7
- San Jose - 2
- Calgary - 6
- Los Angeles - 4
(* - three rookies involved in Vancouver-Buffalo trade at the deadline)
As you can see, only the Nashville Predators have used as many rookies this season as the Blackhawks. But what's more, the Blackhawks have needed more from their rookies.
To date, the Blackhawks have received 162 games from rookies this season. From these 11 teams, only the Preds (218) and Flames (165) have used their rookies in more games than the Hawks this season.
Circling back to the production we mentioned earlier, the Blackhawks have also received significant contributions from their rookies. Hawks rookies have combined to post 47 points (23 goals, 24 assists) this season, with Kruger's 22 points leading the way. Only six of the nine rookies to play for the Hawks this year have a point; Brandon Saad, Brandon Bollig and Jeremy Morin have been held off the score sheet to date.
Again, only two from the list of playoff hopeful teams have been impacted on the stat sheet more than the Blackhawks.
Nashville, led by Craig Smith's 33 points, have seen their rookies add 76 points. The Avs are the other team with more rookie points than the Hawks this year, with Gabriel Landeskog's 46 points leading a rookie class in Colorado that has produced 67 total points.
When you consider these number for the Blackhawks do not include the production from 20-year-old defenseman Nick Leddy (31 points in 71 games), the youth being employed in Chicago this season has been impressive and among the best in the Western Conference.
The amount the Hawks have needed rookies might give some fans a moment of pause when considering the 2012 postseason, but that concern should be coupled with intrigue at what future seasons may bring.