When might we see Mark McNeill with the Blackhawks?
With another off day before the Hawks' next tilt, let's take a look at a prospect that could be forcing his way to Chicago very soon.
When one looks up and down the roster for the Rockford Icehogs, one can't help but to walk away impressed with the amount of depth that the Chicago Blackhawks have managed to stack up within their minor league ranks. Sure, there aren't really a high quantity of impact prospects in the mold of Teuvo Teravainen, but there a number of intriguing quantities that should be able to make their presence felt at the NHL level in the near future.
One prospect that could get a run at the top level soon, perhaps even before Teuvo, is that of Mark McNeill. The Icehogs are off to an absolutely fantastic start, and McNeill is right in the middle of the reasons why. He took home AHL Player of the Week honors for last week, after going on an absolute tear that still hasn't quite come to an end.
It was a week that saw McNeill score six goals over a three-game span, including a goal in four consecutive games. He's up at 15 points on the year already, leading the Hawks' AHL affiliate. That total features nine goals in addition to six assists, as well as a plus-8 rating. Those numbers are skewed a bit, as he's shooting at an absurd 33 percent rate, but the confidence he's likely building should not be understated.
Selected with the 18th overall pick back in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, McNeill is in his second season with the Icehogs. He's already almost halfway to his total point output from last year, when he posted 37 across 78 games. The skill set he brings makes him an intriguing quantity, especially with the Hawks likely being pushed so far up against the cap as soon as next year.
For a Hawks team that could use some extra size somewhere in the lineup, McNeill would be an excellent addition. Of course, there are plenty of financial issues that would prevent such a move, as LTIR would likely be required for someone like Patrick Sharp, which doesn't seem likely. Add in the imminent return of Daniel Carcillo, which will supplant Peter Regin's short-lived stint in the lineup, and it's even more difficult to envision a lineup that features McNeill any time in the near future.
And that's extremely unfortunate because he has a skill set that would be quite a treat to watch with this lineup. He brings some size, at 6'2" and is capable of playing a physical game. At the same time, he has the hands to make him a highly successful offensive player who can contribute up in the top six or as a third line type. He can contribute on the power play and shorthanded as well, as he has a goal in each situation this year. It'd be surprising to see him not get a look at some point this year, but we may have to wait a few months before that sort of thing could actually be seen at the United Center.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.