Category Archives: Hockey

Chicago Blackhawks – And so it begins


Chicago, IL — I have been really busy at work so you will be seeing fewer posts of mine. I know don’t all cry now.

I did want to post today because the last time I did the Hawks were in the middle of re-designing the team.

Now that training camp is over we know somewhat of how this team looks we can start to see how they progress.

Of course there will be tweeks made throughout the year due to many things, injuries, opponents and just wanting to see something different.

So where are the Blackhawks after all the post season changes this year?

Well, it is too soon to tell but the Hawks got a great test out of the shoots with walloping the champs in Pittsburgh.

If Patrick Kane thought it was surreal to play in that game, as a fan I can say it was surreal to watch.

In fact I still am not sure if what I saw was that the Hawks are that much better or the Penguins were that bad.

The Pens looked slow and just worn out which, as Hawks fans know is the problem with having won a Stanley Cup and the wear and tear that ensues.

I think we will get a better picture how this team really measures up right away especially I am keen to see how they do against young, fast, skilled teams.

Next up on the docket brings back an old friend the Breadman, Artemi Panarin and his Columbus Blue Jackets.

Let me just say for the fans that feel the need to say the Hawks or the Jackets won the Panarin/Saad deal, both teams won as these players appear to be exactly what the other needed.

As a fan though man I miss Panarin in Chicago.

I hold out hope one day he returns but if not I will still be following from afar as I doubt I will ever be living in the Columbus area.

Let me also say John McD and Stan Bowman you both should ask Commissioner Bettman and the NHL for an extra 5% of the NHL revenues for the Hawks because the Hawks are the NHL’s biggest marketing tool I’ve ever seen.

This year because of the Hawks having so many former players I will be following the Columbus Blue Jackets due to my loving Panarin, well and I kind of like that team and Bobrovsky, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Arizona Coyotes.

I already keep an eye on Montreal because of Shaw and Danault, the Islanders because of Leddy and Ladd and the Jets because of Big Buff & Marco

Yes I cheer for these teams because they are in the east and well with the Jets former Hawks front office Kevin Cheveldayoff is their GM as well.

It is ridiculous though how many former Hawks are on the Hurricanes with Trevor Van Riemsdyk, Scott Darling, Marcus Kruger, Joakim Nordstrom and all of our favorite young Finn Teuvo Time Terravainen. Blackhawks east for sure.

Hurricane’s I’ll be watching and listening to you when I can. In fact I will be listening to today before Hawks/Jackets game and there is a Cubs game today too.

GO CUBS GO!

Arizona well you have Nik Hjalmarsson and when I need to see warriors when Game of Thrones is not on to get my fix, I will be watching and tuning in there as well.

Columbus though is the team I have my eyes on. I’m looking for them to supplant Pittsburgh hopefully.

Honestly I am sick of the Penguins. I didn’t even watch the playoffs after the Hawks were eliminated as I knew Pittsburgh would win again.

I watched the Jackets yesterday and no they did not have 10 goals but they had 5 and they looked very fast and skilled.

Artemi Panarin just like Patrick Kane looked fine with his new linesmates. Panarin’s line with Alex Wenneberg and Cam Atkinson are really dynamic and fun to watch and they will only get better.

Bread you go boy and dominate the east. Columbus you are in for a treat. What Chicago was lucky enough to witness you will now get to savor all the flavors of the Breadman.

I honestly now believe that this is the best thing that could have happened for Panarin. He will become more of a leader and I already see his D zone attention.

Patrick Kane I never have any questions about him and who he plays with. I could play with him and score goals and I can’t skate. Just park yourself in front of the net or get him the puck and you’ll score points.

In the Penguins game Brandon Saad looked like a man possessed and what did Nick Schmaltz do to himself this past year. Kaner was that your training with him? If so Blackhawks you need to hire Kane as jr. coach and mentor.

If just working and training with Kane does this for a player yowzer both Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman look more polished and faster.

Kane I know is a savage when it comes to training and being prepared on ice. I know everyone says professionals are all like this not like Kane. Please stay in Chicago in the off seasons and get these kids trained up please and thank you PK.

Now this maybe due in part to their own natural progression since they are young and still developing but my Lord their progress was noticeable both in training camp and vs the Pens. This will be fun to watch all year their development.

Speaking of fun to watch Alex DeBrincat or as Coach Q has coined him “The Cat” well after seeing his play last year in Erie and his hit on Cole and not backing down from Ryan Reaves it doesn’t surprise me.

He backs down from no one. He maybe a Cat but he has the heart of a lion. Just like the king of the animal jungle he is smart. He knows how to keep his head up and use balance going against bigger opponents.

