For Chicago Blackhawks And Ville Pokka, Decision Time Is Now
By Sean Fitzgerald
Chicago Blackhawks defensive prospect Ville Pokka has not seen the NHL level with his current team, and it may be time for said team to make a decision on Pokka
The Chicago Blackhawks acquired defensemen Ville Pokka and TJ Brennan in the Nick Leddy and Kent Simpson trade to the New York Islanders before the 2014-15 season. Pokka had been the 34th overall pick of the New York Islanders in the 2012 draft.
Since being acquired by the Blackhawks, Pokka has spent his entire tenure with the organization with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs.
While expectations have always been high surrounding Pokka, the opportunities have never been given to him. Rumors had surfaced around the 2016-17 trade deadline that Pokka could be moved in a change-of-scenery type trade.
One way or another, the Blackhawks could not find a deal they liked with Pokka, so he has stayed with the organization.
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The Blackhawks are now faced with a decision regarding Pokka. General manager Stan Bowman has been adept at getting players who are coming off their entry-level contract to take less money in their second deal. Two recent examples are Kyle Baun and Trevor van Riemsdyk.
I think it is a no-brainer that he is resigned for less than $925,000. He is a younger defenseman on a salary cap-friendly deal. He also gives the Blackhawks depth at the AHL and NHL levels.
Will Pokka join the Blackhawks?
Now, Pokka has never seen time with the Blackhawks, but there could be openings on defense. Most likely, Johnny Oduya and his stellar abs will be moving on. I also feel Brian Campbell should left out in the cold after the season he had.
So that is two bottom-pairing spots that could be potentially open for the ’Hawks. We also have the expansion draft which could be see TVR being taken by the Vegas Golden Knights. If that is the case, the ’Hawks could have potentially three bottom defensive spots open.
Before everyone pencils in Pokka, I would still put him behind Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling in the running for those spots. So that is two potential spots gone with Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg lying in the wings as well.
Kempny and Forsling played in the NHL in 2016-17, while Gustafsson and Svedberg appeared in 2015-16. Let’s not forget both Gustafsson and Svedberg were recalled over Pokka in 2015 when the Blackhawks defense was horrible. Pokka might just be an AHL guy.
With all of that being said, I feel that Pokka will not join the Blackhawks to start the 2017-18 season. The coaching staff for whatever reason does not like the way he plays. It could be his lack of speed.
He will once again be sent down to Rockford after training camp, in my estimation. He will once again pay his dues in the minors until the trade deadline. This season, the Blackhawks will package Pokka in a change-of-scenery type deal similar to the Jeremy Morin for Richard Panik trade.