In the midst of a week off between Chicago Blackhawks’ regular-season action, with a little event called the All-Star Weekend thrown in, focus may not be entirely on the team in Chicago at the moment. However, the business rolls on, and though there is a roster freeze in effect until the conclusion of this week’s festivities, the Blackhawks’ brass will have to make some decisions over the break.
With forward Kris Versteeg’s latest update showing a slow rehab on his hand injury, it seems like the Blackhawks are going to need an extra forward for the time being.
Usually in this situation, all fingers would be pointed in Teuvo Teravainen’s direction. However, he is already on the Blackhawks’ roster, and doing well, knocking in his first NHL goal just a few games ago.
With the likes of Jeremy Morin long gone, it’s time for a new Blackhawks’ prospect to make the big jump. Now, it’s only a matter of deciding which one. With a plethora of outstanding prospects with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, that’s easier said than done.
Today, we hedge our bets, and present to you our picks for the next Blackhawk prospect to make his name in the NHL.
35%: Mark McNeill
The Blackhawks had high expectations when they drafted Mark McNeill in the first round of the 2011 Entry Draft at 18th overall, the (same position as that Teravainen guy), and they didn’t have to wait long to see him shine. Only in his second full season of professional hockey, and McNeill has burst out, ranking second on the IceHogs in goals (12), and third in points (23). A big-bodied forward, McNeill certainly meets the physical requirements of the NHL game, and would be at home filling a role in the Blackhawks’ bottom-six. With plenty of upside, McNeill gets our odds-on favourite, simply because it was only a matter of time before he made the big jump.
25%: Peter Regin
Acquired less than a year ago from the New York Islanders, and part of the Blackhawks for most of the last regular season, and their following playoff run. A utility player at best, Regin could fill in on the Blackhawks’ penalty-kill as well, which will raise his stock significantly. Regin may not be the flashiest of players, but his experience at the NHL level, and familiarity both five-on-five and otherwise gives him a good chance of making his return to the roster.
20%: Garret Ross
Garret Ross wouldn’t be expected to be in this conversation, but one look at the IceHogs’ stats sheet says otherwise. Ross ranks second on the ‘Hogs in points (25), only behind defenseman T.J. Brennan (32). His 13 goals top the team, and his plus-19 rating ranks atop the IceHogs as well. A fifth-round pick in the 2012 Entry Draft, Ross is nearing his totals from his first professional season last year, in nearly half as many games. With offensive totals like his, Ross has to be mentioned in the conversation, but he may not be the Blackhawks’ go-to when it comes to recall a prospect.
15%: Phillip Danault
Philip Danault, much like McNeill, has earned his way into this conversation, with a breakout year on the horizon. Danault has put up 6 goals, 17 assists, and 23 points in 37 games. The 21-year old made his NHL debut this season with the Blackhawks already, playing two games, though he did not record a point. Another first-round draft pick, the Blackhawks have been waiting on Danault’s development, and in his third professional season, he is right on track. Though his size could hold him back, the Blackhawks would be happy with the youngster staying in Rockford and continuing to help lead the IceHogs to the playoffs.
What do you think? Who should the Blackhawks recall come the end of the All-Star Break? Let us know in the comments below!
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