First Blackhawk Exhibition Features Many Prospects but Few Keepers
Brian Sutter chose many new faces the reward of playing in this game. Forwards included in the lineup were last season call-up Tyler Arnason in a new role as a left winger, prime prospect Mikhail Yakubov, Brett McLean, Brandin Cote, and journeymen Shawn Thornton and Louis DeBrusk. On defense, the hometown fans were treated to a generous dose of Kent Huskins and Nathan Dempsey. All played well. Yakubov saw action early feeding Serge Berezin a neat drop pass, and showed signs of NHL finesse, moving effortlessly, and displaying NHL passing and a nice hard shot.At this point it is difficult to compare his style, but it is clear he has more to learn but hard to not be excited by his future potential. He knows where to set up and wants the puck. His size only acts as another reason to try and rush him to the parent club early. He is not the dominant face-off center the Hawks are looking for to improve the team, but certainly has lots of offensive zone moxy that every team desires. Centre Brandin Cote flew around and showed he had an offensive game. Despite his play, he looked like a guy destined for the farm. Centre Brent McLean had many eyes centered on his play in the game. An above average face-off man in the AHL, the Hawks wanted to see what he could do in the dots and on the penalty kill. He certainly didn’t disappoint the fans, as he played hard, won face-offs and assisted on the short handed goal and scored the game winner. McLean just doesn’t fit the role as a rough and tumble utility guy on a team looking for more size and muscle up front. I honestly think he will have to play every game with this games success to stick around despite his fabulous showing. Nathan Dempsey may not have the end to end speed of Steve McCarthy, he certainly didn’t seem out of place. (He didn’t look out of place for the Leafs in one of the play-off games he played when, he was arguably the best defenseman playing for them.) This opening game was one in which Kent Huskins was giving loads of ice time in all situations. It seemed as though he was being featured in this game and he raised his game in all aspects. He was physical in front, played the back of the net well and was active on each shift.
The Blackhawks may have to rethink their keepers on defense, or use one for bait to land a journeyman center to improve their deficit in the face off circles. Huskins looked up for the task and will probably get several more auditions as will Yakubov and McLean.
Preseason is time for teams and their fans to gauge what players will be the future and which will play as minor leaguers. This first look, in my opinion, featured only two possible major pieces of the future Blackhawk team puzzle.