Six rookies remain on the Blackhawks roster heading into the start of the 2003-04 season.
Goaler Mike Leighton (1999, 6th rd.), drafted by former GM Bob Murray, starts the season as Jocelyn Thibault’s back-up. GM Smith pick Craig Anderson (2001, 3rd rd.) will be waiting for the call to flip-flop after each 20 games with Leighton, as Smith hinted would happen if Leighton falters.
Lasse Kukkonen, the Hawks fifth round pick this past year, has earned a spot on defense, based on his veteran-like play in camp. At 22, he captained the Finnish Karpat team the last two seasons. He adds a third Finn to a team that had none on its roster last season.
Mike Smith said the organization didn’t expect six rookies on the roster, but their play warranted spots on the club. Center Tuomo Ruutu (2001, 1st rd.), right winger Pavel Vorobiev (2000, 1st rd.), right wingerIgor Radulov (2000, 1st rd.) and left winger Travis Moen (2000, 5th rd.) are the other four rookies who made the team out of camp.
Moen is the biggest surprise. He was originally drafted by the Calgary Flames him out of the Western Junior Hockey league based on his 399 minutes of three regular seasons with the Kelowna Rockets. The 6’2” 208-pounder was chosen to be the next generation Hawk enforcer. The Hawks signed him to play in Norfolk last season on coach Brian Sutter’s recommendation when he saw him in the Flames evaluation camps. Moen’s presence may be temporary until WHLer Dustin Byfuglien (2003, 8th rd.) is ready for Read more»
The signing of the Chicago Blackhawks’
top prospect Tuomo
Ruutu yesterday brings them a step closer to finally reaping benefits from
drafts under GM Mike Smith. Drafted
ninth overall in 2001, Ruutu is the first player
in a decade
that the fans will be able to see a young player who they can be excited about.
The contract negotiations took a long time this summer, but with them finally
over, the question now is what Ruutu’s immediate impact will be on the team.
What does Tuomo Ruutu bring to the Hawks? Read more»
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.
Little Duncan Keith displayed world class skating ability but little else Read more»