He will be fun to watch along with John Hayden. What can you say about Hayden. Talk about the triple threat he’s handsome, smart and can play hockey, need I say more.

On the ice like DeBrincat he always seems to be around the puck and he brings a fierceness and physicality that the Hawks have been lacking. His determination though maybe penthouse level. He just will not be denied.

Jan Rutta, Gustav Forsling and Conner Murphy will all get better with more games under their belt and learning Q defense and Q speak. They have been very good so far but mistakes will be made that is how you learn.

I think tonight’s game against Columbus will be a great test for both teams as they are both fast, young teams with puck magicians in Kane and Panarin. This should be a fun game.

I know the Blue Jackets are licking their chops to come to Chicago to prove they are right there with the NHL’s big clubs.

Let’s see this year if they can sustain the play to the end of the year where they sort of faded last year but the Hawks did as well in the playoffs so maintaining consistency is always an issue.

I am secretly hoping this is a preview of SCF but I jumped too far ahead.

For the Hawks though this month of October will be a real test.

On the schedule, I don’t know who coach Q and his staff will use as gauges. Who I am going to use as my personal measuring sticks for this team are the games against Toronto, Edmonton and of course Nashville.

These games should be telling to see just how they do against young fast skilled hungry teams and if this team can compete better in the playoffs this year. They should they are constructed more what you need to have but you never know until the games are played.

Now the divisional rival games are always key as the last couple years the Hawks have not done well in their own division so Blues, Stars, Jets, Avs, Wild should be their focus along side the Preds.

I’ve got to say too that seeing Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell at the home opener was bittersweet and I know all of Chicago wishes both of them nothing but the best.

So the fun has started as the NHL is back. Commish Bettman you should be thrilled you now have me watching almost half your league thanks to the Blackhawks.

And while I will be paying more attention to Carolina, Columbus and Arizona this year my heart is always focused on the Blackhawks and I’ll be watching you every chance I can. Damn jobs I tell you.

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Chicago Blackhawks – Stan Bowman what did you do?


Chicago, IL — Hot time, summer in the city. Yes it is time for block parties, beach volleyball, outdoor concerts, sailing with the smell of tanning lotions and barbecue in the air. Should be a fun time right?

Well not necessarily if you’re a Chicago Blackhawks fan. This past few days have been a whirlwind of changes.

It took me until now to process everything that happened and that is not even counting we had a draft here as well.

Several things you can say about the GM of the Chicago Blackhawks Stan Bowman:

1) He is a man of his word

2) He’s all business first

3) He has the audacity of youth.

Stan Bowman vowed changes would come at his post season presser and boy he was not joking.

I think as fans we all knew changes would come down the pike just maybe not these moves which are either suicidal or genius. Only time will tell on this but I am leaning toward the latter.

Bowman I believe has said in the past he doesn’t get attached to players and he was not lying here either.

Stan reminds me of a professional assassin think Daniel Craig James Bond.

He is vigilantly ready if needed to swing his sword despite the cold breeze it may generate afterwards and the finality that ensues with potential repercussions.

I mean this as a compliment it takes a great deal of strength to do this for the greater good of team to put head before heart.

Us fans usually put heart before head but if there is any fan base that has had to get used to losing beloved players it’s Blackhawks fans.

I slowly am becoming detached not sure that is good or not. I try now to look at the business of hockey but I hate it.

He made moves which are bold and yet at the end of the day because of these changes we are still not sure and either is he how the results will be and that is what is scary – the unknown.

The team definitely got younger, faster, bigger and more like the direction the NHL is going in and for that you have to applaud him.

To lose three key players like Marian Hossa, Nik Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin is gut wrenching but when I take my heart (believe me that is difficult I love these guys) and look logically and on paper all of these moves make sense for a cap strapped team.

Let’s look at the forward situation first.

The first tumble down the rabbit hole of change came with the Marian Hossa announcement that he would not be playing this year due to medical reasons and I have to say I still have not wrapped my head around the fact we may have seen Hossa play hockey in a Blackhawks uni for the last time already.

With Hossa’s departure that leaves a huge void for a two-way playing winger and also someone who can play on the PK too which no doubt factored into the trade of Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad 2.0 excursion.

Believe me Hossa brings so much more than that and again not sure Saad or anyone can fill those skates or if it’s even fair to ask them to.

I adore Artemi Panarin but Saad brings a different look to the team.

He is more a two -way player w blazing speed as we have all seen and in this new NHL everything is about speed and North/South play inside the dots and getting to the net.

There is no question in my mind the Hawks will miss Panarin’s offensive brilliance and I wish him the best of everything, that boy was thrill for sure both on and off the ice.

Someone or a committee of someones need to fill this offence void and it’s a big one points wise and the chemistry that 2nd line had.

