Tuesday, July 13, 2010
By Chris Boden
NO LONGER "DATELINING" FROM WINNIPEG -- So while Kustok's out having fun, skating with Blackhawks Youth Campers, here I am, writing about the other Youth Campers who are trying to skate regularly at the United Center this winter.
Got back in town Monday morning, just in time for the last of the four weekend sessions for the top Hawks prospects. Niklas Hjalmarsson was here just a couple years ago. Now, just after that final session, we learn he's sticking around at 3.5 million per for the next four years.
I was only able to watch closely early Friday (the first day), then the final game Monday - so a lot happened in between when I was visiting the captain and the Cup in Winnipeg. But here's what stood out:
Shawn Lalonde has a poise and presence about him. The 20-year-old '08 third-rounder seems to me the best bet to make the roster this October of anyone from camp. He was paired with Nick Leddy, the Wild first-rounder last year who moves well but seemed smallish on the ice to me. He is listed as 5'11, so maybe it's just my eyes. Still he caught the eye of General Manager Stan Bowman, who saw him for an extended period in person for the first time since the Barker-Johnsson trade.
Brothers Kevin (this year's 1st-rounder) and Jimmy (Toronto's '09 2nd-rounder) Hayes definitely seem to have NHL-level upside. The numbers backed them up, combining for seven goals and eight points playing together - just as they will for Boston College this fall. The G.M. called them "really impressive and noticeable. They jumped out as two guys - watching the games - who were difference-makers."
Bowman also stopped himself once to praise last year's 5th-rounder, Marcus Kruger, who scored a sweet goal on Monday. He was a finalist for the Swedish Elite League Rookie of the Year. Jeremy Morin, the top Atlanta prospect picked up in the ByfuglienEagerSopel deal - scored three times over the weekend and seemed to live up to the billing.
Your leading scorer? Terry Broadhurst, pride of Orland Park and Providence High School. He served some Midget time with the Chicago Chill and when he scored his fourth goal (and 7th point) Monday - family members in the front row at Johnny's West balcony in their lime green "Broadhurst Enterprises" T-shirts let out a loud cheer. He's heading into his second year at Nebraska-Omaha.
The goalies? Tough weekend for last month's 2nd-rounder, Kent Simpson - 16 goals in the equivalent of 7.5 periods. The best? Calvin Heeter (Ohio St.), who permitted just three goals over the same playing time.
Unfortunately, the other thing that stuck out was Kyle Beach's lack of offense. More fights than points (one assist) after his 52-goal season at Spokane. The '08 number-one says his hands just didn't feel right all weekend. Maybe it was all the punches. His WHL numbers say he can do it, and a lot of fans are hoping that offensive potential and his mean streak are ready to make Chicago home, if his salary cap hit of 1.2 million doesn't become a deciding factor.
Top 2009 pick Dylan Olsen looked much more a factor after adding 15 pounds, but it looked like even more, from when we saw him a year ago. He sounded resigned afterwards that he'd be spending a sophomore year at Minnesota-Duluth, while Leddy left the same impression about a second season at the University of Minnesota.
But a lot can happen between now and the time these guys are "supposed" to be ready. Unknowns rise. The guys you thought were "ticketed" sometimes never find that final, necessary gear. Check out the Cup roster. Burish (9th round), Byfuglien (8th round), Brouwer (7th), Campbell and Sopel (6th), Versteeg and Hjalmarsson (4th). Hendry, Madden, and Niemi all went undrafted.
While Bowman was excited about what he saw overall from the 72 players and said there were more that were potentially NHL-ready than he expected, the question over the coming weeks remains how many he may have to rely upon for his defending champs. I'm guessing he wasn't planning a vacation this summer, because the Cap headaches remain after Hjalmarsson got what he probably deserves. Now, it's about Niemi, or potentially having to find a replacement in order to fill out the roster after the first couple of lines. If not Niemi, your most experienced free agent goalies were also expensive. But as two weeks of free agency winds down, safe to say Marty Turco won't make the 5.7 million he did last season and Jose Theodore the 4.5 million. It's also safe to say the Niemi Camp is aiming for a 4 million salary after the non-Cup-winning Jaroslav Halak signed for just short of that with St. Louis.
Potential lineup replacements Dowell, Lalonde, Crawford, Hendry and Bickell all made between 500-grand and a million last season. Beach and Skille more than a mill.
I absolutely hated math in school. I'm glad I'm not Stan.