Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks’ Youth Holding Serve Early This Season

By Sean Fitzgerald
Oct 1, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Vincent Hinostroza (48) skates in on St. Louis Blues goalie Carter Hutton (40) during the second period of a preseason hockey game at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 1, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Vincent Hinostroza (48) skates in on St. Louis Blues goalie Carter Hutton (40) during the second period of a preseason hockey game at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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Younger additions to the Chicago Blackhawks have eased preseason fears

Going into this season, I was worried the Chicago Blackhawks would not have enough depth to be competitive. The Blackhawks had lost Teuvo Teravainen, Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell from their core. They also lost trade deadline additions Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann in the offseason.

That is seven forwards who had played roles for the Blackhawks last season that needed to be replaced.

The Hawks replaced all of those forwards with relative unknowns Tyler Motte, Nick Schmaltz, Vincent Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman. They also added Gustav Forsling to their defensive core.

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While Hinostroza and Hartman had cups of coffee with the Blackhawks prior to this season, Motte and Schmaltz played last season in college. Both Hinostroza and Hartman were starting to look like another Mark McNeill. McNeill is good enough to play in the AHL but not good enough to crack a lineup at the NHL level.

While talented and young, the Blackhawks were counting on unknowns. People were calling this group of forwards the worst bottom six since 2011-12. The 2011-12 bottom six featured Andrew Brunette, Jimmy Hayes and Jamal Mayers.

Youth has made a recent impact

However, the youth has held its own as of late, helping the Blackhawks surge on the Circus Trip.

Hinostroza had two goals in the last two Blackhawks wins. Hinostroza had three points (1 goal and 2 assists) in the team’s come-from-behind win against the Canucks.

Motte returned from an injury that should have kept him out in 2-3 weeks after 13 days. He has one goal and one assist on the Circus Trip. While Schmaltz has taken the longest to get going, even he has one assist on the Circus Trip. Forsling who has played solid defense this year, had his first NHL goal before the Circus Trip began.

The only new Blackhawk yet to score his first NHL goal is Michel Kempny from the KHL. Kempny might be the lone blemish on the youth movement’s record. Kempny has been serviceable to below average at time on the ice.

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The youth movement also seemed to have reinvigorated the ageless wonder Marian Hossa. Hossa had 12 goals this season and will eclipse his total from last season of 13. With the mixture of youth and talented veterans, the Blackhawks seem poised to make another run into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

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