The Blackhawks met the Dallas Stars in Monday -Tuesday exhibition games and the fans were treated with some prospect views but little in immediate help. The first game gave first glimpses at the progress of Mark Bell, Mike Souza, and new pros Kent Huskins and Mike Leighton, and amateur Igor Radulov.
Of this group, the guy closest to making the roster is Mark Bell. Mark Bell will be an NHLer player – that seems decided. On Monday night he showed improved speed, positioning and continued aggressive play. He scored after carrying in down the left wing in traffic and scored on a sharp angle almost over the goal line with and hard snap shot.
Prior to this season, Bell seemed a step behind the action and tentative. Tonight he showed controlled aggression, and he came to play. Bell was still at Left wing. He looked disciplined on the wing and made few errors in coverage and on offense.
Mike Souza reminded me of the Mark Bell of a year ago. Souza played well on a 3rd line and played well along the wall displaying good balance and physical board work. He gets were he is going, but just didn’t display quick feet. He just seemed behind the speed of the game in many instances. It moved at bit faster than he anticipated.
Kent Huskins had trouble with the strength of the attacking forwards. He also was unable to compensate for the speed the pro game is played. He can the puck better than he showed. Often, in his effort to speed it up. he was inaccurate. He has good size, used it on occasion, but wasn’t able to handle the stronger NHLers.
Mike Leighton came in and played the third period and obviously gained confidence by his shutting out the Stars. It was a nice situation for a new pro to play in: his team ahead and playing well in front of him. The lanky netminder was cool and out played Jason Bacashihua, who was beaten by a perimeter shot with traffic in front.
Radulov looks a tad under 6 foot but is a solid wide body with finesse, and offensive skills. It is one thing to score seven goals on his own Mississauga IceDogs goalie in a practice and play against NHLers and succeed. His skating style shows power but it is a little unorthodox. He went to the boards and pursued in every territory on ice, but at times he seemed to get tangled in his feet trying to stay close to the play. At one point he took a penalty as he hog tied an attacker in an effort to take away the puck in a scoring chance. He has many of the tools necessary to be an NHLer but he needs to hone them, get stronger, and catch up with the big league game too.
Night two,the Hawks team was put on the back heels by a Dallas lead so the barometer on the prospects was clouded by that.
Ty Jones started the first two periods as the RW on the Nylander-Sullivan line. He moved well to several nice shots, but still failed to impress. Jones was standing still on many of the corner scrums that were happening behind him. He may have been concentrating on not making mistakes and basically blended into the plays as opposed to standing out. When the Hawks went to the power play with less than three minutes in the 2nd period, desperately needing a goal down 2-0, Jones was replaced by Eric Daze. Ty will again be asked to improve in the Norfolk farm.
Dmitri Tolkunov, once talked up by ex-GM Bob Murray as gem of a defensive prospect, looks like the same player we saw last preseason: a guy who can carry, but not more than ordinary as a passer or a defensive player, part of his positions responsibility. He was the recipient to a garbage goal where he had 80% of the net no one near him, including a goalie. There’s nothing that translates to NHL elevation or improvement.
The third period gave our first glimpse at Craig Andersson, the 20 year old who re-entered the draft after feeling log jammed in the Calgary system. The Hawks you’ll remember took all of their 15 minutes of draft time, and then requested another 5 minute and subsequent 30 second time-out to make sure Andersson’s agent would agree to reasonable money before they actually committed to the pick.
Andersson had to contend with several power plays stopping shots from both the Dallas forwards and rockets from the backline, only to be beaten with less than 6 minutes left in a 4 on 4 situation where Modano and Lehtinen went two on one, with Lehtinen scoring on a one timer. Andersson played well and displayed good movement, puck handling and has to be viewed as a real future back-up in the not too distant future.
This week the Hawks sent Radulov to Mississauga to get stonger, and the UIC fans were really treated to only two youngers in the line-up, Mike Souza, and Tyler Aranson.
Both got little ice time due to the flow of the game, and the penalties. Souza skated well again, but did not stand out in the Hawk scheme, filled will grizzled minor pros who give tastes of the boards to the opposition with regularity. When your niche is that role, it is hard to make an impression with so many veteran minor leagues vying for those jobs.
Arnason just didn’t impress. He kept moving,made a few passes, and blended in to the mediocre known as Hawk 3rd and 4th line players.