Chicago, IL — We are only three weeks away from training camp so it is time to talk hockey again, specifically NHL Chicago Blackhawks hockey. Speaking personally I have never been more ready for this season to begin.
In fact it is rare that I focus on the next year when my team is in the middle of trying to win another Stanley Cup. That scenario though is exactly what happened when the Blackhawks announced back in spring, they had signed Artemi Panarin from the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg team.
I could hardly contain myself, was I reading the reports right? Was I in a Hawkey fantasy land? Was I just wishful thinking? Was this for real?
For those Blackhawks fans that follow religiously the IIHF World Juniors, Artemi Panarin is a name they should be very familiar with and we all know the skill and potential that he brings.
Yes I know it was on larger ice however, there are certain skills that translate like vision, stickhandling & scoring I. Q.
Panarin posses all of these. Sure there will be an adjustment period but, given Panarin is experienced and has played on the highest international stages you would have to think he will be able to master the NHL transition better than say a 20 year old.
Panarin’s biggest challenge will be the pace and lack of space one is given in the NHL. Give him time he’ll figure it out like another young European prospect Teuvo Teravainen.
As Hawks fans we saw with Teuvo him develop right before our eyes in the playoffs and he only got better as the playoffs went along. Panarin like Teravainen has a high hockey intelligence and will make adjustments when needed.
Panarin will also need to be mindful of the defensive zone but as a winger his responsibilities will be less than if he was a center. My understanding is Panarin will definitely be slotted as a winger not a center which, I think is best at least to begin with.
Teravainen may in fact be moved to center which, I guess we will find out come training camp. Teravainen certainly has played that position before and has at Blackhawks prospect camps in the past so it is not something he will be unfamiliar with. His two way game is overshadowed by his high end offense.
Also coming from the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg team is countryman Viktor Tikhonov a former Arizona Coyotes prospect that was drafted in 2008 28th overall. He was passed on his first two times of eligibility like Andrew Shaw and we see how that turned out.
Viktor is another winger but brings with him size. He may not crack the lineup on a regular basis we will have to see how this goes but he has a better opportunity with the Blackhawks than he did with Coyotes. He will certainly be given every opportunity to make the line-up.
Nothing against the developement and training staff in Arizona but the Blackhawks staff is the best in the business and will work with Viktor if there are any short comings and the Hawks will know how and when to utilize Tikhonov’s skills.
For those that attended this past Blackhawks convention or were able to catch it on the Hawks website or via steaming when it was live Viktor is seemingly a very thoughtful, charming young man who will have no trouble making the transition to the western life and language as he has lived in the United States before so his concentration can just be on the ice and adapting to the NHL.
Viktor probably needs to concentrate on his skating and speed to stay in the Hawks lineup. Let’s face it, the Hawks are a team built on these two skills so to have good speed, doesn’t need to be blinding, and being strong on your skates will go along way to keep you in the Hawks lineup.
Tikhonov is more of a two-way player which should serve him well as we all know coach Q loves you to be defensively responsible in your own end. On the Blackhawks he doesn’t necessarily need to be an offensive dynamo which is a huge difference from the Coyotes.
While it was a surprise that Brandon Saad will no longer be in a Blackhawks uniform it was amazing who Stan Bowman was able to get back in return.
Artem Anisimov and Marko Dano came to the Hawks in the Saad trade and if things project out as expected Bowman was able to secure a 2nd line Center in Anisimov who is younger than Brad Richards with more miles left on the tires and is a better two-way forward.
Stan Bowman thinks Anisimov is the answer at 2nd line center otherwise he would not have given him an extension for five years. Anisimov is an excellent two-way hockey player.
He has struggled at times with consistency but on the Hawks that may not be an issue given the talent surrounding him. His offensive potential may be ignited particularly if he has Panarin and hopefully Patrick Kane on either side. Woo buddy look out he may reach his offensive potential.
The hidden gem in this deal was Marko Dano who was basically the Columbus Blue Jackets Teuvo Teravainen. Dano is offensively talented with a shot that makes him a lethal scorer maybe a better scoring threat than Brandon Saad. Dano is also a very good skater.
Dano needs to work on his two-way game but let’s not forget Saad become a solid two-way player due to his linemates of Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews and it’s already been well documented Dano is set to learn and clone from Hossa his countryman.
If, and that’s a big if, Dano can crack that first line he will be in a perfect position to improve his two-way game and learn from two of the best all around hockey players in the world in 19 & 81. If he can do this night in and night out he’ll learn fast.
While most of the Hawks new forward additions are more offensively inclined and people worry about two-way play suffering lets not forget the Hawks still have some pretty solid defenseman like Keith, Seabrook & Hjalmarsson.
You remember the three that anchored that defense to a third Cup and couldn’t possibly sustain all that playing time and physical punishment.
Yeah those guys will be back. Oh that goalie no one ever respects who just keeps racking up Jennings trophys and Stanley Cup Championships, Yeah that’s right Chicago, Corey Crawford will be back as well.
Honestly the transition will be the hardest for Panarin coming from a different ice surface, culture with language obstacles and cultural differences but Panarin has stated he wants to push himself both on and off the ice.
Will this be a challenge and change for sure but, he is coming to a city that is so diverse and has something to offer for everyone to enjoy and partake in and on the ice..
He is coming to a team that has the best players in the world to watch and learn from and hopefully they can learn from Panarin & Tikhonov as well who come in bringing a fresh, new insight to the game.
My only suggestion for all the offensive players mind your two-way game and your play along the boards as wingers be strong on the puck with no turnovers and get to the oppositions front of the net/slot area and pick up garbage and you’ll be fine.
Now there are other new players to the Hawks as well from Dallas, free agent signings and NCAA prospects but this blog was just focused on the international changes in another blog I will discuss those.
The Hawks have gotten younger for sure which may serve them well if they are to make another run deep in the playoffs. We all know how hard it is to repeat as a SC champion.
It has not been done since 1997-98 of course by the Detroit Red Wings. hmmm wasn’t that team composed of a lot of European players too? I’m just saying.
All I know is it is very exciting thinking about the line combinations, skills, development and all the possibilities that we may see on the ice.
Is it October yet?