The Chicago Blackhawks are pretty much set as far as their final roster goes, pending anything taking place when a new CBA is agreed upon. And by “pretty much set”, I mean there is quite a logjam all over this roster. Looking strictly at the forward lines, there are plenty of options for the Hawks, fighting for a few available spots.
Looking up front, you can realistically say that eight of 12 spots are reserved: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa (if healthy), Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Viktor Stalberg, and probably Bryan Bickell all have a spot, at least to start. Daniel Carcillo probably does as well. I expect Jamal Mayers to be in and out of the lineup at points throughout the year.
That pretty much leaves a host of youngsters to battle it out for the last four spots in the lineup: Michael Frolik, Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, Jimmy Hayes, Brandon Saad, Jeremy Morin, Brandon Bollig, Ben Smith, and Kyle Beach will all likely be in the mix at training camp, to some degree.
It’s safe to say that Kruger will be taking draws on some line, so let’s throw him in with the rest of the locks. Morin likely won’t start up with the Hawks, and Beach will have to earn a callup from Rockford. That narrows it down to Shaw, Hayes, Saad, Bollig, and Smith for two spots in the final 12.
Shaw likely has a spot after a solid start to his career last year. He’ll at least begin the season in Chicago, unless he has a poor camp. Bollig probably has one as well, though it won’t be one of those spots in the 12 forwards that hit the ice every night. He’ll be sampling the spread up in the press box.
Frolik is the biggest wild card of the bunch. His offensive game hasn’t come around for the Hawks like it did in South Beach, but he’s still dependable defensively. Once a new CBA is settled, he could end up being trade bait.
If the roster remains the same, it could come down to Frolik, Saad, Hayes, and Smith fighting for two spots. Saad may be a favorite, but some time in Rockford to get some extra seasoning early in the year might be a good thing. Hayes did some very good things last year in his brief time, and Smith is probably starved for a spot after getting a taste at the end of 2010-2011.
Part of the reason the Hawks didn’t do much this summer is because of all of this youth that they have fighting for spots. With a few spots open, and plenty of options, training camp will be even more intriguing, whenever it actually happens.