Two Blackhawks' prospects to watch: Baun, McNeill
Two months from now, the Blackhawks will hit the ice in South Bend, Ind., with their sights set on becoming the first team since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
Of course, next season's team will have a vastly different look than the 2014-15 champs.
And that's OK with coach Joel Quenneville, who believes new faces can breathe life and energy into a team that might get complacent or take winning for granted.
"You need different type of motivations throughout the locker room," Quenneville said two days after his team took care of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL Final. "I think young guys are healthy for your locker room, (and) older guys with experience without winning -- their appetite to win a Cup is off the charts."
Well, the young guys have been strutting their stuff at Johnny's IceHouse West this week during prospects camp, and with players such as Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Antoine Vermette and Brad Richards gone, one or two have a decent shot to make the team out of training camp.
Among those with the best chance are Kyle Baun and Mark McNeill, who both spoke with reporters Sunday. Here's a quick snapshot on the two of them:
Baun: The 23-year-old is the grandson of Bob Baun, who played in the NHL from 1956-73. Kyle spent the last three years playing for Colgate, leading the team in goals during the 2012-13 season and finishing second last year. He had 39 total goals in 113 games.
Kyle, who plays right wing and is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, was given a mini test run in the Hawks' last three games of the regular season and earned high praise from the normally subdued Quenneville.
"I'm excited to see what he could do," Quenneville said.
Kyle said he has received advice from his grandfather in the past -- "little pointers" as he put it -- but that Bob doesn't always want to talk about hockey.
"We go fishing and stuff like that quite a bit," Kyle said.
Kyle clearly understood how important this week at prospects camp is to him, especially with Quenneville watching Tuesday's sessions.
"There's definitely opportunity. I know that and you guys know that," Baun said. "So, you definitely want to work hard.
"There's spots available that are up for grabs. ... There's motivation to know that they're going to take a serious look at me and a few other guys."
McNeill: Drafted by the Hawks with the 18th pick of the 2011 draft, this is by far McNeill's best chance to make the big club. Not that he's looking at it that way.
"I'm just going to say it's an opportunity. You know? I'm really excited about it," McNeill said. "It's gonna take a lot of hard work, but I've got to be ready to go when camp comes around."
McNeill spent the last two years with the Rockford IceHogs, the team's AHL affiliate. He showed great scoring ability last season, racking up a team-high 23 goals despite missing a month to a knee injury he suffered in November. Had he played every game, he was on pace for a 28-goal, 53-point season.
The 22-year-old from Edmonton said the biggest thing he's been working on is becoming a more consistent hockey player, as well as his explosiveness and footwork.
• Another player to watch is McNeill's IceHogs teammate, Garret Ross. He scored 36 goals in the last two seasons at Rockford.
If the Hawks move Bryan Bickell, Kris Versteeg or Andrew Shaw, then McNeill, Baun and Ross figure to be fighting for a few winger openings with Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp, Ryan Hartman, Tanner Kero and Phillip Danault, among others.
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