Blackhawks Rookies Continue Making Enormous Impact

In spite of so many fans claiming the Blackhawks’ front office has failed because of disappointing statistical production from some of the veteran free agents that have been brought in with short-term deals, the playoff-bound Hawks wouldn’t be leaving their golf clubs in storage for a few extra weeks if not for the exceptional performances from their rookie class.

When the regular season ends, the Blackhawks will have more than 200 games played by rookies this season, and that number won’t include Nick Leddy (who turned 21 in late March). Four of the 18 skaters that dressed for Saturday night’s victory haven’t celebrated their 22nd birthday yet.

Through Saturday night’s games, only 16 rookies in the NHL have passed 20 points this season. Two of them are Blackhawks: Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger. What’s more, only three of those 16 players have participated in fewer than 60 games this season: Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (50 points in 58 games), Buffalo’s Luke Adam (20 points in 52 games), and Shaw (21 points in 34 games).

Kruger’s 33 blocked shots rank seventh among rookie forwards this season, while Shaw’s 77 hits are tied for for 13th among rookie forwards. Kruger also continues to rank among the rookie leaders in total faceoffs as well (currently fourth), and he remains one of only four rookies that is averaging more than one minutes per game on both the power play and penalty kill.

Amazingly, Kruger and Shaw share something in common beyond being among the top rookies this year: they were both fifth round draft picks.

Among the teams battling for position in the Western Conference playoffs picture, only Nashville has more games played by rookies this year than the Hawks. But considering the games missed by crucial members of the Hawks’ lineup, including Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith, no team in the West has needed crucial performances from rookies the way the Hawks have… and Chicago’s kids have come through in the clutch.

The Blackhawks 10-2-2 record was their best March since 1991, when they won the Norris Division with an identical record. They did that without their captain, but it was the young players stepping up that have made the difference.

8 thoughts on “Blackhawks Rookies Continue Making Enormous Impact

  1. Shaw has been outstanding. That backhand pass to Seabrook for the game winner tonight was a beauty. Kruger is less spectacular but has heart and knows how to play in all three zones. Olsen has shown enough, that with his size, he will be a part of the Hawk’s blueline plans. Hayes has had a few nice games although has tapered off down the stretch.

    Yep – pretty good rookie class.

  2. Absolutely right on Tab. What is most impressive about the kids like Shaw and Kruger is that they play with such a big heart which more than makes up for their lack of size. That’s a very special quality you cannot teach. They are also both smart hockey players – rarely do you see them make costly mistakes (which is the biggest risk when relying on rookies).

  3. Nice article Tab…and it is true about Bowman…we have both been vocally in his corner for the way he has drafted…A+ in my opinion…but no matter how anyone wants to spin it, he had a rough last summer making minor deals to fill out this roster…and mostly because he wasn’t willing to address the 2nd line Centre spot and the Brian Campbell DMan position THIS season…and he didn’t because he knows he has the fire power within the organization to take these spots NEXT year…and this has been my criticism of Bowman all season…he has risked this season (a season where we have as good as shot as any in the league to win the Cup) for the future…The Hayes brothers, McNeil, Danault, Saad, Kruger, Shaw, Pirri, Rensfeldt, Nordstrom, Olsen, LaLonde, Holl, Johns, etc…

    This is a loaded organization, and they have a solid core…but our defence needs more physicality than just Brent Seasbrook, and we needed it this year…our forwards need more grit than just Jamal Mayers, Andrew Shaw, Brandon Bollig and Jimmy Hayes…3 of which are rookies and could NOT have been counted on this past summer.

    Yes, Bowman has done a wonderful job drafting (and I don’t think people fully understand HOW GOOD because we haven’t even begun to hear about players like Pirri, Byron Froese, David Gilbert, Ludvig Rensfeldt, Joakim Nordstrom, Rob Flick, McNeil, Danault, Clendening, and Alex Broadhurst), but he has been underwhelming elsewhere…is it because he is stupid or is only good at one thing??? Not at all, but he has tried to “get by” this season before all of his hard work has paid off, and that is risky and reckless.

    As you have pointed out yourself in this excellent article, Bowman has been bailed out by complete surprises…Kruger, Shaw, and Hayes (2 5th round picks and a castoff from the Maple Laughs), and that is something that he could not have possibly counted on heading into this season…

    So, will we win the Cup this year? Are we rounding into shape in the nick of time? Not likely…getting Toews and Keith back gives us a shot, but our lack of physicality on Defence and weak, or at least inconsistent goaltending will doom us. Goaltending Bowman could not really have anticipated, and yet had he kept Niemi and let Hammer walk, we might not have these 2 problems right now…he may have gone out and got that physical Top 4 D presence that we so desperately need to help Seabrook and we may be starring at yet another Stanley Cup…

    So, Bowman has to accept the totality of his decisions as GM…some outstanding and others more than a little reckless.

  4. I agree with Brad. I would have let Hammer go and kept Niemi. I would have tried to keep Brent Sopel also.

  5. Brent Sopel was a #6 Dman and not physical…as much as I liked him over the years and his contributions, bringing him into the conversation as a keeper over Hammer is plain ridiculous. I, like many here, would like a bit more body work out of Hammer but I’ll take him any day over Sopes; especially the one later in his career.

  6. Sopel = Pylon

    As much as I don’t like Hjalmarsson and his hand grenade handling of the puck, he’s a much better player than Sopel…

  7. Defence men willing to lay there body s out will alwayes be an added goaltender as long they when how .to do it. Niemi was play.I also was agreat addition . But the best move s were made by coach. The rookies are being seasoned by one of the best coach s in the game .I realy they went with spee this year and any rookie that has that has agreat chance of fitting in. The general manager and coach once again on the right page. Now all they have to do is stay the cource and the rookies will no exactly is exspected of them.

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