It seems like just last week Corey Crawford gave the best speech of his life and the Chicago Blackhawks were celebrating their second championship in four years. But here we are with just 12 days away from watching the Hawks raise their fifth banner inside the United Center and begin to defend their crown.
Unlike 2010, the Hawks were in a much better spot financially this summer to spend some money to lock up some key players and only had to say good-bye to a handful of players that contributed to the championship run. However with the departure of David Bolland, Michael Frolik, Viktor Stalberg and Daniel Carcillo, the Hawks have a couple of positions to fill in the next week heading into the regular season. And with an offseason that consisted of mostly of just extending current players, Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville will be counting on players from inside the Hawks system to fill some roles.
Here are four players that are most likely to break the preseason on the Blackhawks roster:
- Jimmy Hayes: Heading into training camp, Hayes told reporters that he had spent a lot of time during the offseason on his condition and fitness to improve his skating. Well that work has apparently played off as Hayes has put himself in a good spot to make the Hawks roster. With Bryan Bickell moving to a top line, Hayes would be a good replacement on the checking line that produced a lot of scoring last season. Over the past two season, the big 6″6, 221 pound forward has played 41 games with the Blackhawks registering 13 points and 54 shots on goal.
- Ben Smith: Despite dressing for Game 3 against the Boston Bruins last summer and getting his name on the Stanley Cup, Smith is not a lock to make the team straight out of camp. After Quenneville said that he had been just “OK” so far during camp, Smith played well on Tuesday night and battled his way in front of the net to get a goal. I still think Smith makes the team and gets some time on the fourth line and replaces Frolik on the penalty kill.
- Jeremy Morin: Morin has quietly had himself a pretty good camp for the Hawks so far. Nothing great but I think he has set himself up nicely to make the Hawks roster. Like the previous two mentioned players, Morin has but on the Indian Head sweater for a couple of game over the past two season. Last year, Morin made an appearance and scored a goal for the Hawks on Easter against the Detroit Red Wings.
- Brandon Pirri: Probably one of the more disappointing stories of the Hawks camp so far. Pirri was a scoring machine in Rockford last season and was considered to have a really good shot at making the team. However, Pirri suffered an injury during the team’s time at Notre Dame last week and hasn’t been able to practice fully or play in any preseason games yet. Pirri will need to get back on the ice in the next few days or he might have to start the season in Rockford. Even if he does, I think Pirri will certainly be up at some point during the season. His injury has opened the door for players like Morin and Smith to make the team.
With nine of the forward spots locked up, only three forward spots remain open(two starting, one healthy scratch spot) so it will be a story to watch as the Hawks have four preseason games left. I would like to include defenseman Ryan Stanton on the list bur unfortunately for him, the Hawks are to deep at the D position this season. Sheldon Brookbank will be the Hawks extra d-man. But if anyone goes down, Stanton should be the first one up.
For those looking for Teuvo Teravainen on this list, unfortunately you will have to wait a while to see him with the Blackhawks. He told reporters after Thursday night’s game that he will be heading back to Finland on Friday. There is a chance he could come back over in April when the Hawks cane expand their roster but Teravainen certainly has a good shot at making the Hawks roster next season.