By Adam Hess
The Blackhawks get their Stanley Cup Defense Season underway tonight at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports, and as such the opening right roster has been finalized. While most of the players expected to make the team are on the roster, one key name sticks out as missing.
Marko Dano is one of the better young players in in the NHL. Last season he broke into the league with the Columbus Blue Jackets, playing in 35 games and posting 8 goals and 13 assists. While those numbers don’t seem overly impressive, they project out to 18 goals and 31 assists in an 82 game season, which are certainly impressive numbers for a rookie in his 19- and 20-year old season.
The Blackhawks acquired Dano as a part of the Brandon Saad trade in late June. Given his youth and early success in the NHL, as well as his very Saad-like game, many people assumed that Dano would be a lock to make the Blackhawks’ opening night roster and play on the top line along with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. The initial days of training camp served to solidify those ideas, as Dano started right along Toews and Hossa as expected.
Dano somewhat failed to impress during the Blackhawks preseason games, however. While his skill and ability on both sides of the puck were often evident, he failed to produce much in term of goals and assists, and as such he fell into the shadows of players like Kyle Baun, who played well, produced points, and made the opening night roster.
Still, Dano’s assignment to Chicago’s AHL affiliate Rockford last week came as a surprising move to many fans. While there has been a lack of production on Dano’s part thus far, he’s still a young player with a ton of upside, and his lack of production in his first preseason with his new team was hardly concerning to many.
Dano will definitely get important experience and playing time with Rockford. He’s likely to be their top forward for the season, and likely will be their top producer. Still, while he may need a bit more seasoning in order to become a full-fledged and established producer on the Blackhawks roster, it probably is best for him to get that experience with the Blackhawks rather than the IceHogs.
However, this isn’t a situation that is likely to last the whole season. The Blackhawks went a very similar route with young phenom Teuvo Teravainen last season, and that worked out quite well for them. So enjoy Dano while you have him, Rockford, because he’s not likely to be there for long.
Wednesday’s morning skate update:
#Blackhawks lines: Teravainen-Toews-Hossa Panarin-Anisimov-Kane Bickell-Shaw-Baun Desjardins-Kruger-Garbutt
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 7, 2015