With 4 games gone, we have had a decent look at the youth within the Blackhawks organization. Some more than others, but all around, the prospects are painting a very optimistic picture for this fan. It isn't winning or losing at this point, but what some of the individual efforts look like, especially from the new kids. Here is what I noticed:
Ben Smith- If you weren't sure about his chances to make the team as a regular fixture, you should be now. Not just his gift for finding the net, Smith has shown an all around game that should have him as a sure thing at this point. He might not be the fastest skater, but he does seem to have gained a step from before; Smith has sense about him that makes up for any lack of speed. Gritty, smart, and a quick stick, look for Smith to try and fill the big shoes left in Frolik's absence. I don't know if this is just me, but I see a certain Blackhawk in him who used to wear the same number some time ago.
Adam Clendening- This kid is going to get a lot of looks throughout the season. I can't say enough about what I saw on a consistent basis from this guy's hockey sense, wheels, and grit. I wish he was just a little bigger, but he does seem to play larger than his frame would suggest. If he was bigger I think Leddy would have had a run for his money by the end of the season. Great on the rush and as a QB for the power-play.
Teuvo Teravainen- Will be in the NHL very soon! At only 19 years of age, he is actually slightly older than Kane when he was pulled up. If the Hawks were desperate, Teuvo would probably be pulled up as well. For now, I wouldn't mind seeing him grow a little more in the minors, but if things get rough for the Hawks down the line, we might see Teuvo up at center. He is as gifted as Kaner is, but I see more from him defensively. Playing the center role well, Teuvo is where he needs to be in the defensive end, and on rushes. I saw him make a couple of great plays behind our own net, bumping much larger opponents off the puck, and his dazzling hands put on quite a show in his 2 games up.
While on that center position stuff, we still have yet to see Pirri up, and we got 2 looks at Saad as a center. I can't say that my mind is not racing with questions about why Pirri hasn't been given his time yet, but I sure hope it is coming soon. Could it be that Pirri is already on Q's shit list? Injury?
Saad looked really good in his glimpses. He has control of the ice and will be a more dominant player this season. But, I did not see the 2nd line center in him. He is not going to do much in the face-off category, and he was moving throughout the ice like a winger. I'm telling you, it would take away from his gifts to make him play center. I want him on the forecheck, and streaking up the sides, not as QB on the rush, though he has skill there.
Moving on, Toews' shootout goal against the Caps was sick!
Antti Raanta- Yes, he gave up 4 goals against a much more skilled Caps team that had their giants playing against our kids. 3 of the goals were mostly out of reach, and I thought he still made great attempts at those. It was just so pleasing to watch a goalie who knows how to move in his crease and looks confident on his skates. He follows and attacks the puck extremely well, and plays the puck with ease (which is something missing currently). I like what I see, and it is too early to say anything else.
Dylan Olsen- A little bigger than some of the other prospects on the defensive end, I was pleasantly surprised with what we have seen this camp from Olsen. He is making a good case for himself.
Jimmy Hayes- Definitely no stranger around here, the towering forward made a pretty darn good case as well for his existence in the line-up fairly often. The problem for me is that he just doesn't seem to be consistent. Great play here, invisible there. His hands, reach and speed are ever promising, I just wish he would play the body more often. If he hit more, he would be playing more. There is some magic here.
Jeremy Morin- Had some great moments as well, but with a little more consistency and fight to his game. I don't know, if it came down to Hayes or Morin, I think Morin's hockey sense and grit get him the job. A much superior passer, Morin sees the ice well, and has a tendency to burst out of nowhere.
Some names that might not have been in the conversation that impressed me were:
Byron Froese- I liked this kid a lot. A center's center, Froese was strong at the dot, and wonderfully positioned throughout his time on the ice. This rewarded him with 2 goals scored from in front of the net, which we all like to see. It was a combination of seeing all the little things done well, with what looked like a strong foundation of talent that has me excited about his chances. Is this the center we have been looking for?
Joakim Nordstrom- Is another name that stood out for me. Very strong speed, and a grit we all want to see, Nordstrom went to the hard areas of the ice on a consistent basis, and proved to be a bit much for defenders at times.
To be fair, I didn't see the first game. What I know was second hand information, and I was working while watching the last game. Still, it wouldn't take much watching to know that the Hawks have a strong and deep prospect roster. On top of it, they have a lot of what we are looking for, filling the roles that we had been without. Very, very promising for the future.
Filed under: View from the Bench