By Adam Hess
The Blackhawks began their training camp last week, preparing to get a new NHL season underway as they seek to compete for their fourth Stanley Cup championship this decade. The beginning of training camp – along with the World Cup of Hockey taking place in Toronto – has bee a welcome sight for Hawks fans after the long summer break that we weren’t quite accustomed too.
However, the Blackhawks reported to training camp with most of their best players absent, as they were at the aforementioned World Cup. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Corey Crawford were among the several key Blackhawks representing their country rather than reporting to Chicago.
The absence of those important players represents a great opportunity players who are “on the fringe” or “under the radar” when it comes to their chances of making the main roster. These players now have the opportunity to step into camp and attempt to fill the roles that are normally filled by those players who are absent.
Not to say that someone like Richard Panik is suddenly going to become this team’s Patrick Kane, but the opportunity is there for players to impress the coaches and their teammates and earn a spot on the roster this season. But which players are most likely to make that leap? Here are two players to watch these next few weeks.
The Blackhawks’ first-round selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Hartman has only had very limited experience at the NHL level to this point. That lack of NHL time thus far for Hartman was due in large part to Andrew Shaw’s presence on the roster, as Hartman plays a similar style to Shaw. With Shaw having been traded to Montreal this summer, that role is now available, and should be Hartman’s for the taking.
The big key for Hartman, though, will be to stay within himself, and not try to be all that Shaw was to the Blackhawks. Even with as much flak as Shaw often caught from Hawks fans, he still wore many hats for this team. Hartman is capable of wearing those hats, but it may take some time for him to fully develop. However, he should make the roster out of camp, so he is a player to watch this preseason and season as he develops.
Signed as a free agent this summer, former Maple Leaf Sam Carrick is a player with the talent and experience that should make him competitive when it comes to making the NHL team out of camp. His skating, shooting, and passing ability are all solid enough to make him a good contributor to the Hawks this season – if he can prove himself in camp. There is some concern that the Leafs didn’t want him, so maybe that means he isn’t good enough for the Hawks, but again, he is talented enough to prove himself, so if he can do that, he could end up as a good depth player for the Hawks this year.