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Friday, July 13, 2012

Disposable Teens: Blackhawks Prospect Camp

The Blackhawks have been holding their annual prospect camp this week, at Johnny's Icehouse West, and I took the trek to rink with a friend of mine that coaches High School hockey, to get a peek at the gents for ourselves. Most of the Free Agents there won't ever see a Blackhawks or Ice Hogs contract, but the chance that a diamond in the rough might surface is intriguing.

For the most part, there are two levels of player in this camp. The Blackhawks draft picks; and everyone else. This was the first chance for Blackhawks nation to see the most recent draft picks strut their stuff on the ice.

All of the draft picks suited up for this weeks festivities minus second round pick Dillon Fournier, who was listed on the roster but wasn't practicing. I'm not sure if he was hurt or something, but it would have been nice to see him skate.

Here is a run down of my thoughts of the players on the ice. First, I'll weigh in on the 2011 draft picks:
  • Teuvo Teravainen - This kid was far and away the most talented guy in camp. He has 2 goals and an assist in the two games I watched. He's certainly on the smallish side, but he makes up for it with his hockey sense, speed, and stick skills. Here is his goal from Thursday, His goal from Wednesday, and his nice set up of a goal on Wednesday.
  • Chris Calnan - The kid is fast, and word is that he came in as the best physical specimen. Nothing stool out except his penalty kill prowess, but he is still really young. Here is his goal on Thursday.
  • Garret Ross - Got into a fight on Wednesday. He is a version of Andrew Shaw that agitates opponents, and yaps a lot.
  • Travis Brown - Nothing of note. He blended in with the rest.
  • Vincent Hinostroza - Small and shifty, but too willing to hog the puck. Quick and like a firefly, but needs a lot of refining.
  • Brandon Whitney - Looks 12 years old when not suited up. Of the past two prospect camps, Whitney is the best goaltender I've seen on the ice. The kid is big and slim, and expends very little energy making saves. His stature alone keeps him in position to succeed. Wanted to see more of him, but he was held out of the scrimmage on Thursday.
  • Matt Tomkins - Didn't really stand out, but didn't disappoint. Average sized Goalie that blended in with the free agent invitees.
Next, we have the Blackhawks draft picks and signee's from years past. Just a brief overview:
  • Terry/Alex Broadhurst - Alex was the most noticeable, but younger, of the two Broadhurst boys. Terry sat out Thursday's on ice activities, so that has something to do with his visibility. They got a big push playing with McNeill as their Center Wednesday. Both guys are fast and really slim.
  • Phillip Danault - Showed great instincts at both Center and Wing. Had a goal, and had a few other chances. The puck seems to find him, and he's a smooth skater. A tad on the lanky side.
  • Dan Delisle - This 2009 3rd round draft pick was just another face in the crowd. BIG body, but nothing really stood out. Back to College for you.
  • Kevin Hayes - Played Center and didn't look out of place doing so. Still raw.
  • Mark McNeill - Played both Wing and Center. Had a good portion of his draws taken by Alex Broadhurst, which can't be a good thing. He looked of average foot speed, and really didn't do anything of note.
  • Joakim Nordstrom - Got a good push, playing with Danault and Saad. Solid European player didn't look overmatched.
  • Brandon Saad - The golden goose of the group, other than Teravainen. Looked like he might have been coasting a bit. We all know what we're going to get from him already.
  • Maxim Shalunov - Fourth round pick from last year's draft played with the better prospects, but just another one of the guys that blended in.
  • Braden Birch - Tall defenseman from the 08 draft. Nothing special. another face in the crowd.
  • Adam Clendening - One of the top Defenseman prospects in the Hawks system. Tad on the shorter side, but looked as though he was the defensive captain out on the ice. Will see time in Rockford, come fall.
