Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks’ Prospect Camp Key For Goaltenders

By Colin Likas
CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, PA - OCTOBER 01: Wouter Peeters #36 of the Youngstown Phantoms tends net during the game against the Des Moines Buccaneers on Day 4 of the USHL Fall Classic at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on October 1, 2017 in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, PA - OCTOBER 01: Wouter Peeters #36 of the Youngstown Phantoms tends net during the game against the Des Moines Buccaneers on Day 4 of the USHL Fall Classic at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on October 1, 2017 in Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Blackhawks want to see good things from all of the young athletes at this week’s prospect camp, but the brass likely would be most delighted to see positives from the goaltenders

It’s no secret the Chicago Blackhawks’ goaltending situation, from the NHL level on down, is far from perfect. Corey Crawford‘s health is a mystery, and every backup the Blackhawks tried out last season either struggled or didn’t receive enough time in net to really evaluate.

Now, the Blackhawks have veteran Cam Ward signed while Crow’s future is still uncertain. Wouter Peeters could be the next guy, or Collin Delia could take that mantle. But the only thing that’s certain with the Blackhawks’ present crop of goalies is that nothing is certain.

Which is why this week’s prospect camp is especially important for the goaltenders in attendance. Among the group are Peeters, Alexis Gravel, Peyton Jones, Chase Marchand, Linden Marshall and Mathew Robson.

None of these guys are terribly old. Jones, Marchand and Robson all are 22, while Peeters and Marshall are 19 and Gravel is 18. Remember, Crawford didn’t become a regular NHL goaltender until he was 25, so it’s not as though any of these guys is over the hill.

That’s why it’s important for the Blackhawks to use this camp to identify if any of these youngsters are capable of stepping into an NHL-level role in the future.

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Not even the immediate future — just at some point. The Blackhawks’ goaltending situation is so uncertain not only now, but also well down the road. This team has not done an incredible job developing long-term netminders, and it’s showing presently.

Peeters is expected to play at the KHL level this upcoming season, so he’d certainly be a guy you’d like to have making the NHL jump sooner rather than later. But perhaps another one of these guys uses this camp to show he’s going to be worthy of donning the Indian head moving forward.

Most recently, three of these guys played in the NCAA, while one was in the QMJHL, one was in the USHL and one at a Canadian college. None of those locations portends an immediate rise to the NHL, but it’s not like these guys are playing pond hockey either.

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Hopefully the Blackhawks’ staff sees some positive moves from the goaltenders this week. It’d also be great to see the defensemen and forwards trending upward, but there’s only one goaltender on the ice any given night. The Blackhawks need to make sure they have that guy for more than just the very next season.

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