Brief Rookie Tournament Thoughts

I had a chance to watch the Blackhawks prospects take on the Toronto Maple Leafs prospects on Saturday night at the opening game of the Toronto Maple Leafs Rookie Tournament.  The Hawks lost 6-3 and the result was about as important as an NFL pre-season game.  On Sunday, the Hawks lost to the Ottawa Senators 7-3 which I caught none of.  Tuesday night, they’ll play the Penguins prospect team. 

It took me about a period and a half to figure out who the lesser known Hawks were.  Beach was obviously very noticeable (more on him later) but others were a bit more difficult to decipher between.  Anyways, there were a few things that jumped out to me watching the Saturday night tilt so here we go….

Brandon Pirri is listed as 6’1″ but doesn’t look an inch above 5’9″ with skates on.  In addition to that, Pirri was largely invisible during even-strength play.  I have to say, at this rate, I don’t expect him to last very long in Rockford.  Pirri does not look strong or smart enough to play in the AHL so it’s very likely he could be headed to Toledo by February. 

Kyle Beach did exactly what a top-15 pick should do in exhibitions like this: look a cut above the competition.  Beach scored a goal by sniping out the lower left corner on an odd-man rush.  Shift in and shift out, he was probably the Hawks best player.  Of course, he wouldn’t be Kyle Beach without some shenanigans.  Late in the 2nd period after a scrum in front of the Leafs net, Beach caught a butt-end in the mouth and was livid.  He was being escorted away by a linesman when he tried to break free and ended up making physical contact with him.  So he went to the box on a 10-minute misconduct.  

It wasn’t very bright, but it also wasn’t as bad as his past digressions.  Unfortunately, his reputation has already gotten to the point where fans have little patience for him.  This probably won’t end well.

Shawn Lalonde was pretty awful.  Bad reads, lousy decision-making, and a step slow all game.  He shouldn’t be expected to contribute positively on the Hawks anytime soon.   

–My Hawks prospect sleeper for sometime has been Brian Connelly and I was a bit let down by him last night.  There was a moment in the second where the Hawks had some terrific cross-ice passing on the power-play where it went from Pirri to Beach to Connelly.  A true NHL defensemen, in one motion, would have received the cross-ice feed and buried a shot towards the net.  Connelly couldn’t handle the pass and the threat was neutralized.  Otherwise, he didn’t really do much to stand out positively or negatively.  He is the team captain for whatever that’s worth.

–After coming over in the Cam Barker trade, I watched snippets of Nick Leddy at Minnesota.  Last night was the best I’ve ever seen him look.  Though a bit undersized, Leddy was nearly on the same plane as Beach as far as standing out above the rest.  He looked extremely confident with and without the puck and his skating is no joke.   He is extremely smooth and really quick.  The big key for him will be whether he can handle grown-ass men putting him through the boards on a nightly basis.

Jeremy Morin will play in the NHL someday and he will score his fair share of goals.  He scored a goal late in the second period where he gathered the puck along the far wall and wristed a shot over the goalie’s right shoulder.  Morin just has the look of a goal-scoring winger.  Hard to describe until you see him.

Phillipe Paradis, one of the three players to come in the Versteeg trade, was better than I anticipated.  It’s usually a red-flag when a first-round pick has been traded two times within a year of getting drafted, but he looks like someone who can carve out a pretty solid niche as a 3rd line winger.  Whether he wants to do that is up to him. 

–Rookie free-agent signings from last March, Ryan Stanton and Brandon Bollig, should each get vanity plates on their car that says, “AHL4LFE”.

–The mysterious Igor Makarov looked pretty good.  A solid season in the AHL could really catapult him into the Hawks’ 2011-2012 top 6.

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11 Responses to Brief Rookie Tournament Thoughts

  1. Ban says:

    You forgot to mention that Alec Richards is a TERRIBLE goalie. The defense in game 1 failed him, but he was horrid. Of all the prospects, Makarov and Beach have the best shot at making it to the NHL this year.

