4. The Kids Are Alright
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The biggest reason for concern for the Blackhawks heading into 2016-17 is regarding who will fill out the rest of the roster. After trading Teuvo Teravainen, Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw, as well as not re-signing Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise or Tomas Fleischmann, the Blackhawks had some very glaring openings in the forwards department.
This offseason, more than any other in recent memory, has given the prospects in the Blackhawks’ system a huge opportunity to make the jump to the NHL on a full-time basis. Players like Vinnie Hinostroza, Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz, Tyler Motte, Tanner Kero and Dennis Rasmussen (to name just a few) have a huge opportunity to prove that they can be factors into the Blackhawks living up to their billing of 9/1 odds-on favorites to win the 2017 Stanley Cup.
With the ‘open audition feel to Prospect Camp and subsequently how training camp will go for the Blackhawks as well gives the young guys an opportunity to really grasp for quality playing time with the big club. Hartman, Kero, Rasmussen and Hinostroza have all had some time with the Blackhawks, but none made significant impacts to give them a locked-in spot on the 2016-17 roster.
Add in rookies Motte and Schmaltz and the Blackhawks will have quite the selection to make to fill out the bottom-six forward spots heading into the October 12 opening-night game against the Blues.
Having these kinds of young, quality players to choose from will hopefully allow the Blackhawks to avoid having to dump said young talent for more veteran players at the NHL trade deadline in the all too common push for the Cup moves General Manager Stan Bowman has made in the past.
Granted, some of those moves have paid off, but it has given the organization the image of being a prospect seller and has turned some fans to believe Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville are against playing the younger players or even giving them a shot to develop. Even if that were the case, Blackhawks management has no choice now but to give those players the opportunity in 2016-17, which is a win-win for everyone.
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