If I look logically Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad and whoever is with them will have a lot of pressure on them to help fill this void.

All eyes right now are on Toews who for two years has let’s be honest not been good for the contract he has. Yes I’m putting that out there as a challenge to 19 and his line because I know they can step up and will.

You have to think also part of dealing Panarin was the hope that Schmaltz, Hayden, Hartman, Jurco, Panik and I will throw in Alex DeBrincat and Graham Knott can come in and help fill the points production deficit when Hossa & Panarin left.

DeBrincat and Knott may need time in the AHL but don’t be surprised if they make the team straight out.

DeBrincat is small but that boy has grit in him and so much skill offensively.

Knott is just huge and fast and skilled if he can get to the net with his big frame goals will be scored I guarantee.

Now will they need time to ripen and grow of course that is also why the Hawks wisely hired Asst. Coach Don Granato. Boy he is going to be one busy man with all the youth and schooling them up.

I have no doubts whoever plays with Patrick Kane will be all the better for it.

It sounds like it will be Schmaltz who gets first crack all I can say is get Kane the puck and get to the net or open ice and just follow his lead and you’ll be fine. If you have a shot don’t think take it especially if it’s open to the net.

The other forward gotten in trades was Laurent Dauphin from AZ. Dauphin think Kruger/Danault like which one has to think will be Kruger’s replacement and see him gone as well for cap reasons.

Dauphin is a projected 3rd line Center with good speed and two – way play and a lot cheaper than Kruger. He will be a RFA next year and I believe his cap hit is only in the 750K range this year and he is only 22 yrs old and also plays on the PK.

The Hawks definitely got younger, bigger and faster and I see them doing even more moves with moving Kruger out and maybe bringing in another winger depending on how the kids above do or possibly another contract gets moved out so brace yourselves for more possible sword swings Hawks fans.

Now onto the Defense and boy this one is difficult.

Losing a warrior like Hammer is going to be hard to replace.

The Hawks some what started earlier with signing Kempny and Rutta from Czech Republic which I already said in another blog I really like these two guys but they will need to get NHL ready with the speed and skill that NHL shooters have again this is where Granato and Samuelsson will have a big impact.

The big factor will be Connor Murphy that was exchanged in the Hammer trade from Arizona.

His contract goes to 2022 so that was a big consideration here along with he is only 24 yrs old. He brings physicality and great skating ability also he has a great first pass out of the dzone.

What you lose though is a warrior who was a shot blocker, team player and tough physically. Murphy I believe has already had some health issues so we shall see how that plays out.

The Hawks are placing a lot on young Dmen but they have Keith and Seabrook to look to for guidance and I can’t think of two guys any better to learn from and get coached up from.

So the Hawks have lost in 72 hrs a HOF All Star Winger, a Gagarin Cup Champion/Calder Trophy Winger and a 3X Stanley Cup Defenseman yeah Chicago it is ok to cry, throw things or just get sick to your stomach.

What the Hawks gained remains to be seen and how it will all come together and the moves that are yet to be made.

One thing we know for sure is this team will certainly be a lot different from the one last year come October.

The good thing is they don’t need to really come together immediately its 2018 they need to but stay close in 2017 til they figure it all out.

Coaching up these young players will be the key this year for sure. Coach Quenneville and his staff are certainly going to earn their pay checks this year.

Change is a difficult thing for everyone and again it only reinforces to me one day what’s left of this core 2,7,19 & 88 will no longer be on the Hawks and will retire.

What we are seeing now is a slow transition and if you hated like me seeing 81, 72 & 4 gone it could be worse at least some of the core is still here and there is still a small window the next 2-3 years to get another Cup here at least that is what I am telling myself.

Did Stan Bowman make this team better in the long run?

Hard to say there is a lot of work still to be done by all but I do think in the long run these were the right moves no matter how much my heart hates them and probably needed to be made with a new youth infused NHL if you want to compete.

It took guts to make these moves for sure.

Still Bowman will be looked at and questioned if the Hawks don’t even make the playoffs this year or are bounced again early which is a good possibility with all the young players on the team.

It is now on the shoulders of the coaches and the players to step up and in whether the Hawks succeed or fall this year Hawks fans will support we may fuss and question but only because we are fans and want the team to do well.

I will close with these from those far more eloquent than I:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” – William Shakespeare

 

 

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NHL – My Las Vegas Golden Knights


Chicago, IL — Ok Vegas you are on the clock. In what has to be the most entertaining of things we all get to play NHL GM with an expansion team. Let me just say being GM is not easy. I do not envy George McPhee or coach Gerald Galant.

I quickly pulled this together with not a whole lot of thought or research since the unprotected lists came out this morning and boy I had a hard time as there is several ways you can go.

