The Chicago Blackhawks do not have that many physical forwards, Mike Hardman has proven to be just that through his first seven games with the franchise. The Blackhawks have played a lot of rookies this season, and Hardman definitely plays a little different than the rest.
There are a few different tiers of rookies in Chicago. Obviously, fans expect Hagel, Suter, Kurashev, and Mitchell to be back in the NHL next season in big roles. However, it is that next group that is competing for third and fourth line spots on this team.
Players like MacKenzie Entwistle, Reese Johnson, and Mike Hardman are competing for those fourth-line spots alongside David Kampf and Ryan Carpenter. While the last couple weeks of games have not been great, Hardman has been one bright spot.
The Hawks have a lot of talent in their rookies. They have speed and can shoot the puck, but not that many of them can throw around their body as Hardman can. Through the first seven games of his NHL career, Hardman has 30 hits thus far.
For a rookie forward 30 hits is not bad for just playing seven games and averaging just 10:55 a night. The Hawks are going to need physical players like him next season. It is hard to imagine that the Hawks just signed Hardman to his NHL contract in March.
After scoring his first NHL goal a few days ago, Hardman helped set up his linemate Entwistle for his first NHL goal:
The Hawks are giving their young players some bigger opportunities considering the season is already over. The team is not going to be in the playoffs after losing a lot of games the past two months of the season. While it is awesome to see these young rookies light the lamp and show what they are made of, I wish it started earlier.
Fans brought the roar back to the United Center, but it was the youth on the ice that saw the opportunity in front of them. This is basically like a tryout for the ten rookies to leave one final impression going into the off-season.
Hopefully, we will see even more rookies continue to light the lamp tonight in the final game of the season. Dallas and Chicago play their final game of the season tonight at seven central.