Who on the farm can audition?

By Bill Placzek

Who, on the farm we audition?
As Alpo hopes for new actors in his theatre company, and Mike Smith runs out of players of any real trade value, now is when the Hawks will be evaluating just who might possibly help the team until the Mike Smith drafts are ready for their auditions.

Picked in the 1995 draft, defensemen Marty Wilford, and forward Casey Hankinson remain Hawk property and play as minor pros. Hankinson, presently playing in Hampton Roads, shows average scoring ability and steady defensive play possibly penciled in as a 4th liner. At present, the Blackhawk major league club has almost three lines of the same.
Wilford, also drafted as a Chicago Cub pitcher, is a chunky six footer who has played well on the minor pro level, but is probably not quick enough for the present pro game.

Geoff Peters and Jeff Paul are all that remains from the 1996 draft where the Hawks traded their first round pick for two numbers twos, the third being the departed Remi Royer. San Jose picked Marco Sturm with the #1 and has never looked back.
Geoff Peters produces good all around play and could project as the next Chris Herpinger, a utility forward who always plays hard and does many things decently. And he fits the Chicago salary structure.
Jeff Paul has not shown enough progress to expect him playing in Chicago at this time. The smaller Hawk defensemen are better transition players and it is clear the Alpo system is “transition is much more important than transgression.”
At present, Kyle Calder has be the most intriguing of the class of 1997. An undersized over achiever, he certainly knows where to be on the ice and despite his lack of girth, like a Timex watch, he keeps on ticking. He has a excellent jump, and has displayed offense at all other levels prior to the NHL. He has yet to be complimented by linemates that can elevate his game, but this is a problem with any Hawk call ups;they are expected to lift the play of others not visa versa. I think the fact he hasn’t made too many errors or embarrassed himself will buy him more time at the major league level. His welcome will only run out if he doesn’t become a consistent play-maker in the bigs.
Mike Souza,in his first minor pro season, could be a on ice leader because he plays all roles and has good size. The biggest deterent to a Souza ascension to Chicago at this point would have to be his skating.

Finally the two guys that could help the club the most, if they shine: Mark Bell and Ty Jones.
Bell will be a pro, because has many aspects and ways may be able to contribute. Of course the Hawks would love to see his offensive game and passing skills improve so he contributes to bolstering their scoring, but his present skating ability and edge have to project him into the majors no matter if he finds the trigger before next October. His all around potential exceeds most Hawk forwards, and he does all things well. Most Hawk forwards cannot provide three zone play, physicality, and scoring. He has the potential to improve into just such a player. That insures him a major league shot, before his contract is up.
Not so for Ty Jones, who also projects as a big time wing, but has not until recently showed any growth or discipline towards improvement. He says he wants to be a major leaguer, not a goon, and his fists cannot help but make the management think in terms on continuing to renew their contractual relationship, and bringing him along at a slower pace than younger Bell.

Reto von Arx is presently in his third tour of duty with the parent club, called up because of injuries.
He looks to be quick in some situations but overall doesn’t have major league speed, but does display soft passes. He is disenchanted with the North American minor leagues where the players do not enjoy the celebrity status of the Swiss and Euro leagues. He has talked to Swedish teams as possiblr homes next season, unless this tenure in Chicago sticks.