Six rookies crack Chicago Blackhawks roster
Well, it's official: The Blackhawks' youth movement is underway.
Coach Joel Quenneville and his staff made final cuts Monday and will start the regular season with a whopping six rookies on the roster: forwards Tyler Motte, Vinnie Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman, and defensemen Michal Kempny and Gustav Forsling.
Mark McNeill and Brandon Mashinter were placed on waivers and will likely be assigned to Rockford if they clear. The Hawks sent 19-year-old Alexandre Fortin back to his junior team in Quebec.
Andrew Desjardins was placed on injured reserve with a lower-body injury he suffered Saturday in St. Louis, and he will miss 4-6 weeks.
As for those six rookies, only Hartman and Hinostroza have played in an NHL game. They spoke like veterans after practice Monday, though, with most talking about how excited they are for Wednesday's season opener against the Blues, and how they want to ensure they are here for the long haul.
"I worked really, really hard … it feels good to make the team out of camp, but there's a lot of hard work ahead and this is where the real work starts," said Hinostroza, who played in seven games with the Hawks last season and 66 with the IceHogs. "I want to establish myself in the NHL and stay here, so I'm just going to work hard every day."
If Quenneville sticks with the lines at practice, he'll play Hinostroza on the fourth line with Schmaltz and center Jordin Tootoo on the other wing. Hartman and Motte will skate with center Marcus Kruger.
"It's extremely exciting," said Hartman, who has eight games of NHL experience. "This is just one step. You want to be a guy that's in the lineup every night. You want to be contributing to plays; you don't just want to be out there skating around."
As for Forsling, he will play in the opener with Niklas Hjalmarsson serving the last game of his suspension. After that, it will be interesting to see how Quenneville uses his eight defensemen and if Forsling sticks around all season.
"We feel he's got great instincts … and will get better every day on the job," Quenneville said. "He can help our power play; he's got a tremendous shot (and shows) poise and patience. We'll see how he handles it Wednesday night."
Fortin, one of the camp's standouts, must play the entire season in juniors.
"Good experience," Quenneville said. "Really progressed well from where he was at the beginning of the summer."
There was a lot of movement last season between Rockford and the Hawks, so it will be interesting to see how patient Quenneville is with his half-dozen rookies, and how they play in the NHL spotlight.
"We're looking to be doing some teaching," Quenneville said. "There might be some mistakes, but we like the quickness that we added to our team with these young guys. … We feel offensively there's enough speed and creativity that we can generate enough, but the thing we're going to work on, and want to establish early, is how we play without the puck, particularly down low in our end."
So much for that:
Three days after Joel Quenneville warned the media not to read too much into Marian Hossa skating on the third line, the Hawks' coach placed his veteran winger back on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik.
Quenneville also put his most potent line from last year back together as Patrick Kane skated with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov.
Quenneville said he wants to start the season with players who are familiar with each other.