The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t get through the cap crunch unscathed, and a few rookies are expected to make their name in the NHL in the 2013-14 season. One spot on the roster that will have to be filled is that of Viktor Stalberg, 3rd line right wing. Stalberg’s speed and big body were key depth points throughout the year, and it won’t be easy to replace.
However, two young guns from the Rockford IceHogs (the Blackhawks ‘AHL affiliate) think they got what it takes. The problem: only one of them will make it. Here’s the tale of the tape, in the battle between Jimmy Hayes and Jeremy Morin.
Height: 6′ 6″
Weight: 210 lb.
2013 AHL Stats
Hayes has one thing others don’t: size. He doesn’t let it go to waste, parking himself in front of the opposing goaltender. Near-impossible to move, he is dynamite around the net, generating rebounds and deflections.
Hayes has surprisingly sweet hands for such a power forward, and is great in tight situations, namely near the goal. He has good top-end speed, and is very adept at carrying the puck into the zone himself.
When the play shifts, Hayes is consistently a good defender, back-checking hard. His long reach is used to great advantage, poking pucks away and blocking lanes. Hits are just one of the many things Hayes can do without the puck, and he is rarely seen out of the play after delivering a check.
Hayes has played in two lengthy stints with the Blackhawks, the larger of the two being a 33 regular-season and playoff game call-up in 2011-12. He has recorded 13 career NHL points in 43 games, with 31 penalty minutes.
During the Blackhawks’ training camp, Hayes caught the attention of Head Coach Joel Quenneville, with Coach Q having this to say:
“He was one player that really stepped up and showed us that he wants to make our hockey team. He worked at a different level in the offseason, he prepared himself to be in much better shape, and you can notice his quickness and his drive out there.”
Hayes also recorded an assist in the Blackhawks’ 2-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on September 17th.
Height: 6′ 1″
Weight: 192 lb.
2012-13 AHL Stats:
Jeremy Morin is an all-around player, known for his versatility and reliability. Morin knows how to put the puck in the net, with 30 in 2012-13 for the IceHogs. Morin’s net drive, and puck strength is the root of most of his opportunities. He has no problem getting in tight from outside, and it is extremely hard to knock the puck off his stick.
Morin’s shot is the highlight of his offensive game, and not only uses it to score, but can fire it and generate rebounds well. His great vision allows him to predict the play developing, and put the puck on the stick of a team-mate in scoring position.
Morin backs up his solid offense with a great 200-foot game, showing excellent defensive positioning, putting him in the right place to make a solid body-check, or take away the puck. Morin’s strength is exceptional for his size, (>200 lb.) and can out-muscle opponents with 10 or 20 pounds on him. He does this with a strong work ethic, and grit suited for a depth role.
Morin has played a total of 15 career NHL games, scoring 5 points. His longest stretch was 9 games back in 2010-11. Morin has impressed pro scouts after adapting to the NHL game much faster than usual.
Advantage: Jimmy Hayes
If the Blackhawks are looking to replace Stalberg upfront, the choice is obvious. The big body of Stalberg will be filled with a body a half-foot taller. Hayes’ speed and net drive is also a resemblance of Stalberg’s, and his great hands leave room for even more offensive contribution. Defensively, Hayes can be just as good if not better, with the massive reach and physical play. Hayes’ deal-maker might be his opportunity to find success on the power-play, something the Blackhawks struggled with in 2013. Hayes’ big body can cause havoc in the crease, becoming the critical extra man on the ice. His size will contrast well with the Blackhawks’ speed, and he could be in the top six within a few short years.
As for Jeremy Morin, he will get his chance soon, whether it is with the Blackhawks or not. If there is an injury on the wing, Morin could be an effective replacement, even if it is on his off-wing. Morin will have a successful NHL career, even if the Blackhawks use him as trade bait and he moves on with another team.
The Blackhawks will move on without Stalberg, and either player could be a fine replacement. Replacing the depth lost turned out to be easier than one might expect, thanks to the great moves made by Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. Any way you cut it, the Blackhawks’ depth will be as good if not better than in 2013, and if the rest of the pieces fall into place, they could go deep once again.
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