Surprisingly there were some teams that failed to protect some really good assets I’m looking at you Minnesota, Saint Louis, Florida, Columbus and NY both teams. While others left you with hardly anything to choose from looking at you Edmonton, Arizona & San Jose.

Ok let me just say my list is based on a couple of philosophies. One I can make trades with any team I want and there are so many that need quality goalies or back-ups and defenseman.

two if I was a GM in the Pacific I would definitely not be kind to teams in my division and would not bargain with them. For example it is rumored that Anaheim while leaving Sami Vatanen unprotected a deal was cut with Vegas to not take him.

Hmmm a quality 26yr old NHL D man that I would have to face in my division ah NO ANAHEIM sorry I will take Mr. Vatanen thank you very much for my team. As you can see I would not play nice especially in my division or conference.

So Here is who I would take:

Forwards

Arizona – Alexander Burmistrov C 25 yrs old * RFA

Calgary – Troy Brouwer RW 31 yr old

Colorado – Mikhail Grigorenko C 23 yrs old * UFA

Columbus – William Karlsson C 24 yrs old

Florida – Jonathan Marchessault C 26 yrs old

Montreal – Charles Hudon LW 22 yrs old

Nashville – James Neal RW 29 yrs old

New Jersey – Devante Smith Pelly RW 24 yrs old

NYI – Brock Nelson LW 25 yrs old

NYR – Oscar Lindberg C 25yrs old *RFA

STL – David Perron LW 29 yrs old

San Jose – Barclay Goodrow RW 22 yrs old *RFA

Toronto – Kerby Rychel LW 22 yrs old

Vancouver – Brendan Gaunce C 23 yrs old *RFA

Winnipeg – Marko Dano C/W 22 yrs old

Defenseman

Anaheim – Sami Vatanen   26 yrs old

Chicago – Trevor Van Riemsdyk   25 yrs old

Dallas – Dan Hamhuis  34 yrs old

Detroit – Xavier Ouellet 23 yrs old RFA

Edmonton-  Griffin Reinhart 23 yrs old RFA

Los Angeles –  Brayden McNabb 26 yrs old

Minnesota – Marco Scandella 27 yrs old

Ottawa – Marc Methot 31 yrs old

Tampa – Andre Sustr  26 yrs old RFA

Washington – Karl Alzner 28 yrs old UFA

Goalies

Boston – Malcomb Subban  23 yrs old * RFA

Buffalo – Anders Nilsson  23 yrs old *UFA

Philadelphia – Michael Neuvirth – 29 yrs old

Pittsburgh – Marc Andre Fleury – 32 yrs old

Ok the bolded UFA/RFA are the ones that have contracts expiring now so I would work a deal to extend them if possible. The players in green are definetly on my team and not being traded unless there is some serious pay back for me. The rest are negotiable and would be used as trade bait.

My teams current Cap hit is 10,405,001 under but remember you have to deduct Vadim Shipachyov’s 4.5 mil salary which leaves approx. close to 6 mil left to sign those UFA/RFA’s.

Try TSN’s draft simulator which was updated today with all of the available players. Have fun.  http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/assemble-the-knights/draft-simulator

Of the UFA/RFA’s I would make every effort to sign Grigorenko, Lindberg & Sustr. If I had money left I would seriously try to convince the Russians to either come over or sign.

My first order would be to get Evgeni Dadanov out of the KHL and I would strongly think about Radulov or Kovalchuk . If I could not get any of these I would be looking at Patrick Sharp or Justin Williams as both have Stanley Cup experience.

I love that D with the highlighted players my avg D age is 27 which is perfect.

The forwards have a lot of young talent with Rychel, Marchessault, Hudon, Smith-Pelly ect with some veterans like Brouwer, Perron and Neal.

This was fun and difficult. I’m interested to see what Vegas does and the deals they make and what their final roster looks like.

Welcome to the fun Vegas not that your any stranger to that but looking forward to my Chicago Blackhawks playing you and a trip to Las Vegas is always called for.

Good Luck to you and go burn up that Pacific Division.

 

 

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – Getting into shape


Chicago, IL — Today should be interesting for several reasons. Today is the day that the NHLPA votes on what the final cap number will be by deciding what the escrow escalator amount will be employed.

This is huge for cap strapped teams like the Hawks. While a 2-4 million difference doesn’t sound like much it could be the difference of keeping a player or not.

Also today is the last day trades can be conducted as of 3pm CT due to the expansion. So after 3pm only trades with the Las Vegas Golden Knights can occur til the trade lift which is June 22nd.

