The Chicago Blackhawks are offensively gifted.
There is no doubting that, as training camp hits the fifth day, and the ‘Hawks are set to play their first pre-season game of 2015 tonight.
All of that firepower is a good problem for head coach Joel Quenneville to have, as he dreams up line combinations for the pre-season, and start of the regular season. One interesting combination that has surfaced, is Artemi Panarin, Teuvo Teravainen, and Viktor Tikhonov.
Teravainen was the Blackhawks’ 18th overall pick just a few years ago at the NHL draft, where many believed that the Finnish center would land in the top 10. After his well-hyped debut in the NHL, he has since stuck, and delivered two solid seasons for the ‘Hawks, as well as playing a big part in their Stanley Cup run this spring.
Artemi Panarin is in nearly the same position as Teravainen, though his path to the NHL seems to be quite accelerated. Panarin was signed by the Blackhawks this spring, and once fans got a look at what’s to come, the excitement began. Panarin led the World Hockey Championships in scoring, and finished above teammate Ilya Kovalchuk in KHL scoring this year. The out-of-nowhere signing is looking good for the Blackhawks already, after a few strong days at training camp.
Viktor Tikhonov was another unforseeable free-agent signing, and though this Latvian didn’t bring all the hype that his Russian counterpart did, the former first-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes may still prove to be a valuable asset, after playing less than a full season’s worth of hockey in the NHL.
This line would present a ton of speed, which fits right into the Blackhawks’ total style of play. If Teravainen has a solid season in the face-off circle, this line can do a ton of damage, as these players all know what to do once they get the puck.
Defense won’t be much of an issue for this line, as their speed will allow them to get back into the play quickly. However, it is the adjustment to the NHL game for Panarin, and the re-adjustment for Tikhonov, that could present an issue for this line.
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The European ice that Panarin and Tikhonov have made their living on for the past several years promotes a speedier, skill-based game. However in the confines of an official NHL-sized rink, these two players may find that the reduced space takes away some of their offensive abilities. Though Tikhonov has some NHL games to his credit, Panarin is yet to suit up for a pre-season or regular-season game on North American ice, and the transition could hamper his abilities with and without the puck.
(Editor’s note: Panarin played for the Russian Juniors’ team in Buffalo in 2011 and in the Juniors Super Series on ice comparable to NHL ice. Thanks to @BooksHockey for the heads up on Twitter.)
With only a handful of NHL seasons between them, this line will be one of the least-experienced in the NHL, though they have such a high potential. The first several pre-season games could bring a focus on purely adjusting to the NHL game, and with Panarin out of the lineup for the first couple of pre-season games with an upper body injury, this transition period could trickle over to the regular season.
Here’s the kicker, however; this line wouldn’t even be a top-six line. The Blackhawks’ offensive depth is still unbelievavle, despite the changes Stan Bowman made over the off-season. If a Panarin-Teravainen-Tikhonov line can gel together, the Blackhawks could have the most stacked top-nine they have had since their rise to dominance, and it could bode well for the teams’ chances at a repeat of last season.
What do you think of this line combination? Have your say in the comments below!
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