Power To The People - Second City Hockey's Season Preview: The Precocious Neophytes
I'm sure no one will begrudge me borrowing from Clyde Frazier. And if you've never heard Clyde the Glide call a Knick game, do yourself a favor. Y'know, in 2015 when the NBA begins again.
Anyway, today's question is from long-time guy Toews-Makes-Funny-Faces:
Which rookies start out with the Big Club, and which are next and salivating at the chance up the Reagan Expressway?
Best yet, I got to correct someone else's spelling on here. Now I'll proceed to misspell about 18 words, just to make myself look foolish for being a jackass. It's kind of my thing. Anyway, onward....
The first part, which rookies will start with the big club, is pretty easy to answer. Both Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith will count as rookies this year, though it is unlikely either will give the Hawks a fourth Calder candidate in five years (Crawford counts as a candidate, even though he wasn't a finalist. At least in my eyes).
We've discussed Kruger ad nauseum here on SCH, so you pretty much know the drill. But the task before him is a great one. Because if he can't prove he can anchor a scoring line, it really doesn't make much sense to have him doing so on the 4th line. He's not an energy player, or at least hasn't looked one in his brief time on these shores. That doesn't mean that will keep the coaches from trying it, or possibly shifting him to a wing for a time. Still lots of preseason left, and we all hope he can prove to be what it has been claimed he is.
Smith is another we've talked about endlessly. It would probably be easier to play if he could get Jesse Rogers's lips of his anatomy. Which part of it I leave to you.
That's probably the only two who will start the year hear, but that doesn't mean they'll be the only ones we see.
If health wasn't a question, I would have to believe that Jeremy Morin would make Rusty Olesz redundant, no matter how good he's looked in camp. A fully operational Morin would probably have to lose a spot on the Top 6 then win it, and he showed the same chemistry with Toews during last preseason. The more likely scenario is that Morin will have to prove he's over the cobwebs with the Pigs of Frozen Pond out west for October and maybe longer. Should he do so, and have the numbers you'd expect from that, then he'd probably be the first call if there are injuries among the Top 6 wingers, or Olesz and Stalberg completely shit it.
Who else should we keep an eye on? Rob Klinkhammer is not a bad bet either. A big body with a hint of a scoring touch, Klink could find himself on the 4th line if a couple injuries hit. He was as big of a candidate to be called up at the end of last year as Smith was, and will probably see a handful of games in Chicago this year.
Another one who might get a look, and I'd be excited if he did, is Brandon Pirri. Unquestionably, Pirri probably should have stayed in college at least one more year, and spent most of his time in Rockford getting ragdolled by bigger, stronger opponents. However, Pirri closed the season with a flourish, and now with a bigger role and some better talent around him, could have a pretty big year in the "A" if continues to make strides forward. If the Hawks suffer some injuries down the middle, and God forbid they do, Pirri might be called upon to fill in. Obviously, Kruger would be the first choice, but Pirri would be behind him.
Less candidates on the blue line, and with the Hawks having eight on the depth chart it's going to be hard for any kid to break through this year. Of course, a big injury bug could hit and everyone could figure out that dressing John Scott borders on International crime, and then we might see. Ryan Stanton had a steady year at Rockford last year and has some decent size. If the Hawks require someone to fill in and just play a simple game Stanton could be that guy.
There was a time when Shawn Lalonde was Nick Leddy before Nick Leddy. We spent some of 2009-2010 drooling over his junior numbers, the 56 points in 58 games as a d-man. But Lalonde's defensive game lagged way behind his offensive one. Like, beyond the horizon behind. That started, ever so slightly to be corrected late last year in Rockford. If something happens to Leddy and/or Keith and/or Lepisto, maybe Lalonde gets a look. He's still only 21 as well, and there's plenty of time for him to figure it out. But you might want to build a bomb-shelter to watch from when Lalonde has to retreat into his own end.