The signing of the Chicago Blackhawks’
As Blackhawks prospect camp continues, the players seem a little more relaxed and focused, and in being so, look like better players in all cases.
Michal Barinka has caught up to the others, his stick work and shooting now equal to his fluid motion. His strong is very strong but so far errant, but in close he scores on the camp goaltenders like a forward.
There are considerations afoot to sign Vladimir Gusev, Alexander Barkunov, Olli Malmivaara, Michal Barinka and Lasse Kukkonen and assigned to Norfolk. Alexander Kozevnikov looks so good there are now discussions as to whether to sign him and send him to Norfolk as an 19-year-old with the option to call him up him to the parent club, instead of letting him sign and play junior Hockey in Val-D’Or as was Gusev.
Czech defender Petr Puncochar was a camp casualty, suffering a separated shoulder.
Jim Wisniewski continues to lead on the ice, explaining the drills to the others and passing the puck with authority. Teams seem to always find places for under 6 foot defenseman who pass like he does, but you have to wonder if he could handle the NHL forwards at his present size.
Speaking of size, or lack thereof, Duncan Keith continues to show how much he is a better skater than most in camp. He moves well enough to get to almost any on rusher, and engage. Can there be a place for another undersized Hawk defender, a la Pat Stapleton?
The Chicago Blackhawks boast the number one organizational rating from Hockey’s Future, so one would expect a full house of prospects ready and willing to show themselves off to the new proud parents.
Camp opened on the ice on Friday June 27th and ends with a mini tournament on July 5th.
Missing were Tomas Ruuttu, Pavel Vorobiev, Anton Babchuk, Alexander Barkunov, Oleg Minakov, and tardy was Brent Seabrook. Seabrook had a high school graduation to attend, his own. He arrived on Sunday. As far as the Russian prospects, the problems were one that their agents should have remediated. General Manager Mike Smith said, “We sent Vorobiev’s paperwork to his agent in November, Babchuk a little bit later but within enough time that they should be here. Can we blame them? No, they are 18-year-olds whose agents should be taking care of these things.”
The Blackhawks want to give Vorobiev a good opportunity to make the squad and the Hawks would like to get Babchuk over for good also. Barkunov was offered a contract last season and Mike Smith felt a good performance in this camp might have solidify his chances of making the club. Oleg Minakov, a good prospect in his own right, missed an opportunity to show off his wares.
Ruuttu, of course, is in the middle of a contract dispute about incentives.
Camp started with three days of conditioning and drills. The players gave a look at their skating speed, agility, maneuverability, and shooting skill.
Although currently missing draft picks in the third and fourth rounds, the Chicago Blackhawks hold 10 (possibly 11) picks in the upcoming 2003 NHL entry draft.
Past history shows General Manager Mike Smith may use high picks #14, 52, and 59 to trade down and acquire picks in the missing rounds.
Every year I make my predictions on who the Blackhawks will pick, using their present draft slots as my guide. Here are the 2003 predictions.
In the first round, the Hawks are scheduled to select in slot #14. There have been sound bites to the press about getting a NHLer in a trade for this pick. But trading out of this slot would be a bad move, because a selection at #14 will provide a strong future prospect in this deep draft as long as the Hawks organization doesn’t lock on to a specific position.
Defense may be the target in the first round, because by the time the Hawks make their second pick, there is a real drop off in the pool.
Dion Phaneuf is the defenseman they may have in their targets. Although he doesn’t at this point in time project as a no. 1 defenseman, he possesses all the qualities the Blackhawk team needs. Former Hawk and present Red Deer Coach Brent Sutter will attest to his toughness, leadership, restraint, and good shot.
This selection would not be a cure-all. At this point Phaneuf may not even be the best defender in the WHL, but he is a solid prospect in an area the Blackhawks need improvement.
Someone may select Phaneuf before the Hawks, however, in which case G.M. Smith could pass on the available forwards and take, Read more»