Here is link to NHL site for key expansion draft dates – https://www.nhl.com/news/nhl-expansion-draft-critical-dates/c-289723278

Tomorrow all the teams eligible players for the expansion draft will be released and I for one can not wait. I will probably construct my own mock Vegas Golden Knights team by playing suedo NHL GM so look for that tomorrow.

Now onto our beloved Chicago Blackhawks, as they are in off season training as an organization of their own. They have recently made some moves both on the player side with many more still to come I’m sure and on the coaching side.

First the player side. The Hawks resigned Michal Kempny D on for another year, I for one was very glad to see.

Personally I don’t think he was used enough last year and his cap hit is perfect for the Hawks with his upside it is a huge win for the organization in my humble opinion.

Having watched this years IIHF World Championships because the Blackhawks were out I really spent a lot of time on the teams that had Hawks players like Russia, Sweden, USA and Czech Republic.

I loved Team Czech Republic’s D core which had both Kempny and the newly signed Jan Rutta. Rutta is 26 yrs old and signed for a cap friendly amount. Between him and Kempny they bring youth and good puck moving skills.

Rutta is tall at 6′ 3″ so he has a great reach with the stick also the scouting on him is he is solid two way and brings a big offensive up side with decent shot and great on ice vision.

These are the types of players the Hawks needed on the Blueline some infusion of youth and physicality along with mobility and offensive upside.

Personally I think Kempny and Rutta should try to shoot more when they can jump in the play especially Kempny he actually has a really good shot.

I also loved Radim Simek from the Czech team but I’m happy they got Rutta who was also being pursued by the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.

So thank the Lord he didn’t go to those western young up coming teams. Now both him and Kempny have work to do to in the NHL which brings us to the coaching pickups by the Blackhawks.

Ulf Samuelsson was signed to replace Mike Kitchen and while I have nothing against Mike Kitchen I do think it was time for a change in defensive philosophy since the league is changing.

As a fan I am anxious to see how the defense changes with D zone structure and penalty kill.

Samuelsson comes to the Blackhawks with NHL experience as a defenseman and spending coaching time in Sweden and the AHL.

Now I never saw him play as a defenseman but I’ve heard he was mean and tough which is exactly what the Blackhawks D core could use more of.

Here is a link which describes Samuelsson as a master of mayhem which sounds like exactly what the Hawks need some snarl and bite. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/scott-fowler/article110913602.html

They have the puck moving mobility but need a bit more speed and a lot more of mean. The Hawks D core of Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson have a lot of miles on them so bringing in some youth here and fresh legs will only help them.

Now with bringing in youth or non NHLers like Rutta you need guidance, coaching and development and this is where the second coaching hire of Don Granato comes in.

So yes the Hawks will have basically three defensive minded coaches in Quenneville, Samuelsson and Granato but I think this is great for such an important position.

Granato has coaching experience in the AHL, University of Wisconsin , USNTD program and the 2015 USA junior team so he has plenty of knowledge and experience with working with young players which is exactly what the Hawks need.

Here is a link with more on Granato’s coaching background – http://host.madison.com/wsj/sports/college/hockey/badgers-men-s-hockey-associate-head-coach-don-granato-set/article_2b43a735-9510-5fbe-9514-837b0a99ec99.html

I wouldn’t mind if they got another Offensive asst coach to work with Kevin Dineen with helping all the young forwards develop and adjust to the NHL defenses but I’ll discuss that in another blog.

So I’m glad to see the Chicago Blackhawks are getting into shape organizationally this off season. They are bench pressing to build their core which is the defense.

I can’t wait to see what other changes/adjustments they do in this offseason but so far I like what they did and are doing.

It will be very interesting to see what this team finally shakes out to look like in October. I can’t wait for both the expansion draft and the NHL entry level draft to see what the Hawks do but in the meantime:

Welcome to Chicago gentleman and Let’s GO HAWKS!

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – Draft ready


Chicago, IL — Never have I been more ready for the 2017 NHL entry draft than I am this year. I guess it is because the Blackhawks went out of the playoffs early and I thought they would have a long run in the playoffs.

I feel like I’ve been watching the HBO Game of Thrones fire-ice melt until the premiere date was revealed. Yes it has been that excruciating or at least it feels that way.

Maybe because this year it is being held right here in Chicago from June 23-24 at the United Center and it is just anticipation that has me just wanting to get to the draft.

The consensus by all the so called experts is that this is not a very good draft year but that doesn’t mean that there still are not good players that can help teams in the future.

Let us not forget too this is a life changing day for some of these young men and their families and for that I always find the drafts very exciting. I like to see one’s hard work pay off and dreams fulfilled. It also could be a potentially team changing day as well.

