Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Blackhawks Under the Radar

As we fly through the summer, and get within that 20 day window of hockey activities, the Blackhawks universe has more questions than anyone can remember in this era. It is very well possible that there will be open competitions for several forward spots, and possibly as many as three spots on defense. Hell, Stan Bowman might have said otherwise, but the spot behind Corey Crawford isn't as nailed down as he wanted us to think, in June. We have all seen the articles about the big name young players, but there are a few "under the radar" players that could turn into this year's "out of left field" name. It is more likely that these names could never amount into anything, but what else do we have to discuss in late August? Deep dive time:

David "Mein" Kämpf
With all the action this summer it has been, sort of, forgotten that the Blackhawks signed this Czech center to a deal "way back" in May. At first glance, this move seems a little like the Martin Lundberg signing, two years ago, until you look a little deeper. This signing could have a little more substance than originally perceived. Kampf is considerably younger (22) and slightly taller (6'2") than Lundberg (25 when signed, and 6'0"). He was a former assistant captain on the Czech U18 team, which could show that he has some leadership qualities, as well as confidence and added responsibilities from his former coaches. Kampf was also a team mate of other Blackhawks signee, Jan Rutta in the Czech league. With other Czech players Michal Kempny and Michal Rozival on the roster, Kampf could conceivably sneak in as that fourth line center if Joel Quenneville decides that Nick Schmaltz is better suited with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov to start the season. Theoretically, Tanner Kero would move up to the third line which would open a spot for a more defensibly responsible, and possibly versatile, player on that fourth line. This also brings me to my next player...but first, here are some Kampf highlights:

Laurent Dauphin
Dauphin was, what seemed to be, a "throw in" for the Hjalmarsson/Murphy deal, but he was thought of pretty highly in his draft year, reportedly, by this very Blackhawks front office. He was a high second round pick (39th overall), in 2013. Also, a player that held a captain's letter with his amateur team, Dauphin has has a little more scoring ability than Kampf did, but is rumored to be a little weak on the puck. While junior stats can certainly be deceiving, 75 points in the QMJHL and back to back 10+ goal seasons in the AHL as a 20 and 21 year old are nothing to dismiss. If I had to guess, based on scouting reports, I would give the edge to Kampf for a 4th line role. Dauphin has a little more offense to his game, which Quenneville doesn't seem to be as worried about in his fourth liners. By all reports, Dauphin sounds like a more "Phillip Danault" type player, while Kampf seems more like a "Marcus Kruger" type. Neither is bad, they just fit in different spots of the line-up. After a nice little breakout season last year, Tanner Kero seems to have the edge over both players at this point in time, but that can change pretty quick. Here are some World Junior Highlights of Laurent Dauphin:

Ville Pokka
Pokka has been the brunt of many jokes here at Puckin Hostile, but the Blackhawks are keeping him around for something. The knock on him is that his skating is just not up to NHL standards, and he may be a bit of an adventure in his own end of the ice. One thing that is not questionable, though, is his ability to create offense. He was voted the Rockford Icehogs best defenseman in 2015-16, and played in the World Cup of Hockey for the Finnish team last summer. He undoubtedly has a great shot that he loves to use, and can be an asset on the offensive side of the ice. You can't completely overlook those assets but, then again, TJ Brennan am I right? Where will Ville Pokka fall in Blackhawks lore? My impression is that he's gone the way of the way of Morin and McNeill, but he could have worked on his skating and have a breakout camp. Let us be reminded that this kid is still only 23 years old. If that were to happen, everyone wins. It is certainly true that Gustav Forsling has leapt over him on the depth chart, but that doesn't mean a mid-season call up is out of the question. Hell, if nothing else, the Blackhawks could showcase him for a team that needs some more offense cost effective from their defense.

