With just three days remaining until the opening puck drop to the 2013-14 season, the Blackhawks still have some key decisions to make regarding their final roster. Currently, Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin, Jimmy Hayes, Brandon Pirri, Joakim Nordstrom, Michael Kostka, and Ryan Stanton are all battling for the remaining three open spots on the Blackhawks’ roster. All seven of those guys are worthy of playing in the NHL, but only three will begin the season in Chicago.
There has been a lot of talk all summer long about who may get the number two center job with the Blackhawks this year. For a quite a while, it was looking like Brandon Pirri would be the guy. However, it is looking more and more like that potentially may not be the case. While he is certainly still a candidate, other guys like Ben Smith, Joakim Nordstrom, and Michael Kostka are proving this preseason that they belong on the opening night roster. If those three were to make the team, then that leaves Brandon Pirri headed back to Rockford (for now at least). It is possible that the Blackhawks may not keep 8 defensemen on the roster like they have right now. They may choose instead to hang on to 3 forwards, which would be a good thing for Pirri.
As training camp came and went and as the preseason has come and (almost) gone, Joakim Nordstrom has really stood out as the possible replacement to Michael Frolik on the fourth line and top penalty-killing unit. Joel Quenneville has commented that Nordstrom has looked really good on the PK with Kruger, and Kruger has voiced the same opinion. Nordstrom has made it clear that he is willing to do whatever it is going to take to make the team, and right now he seems to be doing the right things. His hustle and defensive awareness have apparently really stood out to the coaching staff.
Right now, I would pencil in Ben Smith and Joakim Nordstrom on the opening night roster. The last open spot will most likely go to either Pirri or Kostka, based on how things have played out this preseason. Personally, I would keep Brandon Pirri on the roster. That would mean that someone like Brandon Bollig would have the be a healthy scratch, but I am okay with that. Pirri is a better all-around player than Bollig.
Regardless of what the Hawks’ coaching staff and management decides to do with the remaining three empty spots on the roster, this is going to be a good team. Almost everyone from last year’s team is back, and the rookies who do make the team should fit in just fine. The Blackhawks’ have done a real good job of developing their minor league prospects in recent years, and because of that they have a number of young guys who are more than capable of playing on the NHL team.
This should be another fun season.