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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Mar 23, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger (16) chases the puck during the first period against the Dallas Stars at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Colin Likas

Question 1: I’d like to see John Hayden on the third line with Marcus Kruger and Marian Hossa. I realize it might be better to put Hayden on the natural right side, but he’s clearly OK with playing on the left side, and I think he’d made a great addition to this line.

Kruger isn’t the offensive dynamo Jonathan Toews is on the top line, but he can win plenty of draws and move the puck the right direction. Hossa is more of a playmaker as well as a backchecking force. The two are able to turn play from the defensive zone to the offensive, and Hayden’s physicality would be an appropriate presence in that effort.

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Hayden’s inclusion on the third line would make the Blackhawks’ third line an offensive checking unit. While he is a youngster who’ll have barely over 10 games of NHL experience heading into the playoffs, I still think he offers a better option than someone like Tomas Jurco or Dennis Rasmussen on that line.

Question 2: I don’t think Ryan Hartman needs to be dragged out of position any further to try and fill the second-line center role while Artem Anisimov is out. I think the only two options for this role are Nick Schmaltz and Tanner Kero.

Schmaltz is the playmaker, but boy does he struggle winning faceoffs. It really hurt the line’s offensive ability when the puck is heading the wrong way, especially since none of the three are great puck stealers/retrievers when Schmaltz is on the line.

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Kero is a little more defensively oriented, but he still has some playmaking abilities. Not up to the level of Schmaltz, but enough to help Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane. He’ll probably win a few more faceoffs, too. We’re going to see how this unit works out tonight against Tampa Bay, apparently, as Kero was centering the second line at the morning skate.

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