    Morin and Leddy will be great one day but they’ll need seasoning. No use in rushing them. Lalonde, however, needs a lot more time in the AHL before moving up to the bigs.

  2. Otter says:

    Regarding his skating, does Leddy look like a poor man’s Brian Campbell?

  3. John says:

    He’s a much smoother skater than Campbell or Keith for that matter. Speed-wise, I’d say he’s probably just a tick below both of them. I wouldn’t refer to him as a poor man’s anything. He’s a NHL-worthy skater right now. It’s the other facets of his game that aren’t up to par.

  4. John says:

    RE: Richards (and the rest of the Hawk goalie prospects). It’s a dangerous game when you start writing off goalies before the age of 25. Historically, they take the longest to develop into pro prospects. Richards is hardly a finished product and you likely won’t be able to get an accurate career arc until after this next season.

    That being said, he didn’t have his best game but we should keep in mind, it was probably the first ‘real’ game he’s played in since March. The timing for goalies takes a little bit longer than position players. I’ll start calling him a terrible goalie if he backstops the MudHens again this year instead of the IceHogs.

  5. The Goods says:

    Can these games be watched from Chicago?

  6. John says:

    Hawks streamed the first game on their website because it was on Rogers TV and they were playing the Leafs. Don’t know if Sunday’s game was on anywhere. Highly doubt tomorrow’s game will be on.

  7. Patrick says:

    Okay, I didn’t see much of the Leafs game, and yes, that’s the limited size of the sample that I’m basing my opinions on, but I thought that Gilbert seemed to have a decent game, at least in what I saw. He had good energy, hit people, went to the net and more-or-less controlled the puck in the Leaf’s zone. Makarov looked even better than Gilbert, and I would love to see him make some progress this year to contribute next year. Does he have an all around game? I saw a little of Morin and he looks like a keeper – didn’t see him score, be he can sure shoot – think he can skate well enough for the big club? I agree that Paradis didn’t seem lost out on the ice, which is good, I guess. Was Vishy “too old” for this tournament? Why wasn’t Kruger there? If he keeps making progress, he’s my pick to click for next year, right in between Sharp and Hossa.

    Other than that, I must have been watching during the “Beach Blackout” – I was looking for him and what you mentioned above helps / makes sense. I wonder if Toews could help him get his head on straight, or at least straight enough so he’s not a total flame-out in the NHL as I think he’d look good riding shotgun to Toews and Kane at some point in the future (tho not this year, yet).

    Finally, I think that you can say that the Hawks have a fair amount of talent in their system, even if there isn’t a goalie you can hang your hat on. The interesting thing will be how they get worked into the big club, since the Hawks best players are so damn young already. I suppose it’s a good problem to have, especially when they’ve already won the Cup.

  8. Cam says:

    I saw about half of the first game and thought David Gilbert was the biggest standout. He showed really good speed and tenacity. I hadn’t paid any attention to him in the past and was surprised to see he’s only 19. He had 23 goals in 36 games after being traded in the OHL last season. I think he’s a definite sleeper.

    Beach was smoother and faster than I was anticipating. If he can knock off all the crap, he might be pretty darn good at some point.

    I agree that Leddy looked good, and I thought Pirri showed good hockey sense with the puck. Also thought Makarov looked solid.

    I don’t know why anyone is surprised by Lalonde though. He wasn’t exactly known for his defensive prowess in juniors.

  9. John says:

    But Lalonde was known for offensive-minded prowess, which he should little to none of.

    Gilbert does have two goals in two games played for whatever that’s worth. Though both of them were of the tap-in variety. As a center, he’ll have his work cut out for him if he ever wants to make it to the show.

  10. Cam says:

    Too bad the third game wasn’t online because Beach, Morin and Makarov just went nuts against the Pens.

  11. dominator says:

    The highlights are on TSN but its Canada only. Damn you TSN!

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