Chicago, IL — A lot has gone wrong with the Chicago Blackhawks this year and when that happens one is usually compelled to look back to try to find what exactly went wrong.
Well I have never been usual I am looking forward because honestly I need time to digest everything that went wrong and come up with some solutions.
So for now I will be looking ahead and not just for the Blackhawks but for their competition in the Central as well.
I will be looking at all the teams currently in the Central but wanted to start for now with the Hawks and it just so happens they are first up alphabetically by City as well. So my next look will be at the Colorado Avalanche.
I think it is important to not only know they self but to understand your opponents and their strengths especially in the hardest division in the NHL. This division will only be getting harder with an influx of new skilled talents for all the teams.
Below is a chart showing for the past five years who the Hawks have drafted and where. The Bolded names means those players have or currently are playing with the Chicago Blackhawks and the rounds in which they were selected.
||Knott – F
||Krys – D
||Gilbert – D
||Barrett – F
||Soderlund – F
||Shea – D
||Laavainen – D
||Noel – F
||Foo – F
||Bondra – F
||Louis – F
||Nalimov – G
||Ryczek – D
We can see the importance of first round draft picks as all of them have played for the Hawks. I did not go back to 2012 but there was one Teuvo Teravainen (long sigh) who is currently a force with the Carolina Hurricanes.
He actually helped the Hawks win a Cup in 2015. Also in that year Vinny Hinostroza was drafted in the sixth round and he has been a spark plug this year for the team and will be a part of not only their future but their rise again to the top of the division.
It is the likes of Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz, Vinny Hinostroza, David Kampf and others that will lead the charge.
Not that the core of this team is washed up but long-term it will be the kids that will determine the Hawks future that’s just the reality of it.
Even ones who are not on the team yet like Henri Jokiharju and recent sign ups like Denver U’s Blake Hillman and Northeastern’s Dylan Sikura. I did not highlight them above as five games is not enough games they are just getting their skates wet.
The other interesting thing is where the Hawks have drafted from in the first rounds namely Finnish teams Jokerit for Teravainen before the team went to the KHL or US NCAA University North Dakota for Schmaltz and the OHL Plymouth Whalers for Ryan Hartman.
The Hawks certainly like their Finns, Swedes, Canadians and Americans there is no denying that.
The Hawks have also taken players from Denmark, Russia and Czech Republic so the Hawks will find you if you have the potential no matter where you are.
Keep in mind also the Blackhawks were drafting very late in the first rounds that is the tradeoff for success. Hartman was indeed drafted dead last in the first round.
Speaking of Hartman we will have to see how Victor Ejdsell works out as basically he should be substituted in that Hartman slot since the trade.
Keep in mind he is coming from SHL and big ice so give the guy some time esp on the D side.
The Hawks though put him right on the first line of fire with Kane and Saad centering them no less and I think that is a great move. They need to determine how these new players will fit in the current roster and how their games translate or where they need coaching.
I look for Sikura to get a baptism under fire as well which is great for the team and these players development. But fans patience please they will make mistakes, I would be shocked if they didn’t and that is ok do it now in meaningless games and learn and move on.
It is also obvious a lack of number 1 in 2016 & 2015 could be impactful set back to the Hawks if not for the gift from the hockey Gods in 2016 landing Alex DeBrincat in the 2nd round. Thanks to the rest of the teams being afraid of lack of size Chicago will be glad for years to come.
This year with the team having a horrendous year one of the bright spots is having a high draft round pick in 2018 and possibly a draft lottery bonanza, not that that is what the Hawks or their fans wanted but hey at this point take any positives.
As we will see more from viewing other teams in the Central high draft picks can turn an organization around you just need to look at the Avs, Jets and Stars and in a way it was inevitable that the Hawks would take a back step considering where they were drafting from as opposed to the rest of the division.
No excuses that is how it is for all the teams but the Hawks have to their credit realized what has happened and are taking steps in the right direction to address this.
This past weekend I watched a lot of NCAA Hockey while others were watching basketball, I said I was unusual and I did see Sikura, Hillman, Mitchell, Shea, Krys, Gilbert and Starrett.
Believe it or not also got a chance to catch a SHL game and caught forward Tim Söderlund of Skellefteå AIK , Oh my not sure how his game translates to NHL but I liked what I saw what a dynamo. If he turns out to be another Arvidsson look out.
But back to the NCAA prospects Sikura has a ton of skill and could turn out to be a difference maker. Like all young players the Dzone is where the kids need to work and improve.
Remember even DeBrincat had to work on that and still could improve even with how great he is in O zone. No one said NHL was easy if it was it wouldn’t be as great a game.
Hillman, Shea, Krys and Gilbert are all D man and Hawks fans have patience help is coming but remember defense takes a while to develop you don’t want to rush it. Forwards you can push quicker but D takes time to bake. I liked what I did see though they all are puck moving and pretty solid in their own end.
Let’s face past years the Hawks biggest struggles were defensive leaving the goalie on an island. I’m not saying this is all defenseman’s fault forwards are guility as well but I do think the Hawks defense needed to get younger, faster and more mobile and better skating abilities to keep up with the likes of the Laines, McKinnons, Seguins ect..
Also on the defensive side Finnish defensive prospect Joni Tuulola on Monday was signed by the Hawks. 22-year-old Tuulola will report to AHL Rockford so he can get acclimated to the smaller ice.
I have a feeling that next year Jokiharju will be joining the Hawks and yes I know I said D men take longer but I love this kids attitude he left his native Finland to come to the WHL Portland WinterHawks to learn North American hockey. Now if that doesn’t say I want to be an NHLer I don’t know what does. If he spends time in the AHL I doubt it will be for long.
The scouting report of Jokiharju is he has been described as “the new age defenseman who has good feet, stick, and high skill in playing the game at the fastest pace.” Sounds perfect to me.
Now again the jump to the NHL is huge they have never faced players this fast or skilled so give them time and again they will make mistakes. Hillman is signed on with the Hawks so we will get to see him along with Sikura and Ejdsell and I would suggest if you are interested at all in the Hawks future to take in these games if you can.
I also think for the forwards getting a chance to work with Patrick Kane invaluable so I hope they can take advantage and as Dylan Sikura said in an interview just be a sponge – smart guy.
Now back to the European circuit I have to admit I have not seen any of the players there too much. I would say the Russian players need more seasoning and not even sure if they are wanting to come here which is why the hesitation with drafting Russian players so we will have to see on them.
Mathis From from Denmark is playing the SHL and I am really anxious to see what he can do here. He is a solid two-way player that pays as much attention to back checking and transitioning to the offense from defense but not sure if he will be coming over either. He is what I would call a true power forward in the making but he needs time probably in AHL to adjust to small ice.
I think another blessing is that these last games are great since they are better than a training camp these younglings are getting to play in real NHL games against divisional foes who have everything to play for as they are all in playoff hunts or need to keep getting points.
So the kids will see the competitive side and how strong you have to be. I say get as many youths in now and so they see what this NHL is all about and also to coach them up if need.
So see Blackhawks nation it is not all doom and gloom. There is exciting times ahead but there is a lot of work on the youths part and the coaches will have to be patient and positively guide.
Fans patience, patience and more patience.