Now we all know that the Blackhawks are drafting low due to their being the Central Division leaders so their draft position will most likely be 26th and in a weaker draft they will not be getting team changing players like Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.

While it would be great to get those players that will not be happening but then again they may still get a gem. Remember no one thought Brandon Saad would fall to the second round or that Alex DeBrincat would be left where the Hawks drafted in the second round either.

Realistically I will just point out some of the forwards that could be available. I don’t think this is a particularly good draft for defenseman which is why I’m focusing on forwards and goalies I personally would not take in the first round unless it was the second coming of Patrick Roy.

Now depending on who you read or see there is a variety of opinions on who should and will be left by the 26th spot the Hawks are in. I’ll be looking at who could be left and what they bring to the table.

It is really hard to project what other teams boards look like as well that will be drafting ahead of the Hawks. You see why Stan Bowman and his staff have a difficult but thrilling job.

These players are the most likely to be selected at the 26th slot first round by the Blackhawks if they don’t pull off some trade or move up in the draft. Now I have to admit I have not seen them play. I am just going off of scouting reports and projections.

Also nothing can project heart and determination or spot character flaws like interviews and the like.

Nikita Popugaev –  Normally plays LW for the WHL’s Prince George Cougars.  Nikita is from Russia he came over in 2015 with his big frame at 6′ 5″ and his knack of scoring goals. The scouting reports on him are that he has great skating abilities to go along with his size and natural scoring abilities. His downside is he is one dimensional player and not that physical for his size.

He is projected to become a first line winger which sounds like someone the Hawks could use now. The problem is the Hawks need more versatile players that can play in all types of situations and we all know if you can’t play in your own zone that will not endear you to Coach Quenneville. Still he has been labeled as an “offensive game changer” by his current GM and those don’t came along everyday.

Matthew Strome – yes from that Strome hockey family.  Another LW with good size at 6’3″ who is projected to late first round to early second round. Strome’s strengths are his vision, size and physicality. The scouting reports are that his finish is excellent but that his skating could use some work. He is somewhat of a toss up.

He is hard to project where he will be top six or bottom six forward. With the NHL going more to a speed and skating type game if you can not transition off the rush quickly that is a huge hinderance in today’s game at forward. Still skating can improve with work it all depends on Strome.

Kole Lind – RW currently with the Kelowna Rockets. He is 6’1″ that is projected to go mid to late first round to early second. His strengths are his hockey IQ, passing abilities and good vision. He could bulk up a bit but that will come in time. Also he needs to work on his play away from the puck and like all young players shooting more.

He is projected to be a 2nd, 3rd line winger with good play making abilities.

if the Blackhawks are lucky these next few players will fall to them for different reasons.

Nick Suzuki – Center Owen Sound Attack. He is 5″11″. He is ranked by some in mid first and others late first. If he is still availiable to Hawks they would get a steal as Suzuki is skilled with great hands and strong hockey IQ. He is also a speedy skater and hard worker. He has projected by some to be a #1 center as he also is tireless. He can play both sides of the puck. I’ll be shocked if he is still here at Hawks position.

What he lacks in size and strength may let him slid to where the Hawks are positioned in the draft. He also needs to work on puck protection and board work. Size has never scared the Blackhawks so if he is left he might be a steal for them.

Klim Kostin – RW with Dynamo Moscow.  Kostin has been compared to Evgeni Malkin but could fall down to lower first round due to a shoulder injury sustained this year and his being Russian he may not want to play in North America which is why he may slid and is considered a risk.

Still he has it all great skating, size, great hands and for the corsi lovers he is a possession player. His weakness is his inconsistency and he sometimes disappears in games. He is ranked as #1 European skater.

It will be interesting to see where Stan Bowman and company have these prospects ranked and who they do select. No matter who is selected here is wishing all the prospects good luck on their NHL hopefully journeys.

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – Prospects in Memorial Cup Final


Chicago, IL — The 2017 MasterCard Memorial Cup crowned a champion yesterday. Congratulations to the Windsor Spitfires and Graham Knott on defeating the high powered Erie Otters 4-3 in what was about as closely contested final you could get.

I would also like to congratulate the Erie Otters on an amazing year and winning the OHL Championship. Alex DeBrincat congrats on being named CHL player of the year and what a year it was for both the Otters and DeBrincat.

So in the final DeBrincat had one assist on his buddy Dylan Strome’s goal but he had numerous chances. He hit the post and missed a wide open net so he did get his chances in the game just couldn’t bury them. He had seven shots on goal in the game so he was getting his chances.

DeBrincat finished this tournament with 2 goals and 8 assists which was good for third overall in scoring in the tourney.

