Blackhawk’s Third Exhibition an Open Affair

By Bill Placzek

The second meeting with the Dallas Stars and third preseason exhibition started with the non rostered players now seeing there is a new opening at forward with the Daze injury (Out a minimum of six weeks) and many took advantage of it in the Blackhawk 2-0 victory.

Of the marquee prospects, only Mikhail Yakubov didn’t come with a strong overall game at centre. Certainly his inexperience at the position was apparent although the over all talent is present in this big forward who might have helped management agree that Norfolk will help him get ready to be a NHL prime time player.

Mike Leighton had two very good periods only marred by goals scored on three successive penalties and two man advantages. He looks like a prime candidate as an NHL starter after a year of AHL seasoning and a back up role. He is big, cool under fire, and a leader on the ice. Experience seems to be what he still needs to acquire.

Can one of the trio of Huskins (not suited), Dempsey, or McCarthy usurp utility defenseman Steve Poast, a Sutter type player who ended strong last year when the rest of the defense petered?

Defenseman Nathan Dempsey played on the penalty kill and assisted on a pair of power-play goals by Kyle Calder, as he heightened the competition for the last defensemen slot. Steve Poapst and Steve McCarthy also played well but neither was on the penalty kill. Lyle Odelin used every opportunity to dish across to the left point so McCarthy could let them go but none found the inside of the net.

The big question to prospect watchers is who will actually be rewarded with the vacant Daze spot on the roster? A lot of us would like to see it filled by on of the young kids, but both seasoned veterans Matt Henderson, Casey Hankinson and Scott Thornton might fill the equation better solve “the mystery of the missing playoff jam”, a reason management thinks the Blues ran over the Hawks in April (not the lack of talent).

Although Arnason had an audition as a left winger in Exhibition #1, Coach Brian Sutter may choose to keep Igor Radulov with the parent club or moving Igor Korolev to left wing if Arnason,Yakubov or McLean show they are ready to step into the lineup at centre.

Tyler Arnason has the most offensive prowess at this juncture and plenty of skill in the offensive zone, but hasn’t developed a taste for defensive zone tactics.

Mikhail Yakubov has the size and blossoming skate and skill levels of the now absent Daze and has a nasty streak that Daze will never acquire. He clearly looks like more of a future NHLer, but can it hurt do give him a 6 week taste of the bigs, so he knows what he needs to do when he returns to the AHL?

Igor Radulov is also raw product when it comes to setting foot in the defensive zone. He certainly makes up for it with the way he wants score in the offensive zone. There have always been guys who were told “just score” and never worried about the responsibilities in the other end, but i have trouble believing a Brian Sutter coached team would allow a rookie that much leeway.

Brent McLean will never be the playmaker the aforementioned may some day become, but at this juncture, has more experience, savvy, and maybe more importantly, is a pretty darn good face-off man, and area the team wanted to improve in. McLean does get bumped down and stopped in traffic and along the wall by the bigger bodied opponents but never stops working and wins battles.

In the fourth exhibition, Sutter plans to use Radulov with the new #1 line of Zhamnov and Berezin. Arnason will get to play with Fleury and Calder, McLean will play with Bell and DeBrusk, and Yakubov will take a new role as 4th line centre,a place each of these youngs will end up if they do stick,with Hankinson and Thornton.

I clearly can’t make up my mind which I would keep,but this new NHL may be one where the ice may be more conductive for scorers, and can any team ever have too many scorers? The playoffs are a season away, so teams won’t start gearing up for the closer checking until much later. Arnason will now definitely reclaim the spot he auditioned for last spring but there will be another camp player also getting a cubicle.

That player is one who will be named later. The only thing I can say with reasonable certainty is that player would have been Tuomo Ruttuu IF he would have been signed.