  • Klas Dahlbeck - Third rounder from 2011, is tall but not exactly fleet of foot. Defensive defenseman.
  • Joe Gleason - Quick/Small defender that likes to carry the puck a bit too much. Can see him getting caught rushing too much. Looked like he was thinking all Offense. At a generous 5'9"/171 he's Brian Connolly version 2.0.
  • Justin Holl - Another tall defender from the 2010 draft. Didn't stand out.
  • Sam Jardine - Of the defensive prospects, The Dean of Mean looked like he had flashes of potential. Sat by his mother Wednesday and watched her cover her face as he got into a fight just a few minutes into the scrimmage. Only 18, and headed to College.
  • Nick Mattson - Twenty year old Defenseman played with Clendening. Nothing of note.
  • Michael Paliotta - Big 19 year old Defenseman that seems to be getting some coddling from the organization. If he puts on a few pounds, he might be a bulldozer.
  • Paul Phillips - Average size College Defenseman at Denver and from Darien, that also played with Clendening. Blended in.
  • Mac Carruth - One of two mid level prospects. Played better than average, and better than Simpson. Seems to get stuck on his ass/back alot. Lost in the shootout Thursday.
  • Kent Simpson - The other mid level goaltending prospect in the organization. Didn't stand out, but also didn't play terrible. Had a rough stretch on Thursday, but didn't get much help either.
These guys are free agent invitees, most of which will be playing elsewhere come Autumn:
  • Adam Berkle - I didn't notice him much, but my friend pointed out that he made several irresponsible plays with the puck. Pass.
  • Kyle Bonis - Saw him out there, but couldn't tell you anything he did
  • Ryan Carpenter - Another name, with no real recollection.
  • Daniel Carr - Fast and scored a couple of goals, including the Thursday Shootout winner, but I doubt it will do him any good.
  • Kyle De Laurell - Played with some of the bigger names, but didn't really leave me clamoring for more.
  • Denis Hollenstein - Nothing of note, despite playing top 6 minutes.
  • Miks Indrasis - My friend and I both liked what we saw of this guy. I'd call him a bubble player. Big, and has played in the KHL. Might make a good Ice Hog.
  • Matthew Lindblad - Another face in the crowd.
  • Matthew Lorito - See above
  • Chris Martin - Got into a fight Wednesday with Garett Ross.
  • Nick McParland - Pass
  • Pat Mullane - Forward from BC, Scored and was in on some of the action.
  • Mihail Plotnikov - Looks bigger on the ice than the 5'7" he's listed at. Threw is body around a little, but wasn't as fast as you'd expect from a player that small. Played with Hinostroza to create the mighty mite line.
  • Aaron Schmit - Got into a fight with Jardine Wednesday. Big cementhead that is better off with a club ib his hand than a stick.
  • Mat Bodie - Nothing noticeable
  • Chris Casto - Nothing noticeable
  • Jake Chelios - Chris's kid looks tall and thin. Nothing really of note, but turned over the puck at bad times.
  • Mark Nemec - Nothing noticeable
  • Steven Spinell - Nothing noticeable
  • Viktor Svedberg - One of the players I really was curious about. Got a big push. On the slower side, but not as slow as you might think a 6'9", 221 lb, 21 year old. I wouldn't be opposed to a better look at him. Didn't look overmatched at all and had a big body to throw around.
  • Troy Grosenick - One of three Free Agent Goalies, and didn't look bad or great. I would have ranked him the #3 FA guy.
  • Andrew Hammond - 24 year old from Bowling Green. Made several nice saves and stood out as the best FA Goalie in the camp. Oldest player in camp could stick somewhere.
  • Eric Mihalik - Quirky goalie from Colgate, with an interesting style. On the shorter side. Former Team USA World Junior A Goalie wasn't bad at all but, in a tight race, I feel he was #2 of the 3 FA guys. Won the Shootout on Thursday against players like Danault, Nordstrom, Hayes, and Calnan which deserves some credit.
Here is the Shootout from Thursday's action:
Stay tuned for my live photos from Thursday's practice and scrimmage.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Blackhawks Free Agency: Drop the Ball