Graham Knott enjoy the championship at any level it is an achievement and to do it against a great team like the Erie Otters is quit a feat.  Knott tallied a goal and like DeBrincat had numerous chances that just didn’t go in. I can remember one he was in all alone on the goalie thanks to a great pass by Jeremy Bracco but just didn’t bury it.

Knott ended this game with 1 goal on 3 shots on goal and was 3 for 5 in face off dot. He ended this tournament as the 14th overall scorer with 3 goals, 1 assist in 4 games.

Now I’m sure both DeBrincat and Knott would tell you it doesn’t hurt playing on lines with talented linemates. So now what is next for these two Blackhawks prospects is questions and a lot of work.

Can they make the transition from the OHL/CHL to the NHL or will there be time spent in the AHL? I specifically wanted to see how their 2-way game was, their speed, net front presence and forecheck/board work.

Let me start with Knott. He has really good speed because of his long stride. It doesn’t take him much to get from one end of the ice to the other.

I love his game because it will I think translate well to the way the NHL is going. He just goes straight to the net and with his big frame he makes a great screen. As I said previously he does so much that does not show on the stat sheets because he is wrecking havoc at the net.  I would say the strength of his game is his speed and net front presence along with his physicality.

I have not seen Knott play that much but I do think Knott will need seasoning in the AHL to work on his two way game. I want to see more backchecking and being more defensively aware. I would say he may need board work on the forecheck with his big body.

As with all young players I want to see more shooting work on that and deflecting pucks since he is always parked in front of the net. Knott is a LW and his size and straight to the net game is something the Blackhawks need more of for sure I just think he needs to develop more on the defensive side but he may surprise with hard work in this off season.

Good Luck in camp and congrats again on Memorial Cup.

Alex DeBrincat we all know has tremendous potential offensively yes even in the NHL. His shot is lethal and his hockey IQ is off the charts and NHL ready. He knows exactly where to go to find quiet ice space even in front of the net. Now he will not get this kind of time and space in the NHL but I’m betting it doesn’t take him long to figure out where to go.

If I was DeBrincat I would be studying film of Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin and lets throw in there Brad Marchand, Viktor Arvidsson and Cam Atkinson. Just my two cents. In camp I would definitely be watching 88 & 72 and if you can pick 88’s brain 72 maybe hard to understand unless you speak Russian otherwise ask him too.

DeBrincat does seem to be able to take hits and even deliver some too.

His two – way game is also NHL ready. There have been numerous times I’ve seen him high tail himself back to chase down a player on a break. I’ve seen him cover for his dmen pinching in and I’ve seen him block shots.

He plays both ends of special teams which any team can use more of and the Blackhawks particularly have not been good on either side. I loved that the Otters use DeBrincat in the high slot on the power play with his shot and he has great hand eye co-ordination for tipping and deflections.

I doubt in the NHL DeBrincat will be put on the penalty kill but if he is at least it won’t be foreign to him. So I would say his two way game is very good coming out of juniors .

What I think DeBrincat should work on is his board work and forechecking and learning how to avoid hits or balancing so you can use bigger players size and weight against them.

Out of all the prospects I can see DeBrincat making the jump straight to the NHL but if he has to spend time in the AHL that would not hurt either but I don’t think he would be there long.

It is really hard to tell how and how quickly prospects can transition to the NHL but I have been really impressed with how these guys hockey sense is and can’t wait to see them develop and for them to start their professional careers.

Good Luck boys!

 

 

 

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Chicago Blackhawks – Prospects in CHL’s Memorial Cup recap


Chicago, IL — So how have the Chicago Blackhawks prospects done in the CHL Memorial Cup?  Well lets start with Nathan Noel and Matthew Highmore and their Saint John Sea Dogs whose journey has now come to an end.

In a battle of teams that had not won a game between the Sea Dogs and the Seattle Thunderbirds the Sea Dogs dominated in a 7-0 landslide which earned them the right to go to the Memorial Cup Semi Final. Noel had an assist in this game and Highmore ended the game with two apples.

Unfortunately they had to face the fire power of the Erie Otters again and while they had a better game versus the Otters than the 12-5 drubbing they took they none the less were eliminated from the tournament 6-3.

Nathan Noel ended the event with one goal and one assist in four games and Matthew Highmore ended the tourney with three assists. Congrats boys on a great season and being QMJHL Champions.

My overall thoughts on Nathan Noel was that he is all heart. He reminded me of Andrew Shaw, smaller yet plays a physical game especially in the corners and along the boards. Noel is more of a defensive player used on the penalty kill and he was centering the third line for Saint John which is the checking line.

I see him going to the IceHogs and there everyone will love this guy as he projects a team first all the way.

Matthew Highmore was centering the first line and was used on the power play. The thing about Highmore’s game is he is physical and is always by the oppositions net which is always a good thing.

