The Week That Shaped a Team
With three preseason games left, the Hawks roster will start to take form by this weekend.
The roster sits at 33 with players still vying for openings at every single position.
This is the first year in as long as I can remember that the Hawks have this much uncertainty across their entire roster. The team that comes to mind would be the 2010-11 after the purge from that cup win that brought in legends like Fernando Pisani, Victor Stalberg, John Scott and Marty Turco.
This year, the competition is more amongst the younger Hawks trying to find their ways as pros and a spot in the big league.
If I thought I was confused, we got a glimpse into how upside-down Joel Quenneville is with this roster after the lines constructed out of a feverish dream:
The takeaways from the above are:
* Dominik Kahun gets a promotion based on his solid play. If he can step up and play in the top 6, this would be huge for the Hawks. I am curious to see how that line performs and if Kahun can use his speed as a puck retriever on that line to help out his new Captain.
* Nick Schmaltz is being moved to the wing… for now. I've heard over and over again that a key factor of the Hawks future success rides on Schmaltz being a No. 1-2 centre. His move to wing is surprising, but that line isn't. If this line sticks, I would think AA takes all of the draws on his strong side as a lefty and Schmaltz would step to the dot on the other side as a righty. This may help improve their overall faceoff %. The coach seems to be on board with that plan, "Both are probably way more effective taking draws on their strong sides, so that could be a strength of playing them together," Quenneville said.
* The real reason behind the Schmaltz shift to wing, other than the faceoff deficiencies of both he and Anisimov, is the emergence of David Kampf, as well as the Marcus Kruger's 4th line. Kampf has spent most of his time on the wing in camp but was responsible enough to earn Coach Q's trust over 46 games last season (mostly at C).
* Speaking of "Kampf's line", that's where Brandon Saad has landed. He may not stay there and it'll be interesting to see if this is a wake-up call in the last preseason games that he sees.
* Luke Johnson looks to be playing his way on the team. He's even pushed Marcus Kruger to the wing for the time being. Johnson is on pace to beat out guys like Victor Ejdsell and Matthew Highmore. I still think Dylan Sikura and John Hayden make this team but I'm struggling to see where they fit.
* There are still games to play but my guess is that Highmore, Ejdsell and Fortin are Rockford bound. On the backend, there is a bit to work out still and Coach Q has stated that Adam Boqvist should play in all 3 remaining exhibition games so they can evaluate his play.
* Based on what I've seen and listening to Q's comments, there is a chance that Boqvist plays a regular season game but I would be surprised if he beats out Henri Jokiharju, who would most likely be sent to Rockford due to that decision. I will be watching closely, but the seven defenders that I see making the team would be Keith, Seabrook, Gustafsson, Rutta, Manning, Jokiharju and Davidson.
* Finally, Corey Crawford is making real progress and Coach Q even thought that practicing with the team was a possibility in the next couple of weeks. Even then, it would appear that Crawford would be at least a month away from game-time action.
I will be following up with thoughts on the games and anything I hear along the way.
However this team looks by Saturday's game vs. Columbus, this will be your 2018-19 Chicago Blackhawks… for now.
Stan Bowman is tripling down with this team, warts and all, and we will all be along for the ride.
See ya out there!