The Chicago Blackhawks turned in their roster to the NHL office on Tuesday. Here are some thoughts on the team they'll start the season with this year:
1. Nick Leddy being traded wasn't a surprise, but Kyle Cumiskey and Trevor van Riemsdyk being the defensemen kept up to replace Leddy was one. Adam Clendening, Klas Dahlbeck and Stephen Johns were all given better chances of making the team when camp started, and Cumiskey and van Riemsdyk overtook them.
The Blackhawks have yet to show complete confidence in any of their drafted defensemen in recent years. Niklas Hjalmarsson is the organization's last draft pick to earn a consistent NHL look, and he was drafted in 2005. There's nothing wrong in finding NHL defensemen in other ways, but they have completed their defensman pairings in recent years by either trading or signing players. Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival, Sheldon Brookbank, Mike Kostka, van Riemsdyk and Cumiskey were all signed or traded for by the Blackhawks.
It will be interesting in the next few years to see which of the Blackhawks' prospects earn NHL time. In addition to Clendening, Dahlbeck and Johns, the Blackhawks also think highly of prospects Dillon Fournier, Viktor Svedberg and newly-acquired Ville Pokka. Add van Riemsdyk and David Rundblad to that group, and the Blackhawks have eight defensemen under 24 years old with a lot of potential.
2. The Blackhawks have kept eight defensemen at times in the past, but it isn't ideal. Rozsival is expected back from his injury in the next week, so a decision could be coming. How Cumiskey, van Riemsdyk and Rundblad handle themselves early in the season could determine that decision. Cumiskey and Rundblad have to go through waivers to be sent down, so it's unlikely the Blackhawks would rush to any decision on them. If van Riemsdyk struggles, he could be sent down to AHL to get more experience. It may also depend on how Rozsival is playing when he returns. He wasn't at his best in his final preseason game.
By the way, Rockford IceHogs coach Ted Dent is going to have some decisions of his own with defensemen this season. That group includes T.J. Brennan, Clendening, Dahlbeck, Fournier, Johns, Pokka and Svedberg. He could be given another defenseman from Chicago as well.
3. Jeremy Morin was given a fair shot at a permanent place in the lineup during the preseason, and it appears he has earned that. Morin played in every one of the Blackhawks' preseason games and showed he can adapt to different roles.
Morin's offensive game, especially his shot, is still his greatest strength. But he proved in the preseason he can be reliable on defense, aggressive on the forecheck and he can still create offense no matter which line he is on. There's still a chance Morin could see the occasional off day if Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wants Daniel Carcillo to knock someone around, but Quenneville has said he's confident enough in Morin's game to play him alongside Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith on the fourth line. If Kris Versteegy's injury holds him out for any amount of time, Morin could be the one who moves up to a third-line role.
4. Teuvo Teravainen left no doubt in the preseason he could play in the NHL and help the Blackhawks now. While Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman and Quenneville said Teravainen's play would dictate whether he was in the NHL to begin the season, the decision was ultimately made by the roster. The Blackhawks simply didn't have a spot for him on the first three lines and sending him to the AHL was the only option.
It's not that Teravainen is a complete product, but he might be better off developing in the NHL just as Brandon Saad did a few seasons ago while being surrounded by elite players. Bowman was asked Tuesday whether Teravainen could be called up if Versteeg's injury was serious, but Bowman wouldn't speculate.
5. If Versteeg can't play on Thursday, the lines likely will be Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa, Saad-Andrew Shaw-Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell-Brad Richards-Morin, Carcillo-Kruger-Smith. The defenseman pairings likely will be Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook, Hjalmarsson with van Riemsdyk or Cumiskey and Oduya-Rundblad.