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Chicago's final few roster spots are coming down to the wire. Who should make the cut?

In the post-lockout world teams have had to re-tool and adjust to this year’s lower cap. Not even the reigning Champions have been immune. Lucky for the Chicago Blackhawks they have a well-stocked farm system to pull from to replace those that have moved on.  A couple of names have been at the forefront of that, Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin.

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During most of the off-season it was a widely held belief that Pirri was the favorite to inherit the second line center job, or at least be right in the mix. Finding somebody to fill the role has been quite the vexation for Joel Quenneville and company. They’ve tried everything, including Patrick Kane, but to no avail. Then along comes Pirri who has posted impressive numbers at the AHL level. Over the last three seasons with Rockford, Pirri’s numbers have steadily improved each year, culminating in 22 goals and 75 points in 76 games.  It seemed the stars were lining up perfectly for both player and team.


Then “Mad” Joel Quenneville decided it was time for another of his Frankenstein creations, namely Brandon Saad at second line center. That experiment was as much a failure as the rest of Quenneville’s well-intentioned previous attempts. In the meantime Pirri suffered an undisclosed lower-body-injury, which sidelined him for the final scrimmage of training camp and the first four pre-season games. That dealt the final blow to his chances of becoming the team’s new second line center. Veteran pivot Michal Handzus has that job now.


Jeremy Morin figured to be a good addition to the opening night roster, a versatile winger with grit and scoring touch. He looked to a safe bet for a job in the bottom-six where the ‘Hawks could utilize his best attributes. Over the last two seasons he has posted 40 and 58 points in 69 and 67 games respectively, while racking up 85+ PIM. He has had a good camp and yet finds himself fighting to make the final cut. Complicating matters for Morin has been the emergence of Joakim Nordstrom from out of thin air, and equally strong showings from fellow Rockford alums Ben Smith and Jimmy Hayes.


On the surface it’s hard to see Nordstrom beating out Morin or the others. Nothing in Nordstrom’s past numbers really screams high-end producer. In 90 pro games with AIK of the Swedish Hockey League Nordstrom has only posted 15 points. In 11 games with Rockford last season he posted three points, and yet he has himself positioned as one of five forward prospects to make the final roster.


Quenneville has said he will open the season with eight defensemen on the roster, which leaves Pirri, Morin, Nordstrom, Hayes, and Smith all battling for three spots. As it stands now one or both of Pirri and Morin will be the odd man out barring a very strong performance in the final exhibition game, but even if it happens that one or both find themselves re-assigned to Rockford, it’s not all doom and gloom. Nordstrom still seems like a long shot to be more than a flavor-of-the-moment and I would expect he will need time in Rockford himself before the season is very far along. That alone will open one spot and then factor in that Patrick Sharp is no ironman and is likely to miss some games due to injury.


The same could be said for Marian Hossa as well of late. Even now it’s not written in stone that Hossa’s back will be ready to go for the season opener. And last but not least you have the current the second line center Handzus. While he is more durable than Hossa and Sharp, he is 36 and his best days are in the rear-view mirror.


All this adds up to an interesting couple of days as the final roster is solidified. Pay close attention this weekend as the situation could change in the span of 60 minutes on Saturday night. Pirri or Morin just may play their way off the bubble.

Recently from Prospect Schopping:


It’s A Long Way To The Top 
Prospects on their way to the Motor City 
How Do You Like Me Now? -- Three CHL Breakouts 
Tough Guys With An NHL Future 

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Wink said:

Nordstrom Forgot to add: he has not looked out of place this preseason. His role is well defined thus far- penalty killing mate for Krueger, replacing Frolik. Q has expressed his satisfaction in what he has seen to date in that role from Nordstrom. As long as he can trust Krueger and Nordstrom to be his #1 PK unit together, Joakim will stay up with the big club. If that unit isn't effective- down he goes.
September 30, 2013
Votes: +0

Wink said:

... They will need this depth due the the injury history of the players mentioned. Especially Hossa; his back is particularly suspect.

I expect Pirri back up relatively soon. This is likely just a case of getting 10-15 games in Rockford to get himself going. If he does, he'll be back up quickly.

The bigger point, as NoWayOut mentions, is Teravainen waiting in the wings. Next year he should be chomping at the bit. I don't think they'll give up much just yet in a trade for just this year when they believe they already have their #2 center. I think they'll use this season to figure some things out at that position, mixing in time with veterans (Handzus) and youth (Pirri).

If they don't like what they see, I could imagine Bowman making a trade deadline move for a short term fix like they did for Handzus last season to fill the hole. Then they turn the role over to Teuvo next year.
September 30, 2013
Votes: +0

NoWayOut said:

... And it's both Pirri and Morin that are sent down. Still plenty of chances in all likelihood for call-ups this season though. All the missed time with the injury really cost Pirri here. He really needs to put this behind him and excel in Rockford because next season he gets company in the person of Teuvo Teravainen. Remains to be seen whether or not the Hawks will line Teuvo up at center or wing though, but for now he's playing center in Finland this season.
September 29, 2013
Votes: +0

DuklaNation said:

... Chicago will regret not replacing Bolland with a more competent centre. A trade is in order here.
September 28, 2013
Votes: -2
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