In what has been a great start for the 10-3-1 Chicago Blackhawks, many young and talented rookies have been asked to contribute to a team of seasoned veterans, and quite a few have answered the call
During the Joel Quenneville era of the Chicago Blackhawks, there have been two things that have come to be understood by players and fans: All forwards must bring a two-way game, and minutes are earned not given.
Coach Q has typically been tough on rookies and tends to rely on veteran presence in most situations rather than to develop young guys. This is not the case with the 2016-17 Blackhawks, as there are simply no alternatives but to play the rookies and depend rather heavily upon them throughout their learning process.
With so many talented young guns on the 2016-17 Chicago Blackhawks, there are some who have shown flashes of brilliance while others seem to be coming on at a slower pace than us eager fans have the patience for.
Here’s a look at the cream of the crop in the early going of the season. The rankings will consist of the five youngest players on the Chicago Blackhawks.
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Chicago’s very own Hinostroza comes in at No. 5. The speedy winger led the Rockford IceHogs last season in points with 51, but so far hasn’t shown the consistency and scoring touch in the 6 games he’s been given the go.
While Hinostroza is without a doubt talented, he’s been a healthy scratch in eight games and will require more time to gel with team and produce at the level he is capable of.
He’s ranked lower more so because of his lack of size. Yes, the ‘Hawks aren’t a big team by any means, but with so many smaller wingers and with Alex DeBrincat — another small-stature skate — reaching an entry-level deal with the Blackhawks, there will definitely be a need for bigger bodies.
Vinnie skates hard, but DeBrincat certainly has the higher ceiling. Hinostroza will most likely stick around to provide much-needed depth for the bottom six in the ’Hawks’ lineup.
4. Ryan Hartman
Andrew Shaw 2.0? Not likely, but Hartzy has been quite the surprise so far with two goals and an assist.
Hartman has brought the physicality that the coaching staff expected him to bring with his 16 hits which is good for fourth on the team. Hartman’s physical presence is what he must rely on if he wishes to keep minutes coming, but as we saw in 3-2 victory over Dallas, Hartman has been contributing offensively with the bottom six, where scoring is needed the most.
Patrick Kane even mentioned Hartman’s performance in that game as “special.”
Hartzy’s energy is electric and seemingly every game he plays with a chip on his shoulder, bringing grit with every minute of ice time he receives. Expect Hartman to stay with the team if he can avoid any setbacks, but certainly he is on the right track to filling the shoes of the departed Shaw.
The rookie out of North Dakota State has come out strong with his speedy play and consistency on the bottom six of the Blackhawks’ lineup. But things are looking up for young Schmaltz as he has now been given the opportunity to skate along captain Jonathan Toews and reigning MVP Kane on the top line.
With one goal and two assists so far on the year, Schmaltz will now receive the chance of a lifetime to play along with the franchise’s best and possibly even remain with the top line given the fact that the left wing position is still unanimously up for grabs.
Truly the most surprising of the rookies this season is the young Swede Forsling. Given the Chicago Blackhawks’ blue line depth this season, many expected Forsling to be coming off the bench while others imagined Forsling wouldn’t crack the lineup whatsoever.
Against the odds, Forsling has played in all but two games this season due to injury. While Forsling has quite a bit of work to do in regard to puck possession, with his only two points coming from assists, the young defenseman shows his offensive ability with some nifty passing and great vision.
Coach Q has put a lot of trust in Forsling, and with the poor play of Trevor van Riemsdyk and the age concerns of Michal Rozsival, look for Forsling to remain a starting defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks.
1. Tyler Motte
The former Michigan Wolverine has proven himself to the Chicago Blackhawks tremendously throughout the beginning of the season. Without a doubt he is the most pleasant surprise of the rookie class, and he’s only getting better!
With three goals and three assists, Motte has given the ‘Hawks a spark from the third line, where he has primarily found himself skating, and is gaining a ton of trust from Coach Q as he has developed into a strong penalty killer as well.
His two-way play along with some outstanding speed gives Chicago Blackhawks fans a lot of hope for the future, as Motte could very well find himself as a top-six forward for years to come.
The Chicago Blackhawks possess a multitude of talented rookies throughout the current lineup as well as down in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs. With the season still so young, who will continue to impress?
Will Schmaltz fill the missing void on the top line? Will Forsling keep a continuous spot on the ’Hawks’ defensive pairings? We would love your feedback in the comments below! How would you rank the Chicago Blackhawks’ youngsters?