Whether it’s in a few weeks or a year, Marcus Kruger will provide the Chicago Blackhawks with an interesting storyline when training camps open up around the league. His development this season is going to dictate a great deal for this club heading into 2012-2013.
Kruger’s first full season with the Blackhawks was a successful one in a lot of ways. But the Hawks still aren’t exactly sure just what they have in the 22-year-old center.
The 2011-2012 season saw Kruger bounce around as far as which line he was on. He started on the fourth, but had worked his way up to the second line for much of the season, especially when Jonathan Toews was out with his concussion. He also made appearances up there in the playoffs.
Kruger appeared in 71 games for the Hawks last year, missing some games because of two concussions he sustained over the course of the year. The second was probably the result of coming back too quickly from the first. He finished with 26 points, including nine goals, and was a plus-11 for the season.
We have an idea of the type of player Kruger is. He’s extremely intelligent in the middle and plays strong defense. For him, it’s just a matter of getting stronger, so that willingness to play down in front of the net and in the corners become more effective, and whether or not his offensive game still has growing to do.
Many have likened him to Dave Bolland, in that he’s very strong defensively but he might not bring too much to the table on the stat sheet. It’s a reasonable prediction, given what we’ve seen so far from Kruger, but it still may be a bit early to determine that.
In the new season, Kruger will likely begin on either the second or the fourth line. Toews is obviously locked into the first and Bolland to the third. Without a true option on the second line, Kruger does make more sense than Patrick Kane in the middle of that second unit.
Playing between Patrick Sharp and probably Marian Hossa should give us a good indication of where Kruger is at with his offensive game. After all, you could probably throw a cardboard box in between the two and it’d record some points between a pair of All Star forwards.
Marcus Kruger is a guy that has seen mixed reviews in his brief time in Chicago. Is he the total package as a center or is he set to fall into more of a defensive role? He certainly has the potential to be the former, but he’s going to have to prove it early on in the new season. If not, expect the Blackhawks to go out and look for a second line center, and Kruger to be permanently relegated to the fourth line.