Chicago Blackhawks Roundtable: John Hayden And Second-Line Centers

By Colin Likas
Mar 18, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks center John Hayden (40) during their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Blackhawks beat the Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 18, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks center John Hayden (40) during their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Blackhawks beat the Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Greg Bradshaw

Question 1: With John Hayden, the ‘Hawks may have truly struck gold. In the six games Hayden has played, I’ve seen nothing but energy and hunger for the puck. On top of that, the man can deliver some nasty hits and seems to have a solid stick.

Although I may be speaking too soon, Hayden could absolutely remain in the top six come playoff time. His time on the top line has seemed to do wonders in the beginning to his pro career. With the chemistry he and Jonathan Toews have shown, I look for Hayden to stay on the top line with Richard Panik moving down.

Panik has played brilliantly, but I believe the influence of Toews is what is making Hayden even better and is why their combination shouldn’t be broken up.

Chicago Blackhawks

Question 2: This is a seriously hard question and I don’t know if there really is a right answer. Ryan Hartman has been tested at the center position and has been somewhat OK. Nick Schmaltz simply cannot win faceoffs and it really kills the momentum of a highly offensive line when battles at the dot go the opposite way.

Nonetheless, I’m going to go with Schmaltz and it’s because of his great passing ability. Sure, Schmaltz will put the puck in the net as well, but he has shown some seriously great playmaking ability on the second line.

Ryan Hartman is having a terrific rookie season, but I think it’s a little too late to move someone into an unfamiliar position this far into the year. It’s a huge asset having a winger who can transition to the center position, but for now just leave Hartzy where he has proven to be reliable.

George Clifford

Question 1: Just 10 days into his nascent pro career, 23-year-old rookie John Hayden has quickly shown the skill, vision and physicality to become a top-six power forward. Playing with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik on the ‘Hawks’ top line, he’s already posted 14 shots and an eye-popping 25 hits in his first five games, but when Artem Anisimov returns to action, Coach Q has some tantalizing options of where to play the big forward.

If Nick Schmaltz returns to left wing on the Toews line, I’d love to see Hayden find a bottom-six spot in the playoffs and maybe become another Dave Bolland-type player who can blast opponents off the puck and turn game-breaking plays.

Hayden’s a nominal centerman, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Q give him a go centering the third or fourth line sometime before the playoffs begin. Wherever he draws into the lineup, Hayden will be a big factor in a successful Blackhawks run in the playoffs.

Question 2: Ryan Hartman did OK in the one game he centered Panarin and Kane against Dallas, but I’d rather see Schmaltz continue in that role and put Hartman back on the checking line or up on the top line with Toews and Panik, depending on what Coach Q does with Hayden.

One thing’s for sure — the ‘Hawks are operating well below maximum potential with Artem Anisimov suiting up in a coat and tie right now.

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