Back-end defense options
This is an interesting battle as well. Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brian Campbell are shoo-in options. I think Michal Kempny is a shoo-in as well, though not everyone agrees. He was brought over from the KHL, and I highly doubt the Blackhawks would do that with a player if they just wanted to send him to the AHL.
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So that leaves one spot left. And while it may not seem important who fills that spot, the Blackhawks have shown in recent seasons defensive depth is absolutely critical throughout a Stanley Cup run.
The obvious options for this spot are Trevor van Riemsdyk, Erik Gustafsson, Michal Rozsival and Viktor Svedberg. TVR seems highly likely to get the call barring an absolutely awful training camp. He had a miserable sophomore season, doesn’t move particularly well and takes poor lines on plays. But Q loves him, and TVR offers some offensive and shot-blocking upside.
Gustafsson is the young gun who started strong offensively from the blue line last season but had holes poked in his defensive abilities as the season went on. AHL seasoning may be a good option for him right now.
Rozsival is the old guy who keeps returning. He can hardly move, but knows the Blackhawks’ system and how to play stay-at-home defense. He’ll probably be the seventh man. Svedberg, meanwhile, moves about as well as Rozsival but somehow isn’t as good defensively. More AHL seasoning is required for him as well.
Ville Pokka has an outside shot at cracking the roster, coming off his World Cup of Hockey appearance with Finland. But he didn’t look great in that showing, and he hasn’t looked great defensively at the AHL level.