With the season now over after a return to the playoffs and the Western Conference Finals, we're looking back at each player who wore the Indian Head sweater for the 08-09 Season and grading their performance. Next up, the man with possibly the best nicknames, Niklas Hjalmarsson.
#4 / Defenseman / Chicago Blackhawks
Jun 06, 1987
Contract Status: Signed thru next year for 666K (evil!)
|2008 - Niklas Hjalmarsson||21||1||2||3||4||0||0||0||0||0||15||6.7|
The Good: Hjalmarsson played almost as many playoff games with the Hawks (17) as he did in the regular season (21) this year - so his real impact is pretty limited. He started the season with the club in the opener against the Rangers but didn't do much to impress anyone - he skated less than 4 minutes in 5 shifts then sat for the rest of the game and was sent back to Rockford. He had another one game stint with the Hawks in January (helping to fill in for an injured Keith) but didn't really make it to the club til early March when he played in 19 of the final 20 games.
Once finally on the club though he quickly found his role anchoring a pairing with Brian Campbell. Hammer let Campbell focus on his offensive game while providing coverage and reasonable quickness that someone like Matt Walker couldn't. The Hawks needed someone to compliment Campbell and Hjalmarsson seems to do that quite nicely.
It's a small sample size (too small to really count) but his Behind the Net rating is high and he's right behind Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook in playing the highest quality of competition on the team. The overall good is that Hammer has proven that he deserves to stay in the NHL. He's got plenty of upside and could prove to be a solid, though probably never spectacular, top 4 defenseman.
The Bad: Well.. he's still learning his role. He's only played 51 games in the NHL so there's still a bit of a learning curve Hammer is getting over. Putting him on the ice with Campbell means he's got to be solid in his positioning and coverage, most of the time, he was pretty good at that... sometimes.. not so much.
There's not much "bad" that you can really claim in a limited time he's seen. He's learning the speed of the game at the top level. With more time in the NHL Hjalmarsson will gain the confidence and experience to continue to improve at his position and also learn to use his size more to his advantage (even Campbell had more hits than he did in the playoffs).
Odd as it may sound, Hjalmarsson could also stand to pick up his offensive game just a tad. Obviously if paired with Campbell again you don't want him going overboard but providing at least a bit of a threat off the blue line could ease up some pressure on Campbell. So Hammer, basically just shoooooooooooot once in a while.
Nicknames: Hammer, Super Nintendo Jalmers, Ham Sandwich (courtesy of Fifth Feather)
Playoff Beard Strength: Not one of the better beards - more of a chinstrap or dare I say, neckbeard. Far from one of the worst beards on the team though.
Related Photoshops: We only have 3 stories with a Hjalmarsson tag - I don't think he was enough of a factor to get his own photoshop this year. Though 3 solid nicknames ain't bad.
The Grade: Again, hard to really grade him for a small sample but I think he's right around a B-/C+... he didn't do much to impress but was hardly a liability on the ice. Taking his place as Campbell's linemate and doing an admirable job ought to count for something seeing as how that position had been played fairly poorly throughout the year. What say you?