Carl (Calle) Dahlstrom
I certainly have my reservations about Dahlstrom's skating ability, but he is still only 22 years old and he's a big guy. One attribute the Blackhawks lack in their system is defensemen with size, and something the Blackhawks seem to love are Swedish defensemen. Dahlstrom checks both boxes at 6'4" and 230 lbs. If he could actually lose the Frankenstein boots, he has some physical assets that are rare. Some of the reasons that the Blackhawks Michal Rozsival is that he has size, physicality and can make a pass. His mobility, or lack thereof, sure isn't the reason. In 2015, Chris Block went into depth about the disconnect between Dahlstrom and the Hockey ops staff, and I fully trust he was right. We are now two years down the road, though, and Dahlstrom has hung around like a good soldier. Hung around to play 70 AHL games last season. There have also been changes in the organization and another big (at the time), tough (often dirty) Swedish former NHL defenseman was added to the coaching staff, in Ulf Samuelsson. I think you see where I'm going with this. If he plays his cards right, Dahlstrom could gain favor and get a legit shot on the depth chart. Of course, this might only be solid minutes in Rockford, but it wasn't all that long ago that another fairly immobile defenseman with size named Viktor Svedberg saw 27 games with the Blackhawks. That was with a more decorated group around him. If you look at Dahlstrom's stats last year in Rockford, they look paltry, but you have to also remember that the team was in total disarray. The golden pony, Gustav Forsling, only had 8 points in 30 games. So, keep an eye out, and have an open mind. The Blackhawks need some surprises this year, if they want to compete at that high level.

Robin Press/Robin Norell
Press was the most experienced defenseman in Blackhawks prospect camp, in July. Aaron from Blackhawk Up, Mario from Second City Hockey and I noticed the bigger Press and he did nothing to hurt his stock. He has above average size, and looks comfortable with the puck on his stick thanks to the fact that he is a converted forward. He won't get manhandled too often just based on his size alone. His biggest asset might be that he is right handed. That is something that not only the Blackhawks covet. Press is on an AHL deal, but that can easily be converted.

Norell is a smaller Swedish defenseman but, again, a Swedish defenseman. He is actually the smallest of the Swedish triumvirate (Dahlstrom, Press, and Norell) from the 2013 draft, but don't sleep on him. He could also sneak in some playing time this season, because all bets are off, thanks to the uncertainty of the depth chart and Quenneville's seemingly unpredictable magic 8-ball. Like Dahlstrom, he played over 60 games in the AHL, so he's not entirely inexperienced.

Jean-Francois Berube
I've mentioned his name a couple of times, and I believe he's still a good goalie with pro potential. Berube did take a strange path to the Blackhawks, though. He was drafted by the LA Kings in the 4th round of the 2009 draft, was claimed off waivers by the Islanders in 2015, was drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights in June and then signed with the Blackhawks July 1st. At the time Islanders claimed him, he was coming off a 37-9-4 regular season with a 2.18 GAA and a .913 sv%, along with a Calder Cup championship. Sound a lot like another goalie in the Blackhawks system, just one year later, eh? The Islanders are basically where goalies go to die, but he still had decent numbers in 2015-16 between the AHL and NHL despite getting injured in late November and being on IR for a good portion of the season. The tire fire Islanders extended him for 16/17, and he was thrown to the wolves as part of a stupid 3 headed goalie monster with Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak which, like the Islanders arena problems, went badly. Alas, though, one bad season does not a goalie make, right? He has a fresh start, in a new organization, with a new goalie coach. I really see him having a good season, and possibly pushing Anton Forsberg for the backup job. Both goalies are on 2 year deals with very little salary difference ($50,000), and both would have to go through waivers to get to Rockford. Don't be surprised if the race is closer than the organization wanted you to think after the Panarin/Saad trade. Atdding Berube to the mix was a sneaky good move by Stan Bowman. At the very worst, Berube is a solid number 3 that can log a lot minutes in Rockford and usher in Matt Tomkins and Collin Delia.

Notice who his first NHL game was against, and who the first highlight includes.

Shoutcast Player


Facebook Page

Blog Archive