Sep 23, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Phillip Danault (24) and Detroit Red Wings left wing Teemu Pulkkinen (56) battle for the puck during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Friday night I had the chance to watch the Rockford Icehogs take on the Texas Stars in Cedar Park, Texas. I constantly switched between enjoying the game and predicting which players would have the best shot at filling a roster spot for the Hawks next season. A few players caught my eye as guys who could be with the Hawks as soon as next year, Mark McNeil, Phillip Danault, Klas Dahlbek (to Arizona in the Vermette deal), and Garret Ross.
I’ll start with Dahlbeck and be brief. He is such a smooth skater in his own zone. He hasn’t posted the offensive numbers he had last season, but he’s the most sound defensive defenseman in Rockford. I’ve heard him compared to a Hjalmarsson type player. It was sad for me to see him go, but it was a deal that had to be made. The Blackhawks have a king’s ransom of defensive prospects, so it appeared Bowman was willing to part with Dahlbeck.
Mark McNeil also impressed me a great deal on Friday night. It wasn’t just the end to end goal he scored after taking an uncalled high stick. McNeil flew around the ice and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Either he was incredibly lucky that night or he’s really coming along as an all-around player, which coach Q will love. He’s posted sixteen goals and fourteen assists in forty-three games. McNeil also brings a physicality that is foreign to the Chicago Blackhawks. He isn’t afraid to finish his checks and toss around his 6’2 200 pound frame.
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Phillip Danault, who appeared with the Hawks in a few games this season, was also a player who impressed. Like McNeil, Danault was always finishing his checks and wasn’t afraid to get into scrums in the corners to get the puck. Danault has a quick wrist shot and although he’s not quite the scorer he was in the CHL, Danault can make an impact for the Hawks as early as next year. Danault has nine goals and twenty assists this year.
Garret Ross is a guy who doesn’t attract the attention like the previously mentioned guys do, but he’s quietly leading Rockford in points this season with seventeen goals and sixteen assists. Ross is a little bit like Andrew Shaw. He’s a smaller guy, but he doesn’t mind mixing it up after the whistle and in front of the net. If the Hawks do trade Shaw over the summer, look for Garret Ross to slide into his role.
That’s all I’ve got this week for you Hawks fans. Thanks for reading as always and let’s hope Vermette and Timonen are exactly what the Hawks need to make a long run come June. Don’t forget to follow us on twitter and like us on Facebook.