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Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has an interesting view on young players in the teams system. A widely shared critique of him this year was his treatment of those players. Many young players had a chance to shine this year in the NHL and their chances seemingly got thwarted by Quenneville’s apparent mistrust of them. I have a different point of view than most on some of Quenneville’s decisions regarding youngsters. A few players who have had chances this year and were shot down were Joakim Nordstrom, Jeremy Morin, and Brandon Pirri. Highly touted prospect Teuvo Teravainen is a different story in my opinion. After GM Stan Bowman traded away Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik, and let Viktor Stalberg walk, most thought that he would bring in experienced players to fill their void. Instead, he opted to allow the depth of the organization to attempt to shine through. It did not work out quite as planned.
Brandon Pirri deserved a long look this year. He led the AHL in scoring in 2012-13. Some people though he would develop into the role that was left void by Dave Bolland. He definitely got a look this year, but maybe not enough of one according to some people. Early in the season he appeared in 24 games for Chicago. Starting off, he posted decent numbers. He quickly compiled 11 points on 6 goals and 5 assists, but his numbers wound down quickly. He was held scoreless for a long stretch leading up to his demotion. He got recalled again later in the season for four games and was held scoreless. After he was demoted again, he got traded away to the Florida Panthers where he became an immediate contributor. Although his scoring was not a problem, defense was. Pirri even admitted himself, that he needed to work on it and that would be a major part in his development.
Joakim Nordstrom was the biggest surprise to me this season. He began the season starting on the fourth line, and had other stints in December and April, as well as a few games in the playoffs. He had a goal and a couple assists in 16 games. He is a promising prospect, but I believe he will need a couple years to develop into a every day player. He is a speedy forward who can handle the puck, and he is also very versatile, as he can play in the center position or on the right wing.
Jeremy Morin has taken a little bit longer to develop. He has played at least a few games with Chicago every year since he joined in 2010-11. This year, he played a little more consistently cracking the lineup 24 times including twice in the playoffs. He didn’t really begin to show consistency until he was placed in the lineup when Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were injured. He finished the year with 5 goals and 6 assists. At one point with Rockford this season, Morin went on an impressive point streak of 13 games in which he posted 11 goals and 9 assists. I believe he will be a more integral part of the Blackhawks offense next season, and seasons to come.
Finally, Teuvo Teravainen, who some believe is the Blackhawks highest rated prospect, made his debut this season. He played in a total of 3 games, but didn’t record a point. People touted Teravainen as the Blackhawks “savior” this year. I knew that he wouldn’t be able to adjust that quickly to the play in North America. International ice is bigger, and play is slower. He had amazing success in the World Juniors for gold medal winning Finland, and with Jokerit in the SM-Liiga. He is an amazingly talented prospect. He can handle the puck well, and his passing game is well above his young age of 19. Because of that young age though, I don’t believe management will put a lot of pressure on him for at least a couple of seasons. Fans may not see him develop into his full potential for 2 or 3 years. Stan Bowman said in his press conference yesterday, that he is incredibly excited to see Teuvo Teravainen’s development over the next five years. I believe we can all agree with him.
Some perceive that Joel Quenneville hates young players, and would rather go with seasoned veterans than young talent. Sometimes, I believe he is right. I don’t believe that any prospect should be put under a lot of pressure. Had Morin played consistently in the playoffs, he may have cost the Blackhawks a few games buckling under the pressure of the postseason. Prospects will get their chances when Quenneville believes they are ready, and space is made for them in the main roster. Until then, let them develop.
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