Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks Training Camp’s Most Intriguing Battles

By Colin Likas
Dec 6, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) controls the puck against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period at United Center. Blackhawks won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 6, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) controls the puck against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period at United Center. Blackhawks won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Feb 28, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Dennis Rasmussen (70) celebrates scoring a goal during the third period against the Washington Capitals at the United Center. Chicago won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Bottom-six candidates

This field is much larger for the Blackhawks. Marcus Kruger is the only guarantee in this group, and there are plenty of options to join him.

If Hossa is supplanted on the top line, he’d easily be part of the bottom six. Andrew Desjardins is close to a lock, but strong performances by some youngsters in training camp could lead to a surprise start in the AHL. Panik is also an option here if he doesn’t crack the top line.

At least one of Brandon Mashinter or Jordin Tootoo will be on the opening night roster, regardless of what they do in camp. Dennis Rasmussen could also make the roster based on his knowledge of the Blackhawks’ system.

So what about guys who weren’t with the team last season, or who were there a short amount of time? Let’s talk about Hartman, Vincent Hinostroza, Tanner Kero, Tyler Motte and Kyle Baun.

Hartman, should he not fill Q’s desired Shaw role on the top line, is an easy fit for the bottom six. He offers a little more talent than Shaw did, as he can create plays at a slightly greater rate than Shaw. This is primarily because he’s a bit of a better puck handler than Shaw.

Hinostroza and Kero got short looks with the team last season and didn’t do a lot offensively. Kero projects as more of a defensive center, something the Blackhawks probably don’t need two of on the bottom six. They really need offense instead.

Hinostroza is kind of an unknown quantity. He was quickly pushed back to the AHL after a couple bad games with the Blackhawks. So a good training camp could push him back into Q’s good graces.

Motte is another young guy coming out of college, and someone who has been suggested as a potential top-line talent as well. For starters, if he’s with the NHL team off the bat, I think it’d be good to have him take on weaker competition and provide some offensive strength to the bottom six. Motte is a speedy playmaker, something the Blackhawks’ bottom six hasn’t seen a lot of outside Teuvo Teravainen.

Baun … I don’t want him around the team, but Q seems to have a soft spot for him. Baun cracked the opening night roster last season even though he wasn’t remotely ready for NHL action. After two games, he was banished to the AHL, where he also struggled. However, like with Hinostroza, a good training camp for Baun could sway Q.

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