We were fed all kinds of lines for the last two months about a busy draft and a busy free agent period for the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks brass and every talking head assured us that they were seriously going all in and were going to be hitting the market like a heavy bag. At this point, it all looks like a big bunch of management lip service. I posted this the other day, but this is truly how the Blackhawks "plan of attack", or "roadmap" looks:

As of July 3rd, the Blackhawks have had their least eventful offseason since years before winning the cup. One minor trade during the draft, and one minor signing on the opening day of Free Agency. Sure they picked up some kids at the draft, but none of those players will help the Blackhawks in the 2012/13 season or even the following one, if there is in fact a season.

A hurricane of speculation erupted yesterday, when a few flapping gums in the media threw out some speculation that the Blackhawks were one of the exclusive finalists for the Parise-palooza-mania. This just sent the intarwebs into a mad frothy frenzy. Later in the day, I saw a twat that said the Hawks had put in serious offers for both Suter and Parise, and were willing to sign both. While I'd love to see both players on the Hawks, I call shenanigans on that rumor. They barely have the room for Parise, much less Parise AND Suter. When the dust settles, don't be surprised if both players are elsewhere, and the Hawks are left like a jilted Bride on her wedding day.

Blackhawks fans will be disappointed once again, and looking forward to the last possible scenario for help. Trade. Bowman has, basically, painted the Blackhawks into a corner by not being more aggressive at the draft and in free agency. With their single D-list signing, Sunday, all that is left on the market are the huge dollar players (for the moment) and the scrap heap players. No "creamy center" players, and certainly no decent top six center icemen. Now the entire league knows what the Hawks holes are, and will ask a king's ransom through trade. Honestly, if the Hawks PP can prop itself up into the top quarter, or even top half, of teams, the defense and goaltending will right themselves to a respectable level. Does wonders when you're working with a lead.

Moving on, The Hawks now have 48 players signed to contracts, which leaves 2 spots. TWO! People need to be moved, especially when you have 8 defensemen signed, which means that Dylan Olsen will be towing the Rockford Icehogs on his back for at least half the season. That still leaves the Hawks with 7 defensemen, although Brookbank could easily be a #7 guy. He is a SLIGHT upgrade over Lepisto, O'Donnell, and John Scott.

The desire to unload Nik Hjalmarsson is the worst kept secret in he NHL, which means the Blackhawks will get a big bag of "fuck all" in return for him. Cautious Stanley will have to sweeten the pot quite a bit to get anything of significance in return.

Anyhow, Lets get on to the shockingly bland Blackhawks news of the Free Agent period. The Blackhawks signed 31 year old defenseman Sheldon Brookbank to a 2 year deal worth $2.5 million. His brother has played in Rock Vegas last two seasons, so he has some ties to the Blackhawks other than being pummeled in the melon by two different Blackhawks in one season. From everything I have read, Sheldon was well liked in Anaheim. All things considered, he is no Ryan Suter. He will be a 6-7 guy that can buy into the "sandpaper" role, and tenderize a few faces. Last season was his career best in points, with a whopping 14, and games played, with 80. The bottom line is that if we see a lot of Sheldon Brookbank on the ice, there is something wrong here in the windy city. Sunday, was the most attention he will get this season.

Here is a little of Brookbank's "handy" work:

"Sheldon Brookbank on the wrong end of that confrontation"

The Blackhawks also signed journeyman Martin St. Pierre, who they dumped back in '08 for Pascal Pelletier, to and AHL deal. Nothing like living in the past, eh? Couldn't get enough Martin St. Pierre could they? He's pretty much an AHL bumslayer, but the good news is that Patrick Kane will now have another bro to party with. Check out St.Pierre partying in vegas with Mr. Biznasty himself. He's going to fit right in!


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