With regards to prospects, it cannot be stated enough how deep the Chicago Blackhawks‘ organization is at the center and defenseman positions. The defensive depth chart now features eight defensemen on the NHL roster, with Michal Rozsival, Sheldon Brookbank and Mike Kostka all appearing in games depending on the situation.
Rozsival is 35 years old, so the Blackhawks have opted to rest him regularly since signing him at the beginning of last season. He skated in all of the team’s playoff games after only appearing in slightly over half of the lockout shortened season’s 48 games. After the 2014-15 season, Rozsival is an unrestricted free agent along with his defensive partner Nick Leddy.
Brookbank and Kostka both have contracts expiring this season, and it is unclear as to whether the team will retain either of them. Brookbank seems more likely due to his physical presence and veteran status, whilst Kostka has not been impressive defensively. In the six games he has appeared in Kostka has registered three points, but often misplays pucks and has not shown chemistry with Leddy.
This means at least one opportunity on the roster will become available shortly. The candidate best suited is Adam Clendening. Last season, (his first AHL season) Clendening finished third in scoring among defenseman, and led the league in assists for defenseman. He was voted the team’s rookie of the year. This season, he has registered 27 points in 37 games.
If Clendening could be compared to any defenseman currently on the Blackhawks roster, it would likely be Duncan Keith. While the comparison is clearly a lofty one, the similarity in styles of play is unmistakable. Per Hockey’s Future, Clendening moves the puck with patience and takes quality chances from the point. When not jumping into plays, he has excellent on-ice vision and moves to the puck as a play develops.
For now, the Blackhawks have a solid rotation at the sixth defenseman position, with a player available for every situation. However, after this season, Adam Clendening may have proved too good to remain on the bubble of the NHL any longer.
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