Chicago Blackhawks: Which Youngsters Will Make An Impact This Season?

By Randy Holt

If the Chicago Blackhawks stand pat and choose not to add this summer, it means they’re going to be relying on having some of their young talent fill out the lineup, as good or bad of an idea as that might sound like, depending on your point of view.

As many players that the Hawks were forced to call up last season, not all will be returning. Some will be bound for a bus shuttling them to and from Rockford. So who has a shot to make an impact this season? Take a look.

Ben Smith – We may have gotten caught up in the Smith hype too early, after he was a star against the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. But at this point, we likely know that, at best, Smith is a bottom six winger. He’s probably bound for Rockford again this season after signing a new contract this summer.

Brandon Saad – Expectations are high for Saad, who had a cup of coffee with the Hawks after torching juniors last season. He’s going to try out some center at training camp, but regardless of where he ends up position-wise, he’s going to be given every opportunity to stick in the top six out of camp, though some extra time with the Icehogs might be a better idea.

Brandon Bollig – Unfortunately, Bollig will likely be on the team to start the year. Useless in just about every aspect that doesn’t involve throwing down with Ryan Reaves, I have to wonder how he fits in a lineup that already includes Dan Carcillo and Jamal Mayers.

Jimmy Hayes – I like Jimmy Hayes. I think he can be better than Bryan Bickell as a skilled big guy. He’s smart with the puck and uses his size effectively. If only he had some consistent playing time.

Andrew Shaw – The folk hero of last season, Shaw had us all with our Twitter filters activated with that #ShawFacts nonsense. Nonetheless, he’s an okay player with a nose for the puck. He’s not afraid of much either and will go to the dirty areas. He bulked up this sumer so he should be a solid guy to have in the bottom six.

Kyle Beach – After spending much of 2011-2012 out with an injury, it’s put up or shut up for Beach. If he’s not mentally ready to crack the Hawks lineup at some point this year, it won’t likely ever happen. If he does figure it out, though, he could be a guy to watch this year.

Brandon Pirri – Intriguing name. Pirri had a strong preseason last year and could have a good shot at grabbing that vacant spot in the middle of the second line.

Jeremy Morin – Total wildcard, especially as far as his health is concerned.

Dylan Olsen – Will probably start the season in Rockford, but is very likely the reason that the Hawks haven’t looked too hard to find another defenseman outside of Sheldon Brookbank.

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