Wednesday, August 1, 2012
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The Chicago Blackhawks have a deep group of talented young forward prospects, and are counting on at least a couple of them making the team in October. The leading contenders for regular time in the Windy City are Brandon Saad, who was the sensation of last fall’s training camp before going back to Saginaw to dominate the OHL. The Pittsburgh native also had six points in six games for the U.S. in the WJC before being back in the ‘Hawks lineup for their final two playoff games. Saad lined up with Toews and Kane in the post-season, so you have to believe he will play with at least one of them (or Sharp or Hossa) so he will be playing with talented linemates. Agitator Andrew Shaw hit the weights and bulked up over the summer, which should benefit him tremendously given the agressive style he likes to play. Chicago’s 5th-round pick last summer, Shaw surprised everyone by appearing in 37 games, not to mention the 23 points he put up in those contests. Not expected to be a big scorer, he seemed to have a knack for being around the puck last season and could surprise further. The Blackhawks would like to see huge winger Jimmy Hayes become a regular as well. Hayes is 6’6 and uses his size well, with a good pair of hands. Hayes had nine points in 31 games of limited ice time, but had 23 points in 33 AHL contests with Rockford.
Center Brandon Pirri enjoyed a breakout in his second pro season in Rockford, finishing with 56 points in 66 games. A player with very good offensive instincts, Pirri is close to ready and will be a top six forward in the near future. Jeremy Morin was a sniper in junior, and is starting to show signs of life as a scorer in the AHL. If he can avoid the injury bug he should get a call-up or two. Former first-round pick Mark McNeill regressed slightly last year and could benefit from another season in the WHL. Chicago’s other first-round pick in 2011, Phillip Danault, was an assist machine in the Quebec League last year, and shows great promise. Just 19, Danault won’t be rushed. Phillipe Paradis came over in the Kris Versteeg trade and scored a disappointing five goals in Rockford, but still projects to be a solid two-way player in the future. Former Bosron College star Ben Smith has seen action with the Blackhawks in each of the last two seasons, and is a good depth player who would possibly crack an NHL roster in some organizations. 2012 1st-rounder Teuvo Teravainen will remain in Finland for another year or two before being considered for the main roster. 2008 1st-round pick Kyle Beach is still around, but hasn’t shown signs of becoming an NHL player yet. Time is running out for the big winger.
The Blackhawks will have plenty of good young forwards at the NHL minor and junior levels this, and it will be interesting to watch their development.
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