Blackhawks: Rookie Grades At The All-Star Break

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.

The Rest
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.

11 thoughts on “Blackhawks: Rookie Grades At The All-Star Break

  • January 25, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Nice piece, Hayes, Shaw & Smith are great additions, bringing effort & energy on each shift plus putting points on the board. Bickell and to a lesser extent Frolik should take notice. Also, Olsen deserved a longer look especially with the recent play of our 3rd pair.

  • January 25, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Its kinda interesting that Ben Smith and Jeremy Morin were both looked upon as being possible impact rookies but both suffered concussions and haven’t looked the same as they did when they were raved aboot.

    Its also what scares me aboot Andrew Shaw’s style, especially this year where it seems like every other player is getting picked off.

  • January 25, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    It is difficult to see those inflated As for Shaw and Hayes without commenting.

    The blush has fallen off the rose a bit for me.

    I alway wonder if they skate out into the New York Islander ice if they fare as well and playing with such really skilled smart fast linemates here.

    Hayes need a bit of time to get the legs churning to get up the speed and that has already been a issue in transition for me.
    Granted he is huge, exceptional hands and good in the spaces close to the goal line, but he already is more about setting up to receive the puck than go in and get the puck.

    Shaw is does all the things you want a non-elite guy to do, and has not let up at doing it, no matter the physical cost. Of late he looks much more ordinary in his set-ups chances and doesn’t really strike fear into the hearts of opposition defenses. He is what he is, we like it but he or Hayes can’t carry the play, shoulder the scoring load or take quality shots when we needed them of late.

    Maybe the gardes were decided when you and everyone else got catch in the rookie fever.

    Great contributions early, and made plasy to score later without the superior players around them being big facotrs in those goals

  • January 25, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Kruger got C, and the two others A?

    Granted, Kruger hasn’t put fear into the hearts of oppsoition netminders so far, but he is capable of doing oh so many more things these to aspire to be able to do,
    He plays at high pace, never stops, and has great instincts. Fearless, excellent passer and a very unsung guy on this team despite the point totals.
    If Shaw had his skill set we would have no roadblocks to the Cup.
    If Hayes had his feet and passing instincts he would be a true first/second line guy, OR a guy that gets the job done no matter who his wings are.

  • January 26, 2012 at 12:48 am

    I agree with Bill . Kruger has earned a B . I would give Shaw a B as well . I agree with rest of grades although Olsen, Morin and Smith need more opportunity .

    This may not be popular , but I think our problem is a few of our players AND our coach . Time for Bickel ( looks like Eric Daze) ,Scott, Lepisto to go .

    This team can beat any team as long as they ( Hawks) come focused and with energy and determination to play . Problem is that it is not uncommon for the Hawks to take 2 or 3 periods off in a game . The last 60 minute game they played was vs the Sharks . When was another ? I can’t think of many out of first 50 games. Whose job is it to get the team ready & focused to play ? It is Coach Q’s job & I think he is failing miserably .

    He has exceptional talent and can’t get them to play hard ! The Sharks,Blues , Wings and Canucks rarely take a game off . Why ? Because their coach will not tolerate it .

    I hate to say it , but we need a new coach now . This team will not compete until we get a coach who demands it . Period .

  • January 26, 2012 at 1:50 am

    Shaw – agree he get’s an A. Plays good all around game with max effort.
    Hayes – change to B. Needs work in defensive zone.
    Kruger – change to B-. Needs to get stronger and score.
    Smith – agree he get’s a D. Seems to get lost in the play more and isn’t noticed much.

  • January 26, 2012 at 11:24 am

    reason for grades:

    Kruger is a center. Needs to be better at the dot.
    Hayes got an A because he’s been physical. We needed a big forward to be what Bickell hasn’t been, and he’s done that.
    Shaw got an A because he’s been physical and not stupid. We needed someone to fill Carcillo’s role w/out the PIM, and he’s done that.

  • January 26, 2012 at 11:50 am

    KC, you really think we need a new coach…. REALLY…, what a dumb comment

  • January 26, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Al : does this team come ready to play a FULL game even once every few games ?

    No . It is Q,s responsibility to get them ready . I think h e has not done much of a job makingsurther play to their abilities .

  • January 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Most of the grades given to the rookies are reasonable I think.

    Shaw – I love the energy and hockey smarts, but lets not give him the Calder yet.
    Hayes – he looks good, might not be a top six but could be a very intimidating forward, big man that can score, hope he remembers to use his size and not pull a Bickell on us.
    Kruger – love what I see from Kruger, agree that he needs to be better at the dot but he just looks like he is extremely smart and understands his role.

    Re: Coach Q I don’t think a coach with 600 wins and two Cups (asst. with Avs) will be under the same scrutiny as a coach like Bruce Boudreau was – Q has delivered. That said I struggle to understand how the team can be so unfocused at times. Last year we thought that it was the crop of new, younger players so more vets were brought in this year and still the team is having trouble playing three solid periods. I would definitely like to see a more balanced game plan.

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