The Blackhawks organization is fresh off of wrapping up their 7th annual fan convention. I’m sure it was delightful. It was a great chance for the Hawks to show off those flashy new contracts that keep Kane and Toews in the Windy City for 8 more years . Also, it provided a warm welcome for newcomers Brad Richards and Kevin Dineen. Plus, who doesn’t want to get their picture taken with Peter Regin?
The brass and coaching staff would also tell you, they have successfully just wrapped up their prospect camp as well. Make that a Kevin-Hayes-less prospect camp. More on that later.
This blog is to dive into the Hawks potential Overachievers this season (Part II will focus on potential Underachievers). These are players that could fly under the radar and surprise fans (…and maybe themselves) this year. This list is not just about goals and assists, but potentially make an impact in other ways – excelling at the little things as role players that the Hawks will need to remain successful.
Keep in mind that someone(s) will be going to provide cap relief, but considering my crystal ball is in the shop, just pretend that all players are game:
LW: Morin – the Auburn, NY native has not lived up to standards since being traded to Chicago in the heartbreaking Dustin Byfuglien deal. He’s not believed to be a “Q” guy, but “Q” will have no choice but to give him every opportunity this year as he’s on a one-way deal. Morin has a couple reasons for flying under the radar. He plays the right (left) position, left-wing. Right-wing is a little crowded with these dudes wearing #81 and #88. He also has the skill to play up and down the roster with his great shot and gritty style, but it’s his defensive play that has held him back. If he gets his coaching staff to trust him, he could excel.
C: Rasmussen – not much is known about the 24 year old Swede. He may have been signed in anticipation that prospect Kevin Hayes would not sign a deal in Chicago. He’s put up 85 pts. in 149 games in the SHL over the past 3 seasons. He’s on a 1-year contract, he’s got some serious motivation. He could see success if he walks in and takes the teams 4th line Centre/PK specialist role. It’s very possible with his experience and size (6’3/205 lbs).
RW: Versteeg – now enter the scapegoat for his poor performance in the playoffs and the throw in of everyone’s cap relief trade, Kris Versteeg. Sixteen months removed from a serious knee surgery, he stated himself that he wasn’t 100% upon his return to the Windy City. Well, no excuses now. It’s not his health that could lead to his turnaround on his 2nd tour with the Blackhawks. It’s the fact that he bleeds Blackhawks. Nothing can fuel a player more than battling in the trenches with your buddies that you love to play with. His 06.09.10 tattoo on his right arm says it all – it’s the day he won the cup with Chicago.
D: Rundblad – he’s mad, real mad. David Rundblad just wants to PLAY. Once upon a time, he was highly touted as a premier puck-moving, PP QB defencemen. He’s seen his address change 3 times at the ripe age of 23. He has 1 goal in 55 games. Not what he expected his life in the NHL would be like dreaming from his his bed in Sweden. What he has going for him is his offensive IQ, size (6’2/190 lbs) and an aging Michal Rozsival. However, an underrated asset is that outside of Seabrook and Rozy, he’s the only other right-handed D-man on the current roster. If he comes into camp in amazing shape and makes them keep him the lineup for his PP skills, he could become a regular on this team. I mean, Bowman has tried to trade for him a couple of times and gave up a 2nd round pick for him. There must be something there, right?
D: Cumiskey – this former NHLer has taken his talents to Modo Hockey of the SHL the past 2 years. Cumiskey has made his way back to NHL with the Hawks, which appears to be right in his wheelhouse in terms of style of play. The smooth skating 27 year old now brings his international experience in hopes to winning a spot on Chicago’s roster. Kyle also has an inside track because Joel Quenneville is familiar with him from his time in Colorado. And we all know, Q likes “his” guys.
G: Crawford – he is on this list because he still doesn’t get the love he may deserve. Crawford’s new, $6M/year deal kicks in next season and some will say that’s too much. The reality is that that is the going rate for a solid starting goalie, and maybe steal for a Stanley Cup winning goalie. In hopes of a better relationship off the ice, Jimmy Waite has been brought in as the goaltending coach to work with the Hawks #1. This could propel Crow from an above average goalie to elite status.
… Part #2, the Blackhawks potential Underachiever Team for 2014-15. Stay tuned!
~ On the CBH site, Bowman chatted about some standouts from the Prospect camp. He mentioned the line of Hayden-Schmaltz-Louis were impressive as a unit. All are headed to Lake Placid to turn heads and get on the radar for the U.S. World Junior Championships.
~ John Hayden had the most buzz around him with his truculent style of hittin’, fightin’ and scorin’. He’s heading back to Yale and looks to be prospect with good size and potential.
~ 2 players “off the radar” that Stan found worth mentioning were defencemen Nick Mattson and Michael Paliotta.
~ Kevin Hayes is not making any friends in Chicago. It’s become very apparent that K. Hayes is not going to sign with the Blackhawks. Bowman made his comments regarding the situation and summed it up with this, “You want to make sure you have players that want to be here.” The Blackhawks are too focused on winning to worry about a player like Hayes being selfish and wanting to pick and choose where he’s going to sign. Sure, it’s unfortunate, but it won’t make or break this team now or in the near future. Best of luck in FloooriBostNnnewYoCalllgary Kevin!
~ Kevin Dineen. Great hire. He will run the PP and had 91 career PPGs (in case you were wondering). He took unorthodox route after getting canned by Uncle Dale in FLA, to Coached Women’s Olympic Team. Dineen won Gold with the ladies in Sochi. It appeared to be a short term fix and when Kompon moved on, I made a prediction. I looked at Joel’s old teammates and suggested Dineen or Ulf Samuelsson would be viable options. Glad I was on to something with former.
* picture courtesy of: the_mel
About the Author: I am a rare Chicago Blackhawks fan from Canada, one might describe me as a hockey connoisseur and a solid checking line centre to your local rec hockey team. I once lived in a town of 500 people and now work in the hockey mecca that is Toronto. I work in the wonderful world of Advertising and these opinions are one of my own and not of my company - don't get it twisted.