Now that the team has played 50 games, it’s a good time to evaluate the performances of the Chicago Blackhawks roster through the All-Star Break. In this first of a three-part series, we’ll begin by looking at the rookies on the roster. Between now and the All-Star Game we’ll also look at the forwards and then the defensemen and goalies on the roster.
For the sake of clarification, because he spent almost half of last season in Chicago, we are not including Nick Leddy in this discussion.
Marcus Krüger, Center
40 games played, 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points, -2
Krüger has shown an ability to get under the skin of any opponent, and works hard in every zone. He has shown some struggles at the dot, winning only 45.7 percent of his faceoffs and has skated anywhere between the second and fourth line this year. He’s shown great awareness on the ice, but hasn’t finished. Clearly a work-in-progress, there’s a lot to like about what we’ve seen from Krüger so far.
Jimmy Hayes, Forward
13 GP, 4 G, 3 A, 7 Pts, -1
It took Jimmy Hayes less than two games to render Bryan Bickell obsolete. He’s shown a great ability to fight for, and win, a puck in the corners, he gets in front of the net effectively, and skates well for a players his size. He has two points on the power play (one goal, one assist) already and, most importantly, has been credited with 28 hits already. It appears the older Hayes brother is in Chicago to stay.
Andrew Shaw, Center
11 GP, 5 G, 2 A, 7 Pts, +1
Shaw, and #shawfacts, have been the toast of Chicago since he was recalled from Rockford. He already has one game-winning goal on this resume, and has piled up 27 hits in just 11 contests. To put that in context, John Scott has 27 hits in 20 games. But beyond bringing a physical element to the game, Shaw has also shown outstanding ice awareness and is winning 50.7 percent of his faceoffs in the NHL. He can skate on all four lines and looks like he’ll stick around Chicago for a while longer.
Ben Smith, Forward
13 GP, 2 G, 0 A, 2 Pts, -2
Smith looked great at the end of last season and into the postseason, but lost his roster spot when the 2011-12 season started because of a concussion and might not get it back because of the play from Shaw and Hayes. He’s a grinder with great experience, including a MOP at the Frozen Four, but projects as a third or fourth line player at best. He’s been credited with six hits and five blocked shots in the NHL this season.
Brandon Pirri, C
Jeremy Morin, F
Dylan Olsen, D
Brandon Saad, F
Of these four, only Pirri has made any kind of impact at the NHL level this year. In five games with the Hawks, Pirri has two assists and has won 48.2 percent of his faceoffs. Morin, Olsen and Saad have combined to register zero points in seven NHL games.
However, fans have seen a brief glimpse into what could be the future at the United Center, and there should be reason for hope. Olsen was credited with six hits and one blocked shot in his two games with Chicago, while Pirri has five takeaways in as many games with the Hawks. Morin and Saad both showed flashes of being able to skate as a top six wing in the not-too-distant future, but both have some work to do before they get that chance.