The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t made too many changes to a roster that just won their second Stanley Cup title in the last four years, and why should they? This is a club with one of the better young cores throughout the league, in addition to having one of the deepest farm systems as well.
Rather than replace their departed veterans, which are very few, with free agents or out on the trade market, the Hawks will open up opportunities for some of their prospects to make an impact in 2013-14. There are several that could see a shot in training camp, but which ones will actually make an impact, and who could have the largest?
The one that could make the biggest impact could be determined by which has the largest opportunity to succeed. Brandon Pirri is likely going to get a crack at centering the second line, which would be the biggest role of any of them. He has the skill set and the superb hands to be an excellent playmaker on the no. 2 unit.
He’s not the only one that could see a shot in the middle of that line. Prospect Drew LeBlanc, who was signed during last season, could also see an opportunity there. But at least a start at Rockford to get him some regular playing time could be more likely, at least early in the season.
One to keep an eye on is Ben Smith. He saw time in the Stanley Cup Finals after Marian Hossa went down, and is the type of player that could play anywhere. Injuries have limited in the last couple of years, but when he’s on the ice, few players are harder working than him. He’d be an asset on the third line for the Hawks.
Jimmy Hayes is another, but could have a tough time finding a spot outside of the fourth line. He was seen as something of a replacement for Bryan Bickell, but with Bickell locked up for the next four years, it’ll be interesting to see if he fits in. Jeremy Morin could finally be ready to take the next step. Coming off of his best professional season, Morin has the size and speed to be an offensive weapon, and plays with an edge.
Pirri and Smith will likely be the most watched, as they’ve been seemingly on the fringe of cracking the roster for the last couple of seasons. Morin as well. Hayes could get a shot as a fourth line guy, while LeBlanc will need a great training camp to earn a spot above Rockford. Either way, part of what makes this Blackhawks organization such an impressive one is that they have these young guys that can step in and immediately make an impact. We’ll see which one makes the largest in 2013-14.