Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Blackhawks Roster Preview: Forwards

patrick kane jersey

Chicago Blackhawks do not get to start their season until October 12 against the St. Louis Blues, but speculation on the opening day of the team list is already creeping performance. With that in mind, this article will be the first of a series of three that provides an overview of the list of current Blackhawks and the most likely players to be included when returning to the United Center Hawks.

Forward is a group, the most intriguing position to watch the camp entrance and I'll start there. While nearly half of the 12 starting positions will be filled with staples Chicago both old and new, the rest of the range any guarantees.


Perhaps the most important position on the team that is responsible for controlling the middle of the ice. Jonathan Toews was the main man responsible for maintaining the quality of this position group for the Blackhawks since arriving on the scene during the 2007-08 season. Fortunately, it will return to anchor this slot again in 2016-17, although the rest of the group around him has undergone some dramatic changes in recent months and years.

Although the second line center position was one of weakness for years under Joel Quenneville, Artem Anisimov seems to have solved the problems of Chicago there for the foreseeable future. The consistent and intelligent Russian had instant chemistry with Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin Jersey last season by scoring 20 goals in a year for only the second time. It will again provide some much needed stability and strong two-way game behind Toews.

The final center slot should be filled either by Tanner Kero or Dennis Rasmussen. Kero played well in a primarily defensive role during his last subsequent season, while Rasmussen was able to provide a spark with his goal streaky score in his first year with the Blackhawks. There is a chance that both make the list initially Quenneville before making a decision on who stays and who goes back to Rockford. Anyway, the relative inexperience of these players means that the Hawks not have the security of a top fourth line as they have in years past.

left wing

Easily the weakest group position on the Chicago list is currently assembling their left wings. Richard Panik is probably the most talented player Artemi Panarin behind right now, and he scored all six goals last season. These two are the only group in this position that are guaranteed task list, while Andrew Desjardins veteran depth player should lock a role.

Other than that, several young players are expected to compete for a spot on the left side of the alignment of the Hawks. Tyler Motte and Nick Schmaltz (both listed as centers on the team's website) are two players to keep an eye on, but helps the veteran could still be on the way to consolidate this position.

This group is also likely to be pursued by the uncertainty as to where Panarin start the season. Although it seems likely that he will return to play next to Anisimov on the second line, Quenneville could also opt to play with Toews to load a line with his best center.

If Panarin does not start next season Toews, the spot will likely go to the winner of a battle position three-way between Panik, Motte and Schmaltz. The two rookies in Motte and Schmaltz earned strong criticism of management to date and could surprise with the seasons in small groups if the occasion.

Right wing

It is often useful to look beyond the contributions of a single star player during consideration of a position group as a whole (just look at that little behind the Hawks Panarin). And while I'll stick with this rule here, Patrick Kane definitely made it difficult for me to do.

reigning MVP and scoring leader in the NHL has dominated opponents to the tune of 46 goals and 106 points in his ninth season with the Blackhawks. In addition to playing better than almost every other player in the league, he also played more than almost anyone, averaging the second most ice time a winger in the league (finishing just behind Evander Kane Buffalo).

It is capable of holding a group of entire position all on its own, but it was not in Chicago, with a strong support team.

Marian Hossa is the star it once was, but it should go back to score 20 goals if he stays healthy. Health will be the question once more for the veteran winger, but expect it to contribute to the defense and on the power play at the end.

Marian Hossa
Marian Hossa is no longer likely to occur as a star for the Blackhawks. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA Today Sports)

Meanwhile, general manager Stan Bowman has done a good job of assembling a cast of young and talented players eager to support both established leaders of this group of position. Specifically, Vincent Hinostroza, Ryan Hartman and Mark McNeill will all have the opportunity to contribute to the team this season. Hinostroza attracted particularly strong criticism as of late, which means that I would not be surprised to see him get a crack at a top-six role.

Hartman could quickly replace the sandpaper Hawks lost to trade Andrew Shaw, while the size and capacity of McNeill playing center and wing could help him stick around. A first flash estimate says that two of these three players are likely to make the team out of camp.

Behind them, Jordin Tootoo was signed in the offseason to add endurance to an alignment based mainly on skills. Kyle Baun actually started last season playing alongside Toews and Hossa, but his game has faltered quickly on the way to score a single goal in 43 games with AHL Rockford. The only way that these two players make the list would be if veterans run into injury problems.

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