He ended the tournament with a 50% face-off percentage but it was noticeable in the last game against Erie he won almost every face-off in the defensive zone which everyone can use that skill.

I think Highmore will need some seasoning in Rockford but can be an impactful net front presence and power forward if he works on it. He has really good speed which is a huge asset.

The next game was a battle of the unbeaten teams when the Erie Otters took on the host team Windsor Spitfires for the opportunity to get a pass to the Memorial Cup Final.

I was hyped to see this game. I wanted to see how well both Graham Knott and Alex DeBrincat did against a familiar OHL foe that is very good. Now neither player hit the score sheets and the Spitfires totally frustrated the high powered Otters.

The Spitfires totally blanketed the Otters forwards and their goalie was insanely good that night. DeBrincat had a rough game physically as he was targeted for sure. In fact he had to leave at one point but did make it back into the game.

Since we get a rematch of these two teams for the final I am curious to see how DeBrincat will now make adjustments to deal with no space and time and his response. Welcome to the world of Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin.

This is great preparation for the NHL, becauses believe me there will be even less time and space there and the physicality will be even more ramped up and if your lucky enough to make NHL playoffs that is off the charts intensity so best get ready now if you want a championship at the highest level of hockey.

The encouraging thing for Blackhawks fans is it seems that DeBrincat can take the physical play pretty well and even dishes it occasionally. He and the Otters seemed ready for battle when they downed the Sea Dogs 6-3 in the Semi final to punch their ticket to the final.

We all know how talented DeBrincat is offensively but what I’ve been impressed with is his two way game and his defensive responsibility. In fact in this game he managed to clear a puck away from his crease that got past his goalie and was sitting there ripe for the pouncing.

Good on you Alex for being that down low as a forward acting like a defenseman that will endear you to coach Quenneville for sure. It is little things like that the coaches notice and will keep you in Chicago.

DeBrincat is used in all situations but really shines on the power play where they use him in the high slot where he can tip or pass or just let that rocket of a shot he has go. What is very noticeable about DeBrincat is his hand eye coordination is top notch which explains the high slot positioning.

His line with Dylan Strome and Warren Foegele is just fun to watch as they work off each other. This line ended up this game with two goals one each by Strome and Foegle and four assists three of which came from DeBrincat.

Two of his assists were on Taylor Raddysh power play goals and the other apple was on Dylan Strome’s goal. I think it is highly likely that DeBrincat can make the jump straight to the NHL from the CHL.

I will have a more definitive opinion on him after the final and as I stated earlier how he bounces back and responds against a more NHL like defensive structured team with tight checking, blocking shots, great goalie and clogging up of the neutral zone.

The Erie Otters just have so many scoring threats and fire power it’s hard to keep them suppressed for too long. The final should be a good one against Graham Knott’s Spitfires who seemed like the only team that found a formula to slow them down.

Graham Knott is having a good tournament himself. He currently has two goals and one assist in three games played. Knott played in one less game due to their beating the Otters and not having to play a semi-final game.

Knott’s game is pretty simple he is straight up a power forward on the RW. He is big powerful and just a menace in front of the net with his 6’4″ frame. He screens a lot of shots and for that alone he is impactful in games that may not show up on score sheets.

I need to see more of Knott to give an opinion on if he is ready to go straight to the NHL or not. Sunday I will be watching him and DeBrincat closely. The game thankfully will be on NHL Network at 6pm CT. I would recommend tuning in if your interested at all about the future of the Blackhawks.

With the Blackhawks out of the playoff in what seems like an eternity since we saw them, I am so glad that the NHL Network broadcast the Canadian Sportsnet telecast in the United States of this Memorial Cup.

Not just because I’m not that interest in the NHL playoffs but because it gives us in the States a chance to see the CHL prospects for our teams that we don’t normally get a chance to see. I don’t recall the NHL Network ever broadcasting this before. We can see players on NCAA teams but not generally the CHL.

I’m sure I am not the only one who can’t travel to Erie, PA or Saint John or Windsor although I’m sure those are grand destinations work always seems to get in the way. So thank you NHL Network and Sportsnet so we can get to see these incredibly talented young men continue their journeys to making their NHL teams.

To all the Chicago Blackhawk prospects Good Luck! Those remaining in the tournament and those out we look forward to seeing you either in Rockford or Chicago hopefully.

I will do a final wrap up blog after Sunday’s game to put a bow on this tournament and give a final opinion on DeBrincat and Knott’s game and how they will transition to the NHL and some hidden gems that I spotted that maybe teams should consider drafting this June.

One thing we do know is that one of the Chicago Blackhawks prospects will be a Memorial Cup Champion what an accomplishment.

 

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