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Chicago Blackhawks: Baun Making Push For Roster Spot

By Matt Barbato

The Chicago Blackhawks have a plethora of young talent at the NHL and AHL levels. This depth makes it harder for young players to make the push from the Rockford IceHogs to the professional level. Kyle Baun, a 23-year old winger, could have a shot at breaking that trend.

Baun has impressed with his play through the first four games of the preseason, recording three goals and one assist in three games played. The Blackhawks invited many of their young forward prospects to try out at training camp, and the free agent from Colgate is standing out from the bunch.

Baun got his first look with the Blackhawks last April, playing three games with Chicago near the end of the regular season. Coach Joel Quenneville said he liked what he saw from Baun then, and that he is making an impression in camp.

“He’s certainly a guy we’ve been watching closely,” Quenneville told the Tribune’s Chris Hine. “There’s a number of guys in a similar situation where there’s opportunity there and play is going to dictate where he starts. I thought he made a really good impression on us last year.”

The question is whether or not there’s a place for Baun on the roster. The Blackhawks seem to have their 12 starting forwards set in stone. Quenneville said there are about seven players competing for a spot or two. The odds are against Baun, but his play cannot be brushed aside without a second look.

A roster spot could open up if winger Bryan Bickell is still suffering from vertigo symptoms. The winger said he was still suffering from occasional symptoms last week. Bickell said he thought he had cured the symptoms by having a tooth removed and an infection cured during the summer, but the symptoms continue to linger.

The Blackhawks could opt to place Bickell on the injured-reserve list to start the season as Bickell fully recovers. That could open up an extra spot for at least the beginning of the season — a spot that could prolong Baun’s audition with the franchise.

Baun likely fits in best as a third- or fourth-line winger. That’s where he has mainly played during the preseason, and he has been a spark plug in the role. A fourth line consisting of Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Baun could be quite a pesky group filled with enough skill to keep opponents honest.

Baun could get two more opportunities to secure a roster spot in Chicago’s final two preseason games on Thursday and Saturday. The games might not mean a thing to Chicago’s season, but they could have ramifications on Baun’s career going forward.

No matter what happens, the 23-year-old has turned some heads within Chicago’s brass. Even if he starts the year in Rockford, Baun could be the first man called up if an injury occurs. Missing the cut in 2015 won’t mean the end of Kyle Baun with the Chicago Blackhawks.

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