The annual Traverse City Michigan Prospects Tournament ended this past Tuesday night. The tournament featured prospects from the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers, and Carolina Hurricanes. With the tournament ending, the Blackhawks veterans and prospects head to training camp on Friday 9/14.
Chicago Blackhawks Prospects Tournament
Last year, The Chicago Blackhawks 2017 prospects team won the tournament. Tournament MVP Alex DeBrincat scored the game-winning goal which helped him propel his way onto the Blackhawks opening night roster. Unfortunately this time around, the 2018 Blackhawks prospects finished 4th overall after losing to the Minnesota Wild prospects 3-2 Tuesday night.
Victor Ejdsell, Alexandre Fortin and Dylan Sikura all played well in the tournament. They each scored some big goals. Ejdsell helped secure a victory against the Carolina Hurricanes by scoring two goals in game two. Sikura scored a huge overtime goal in game three against the St. Louis Blues prospects sending his team to the third-place game. Consequently, the solid play of Sikura and Ejdsell will definitely help them as they battle for a starting spot on the Blackhawks roster.
Here are the championship bracket game results:
- Championship Game: Columbus Blue Jackets 7 Detroit Red Wings 3
- 3rd Place Game: Minnesota Wild 3 Chicago Blackhawks 2
- 5th Place Game: Dallas Stars 7 Carolina Hurricane 3
- 7th Place Game: St Louis Blues 8 New York Rangers 4
Blackhawks Training Camp
The Blackhawks training camp opens this Friday, 9/14. All eyes will be on the players taking the ice trying to lock up a spot on the Blackhawks roster. The training camp roster includes 30 forwards, 20 defencemen, and 7 goaltenders.
Forwards To Watch
There are several forwards to watch in this training camp. Victor Ejdsell and Dylan Sikura will look to continue earning a starting role for the Blackhawks. They played well for the team last season. Their play in the prospects tournament showed they are ready to stay in the NHL. Other forwards looking to impress include John Hayden, David Kampf, Alexandre Fortin, Andreas Martinsen, and Dominik Kahun. Their play during the training camp and pre-season games will need to be at the top level if they hope to secure a spot.
Defence is one area that must improve this season if the Blackhawks hope to quickly turn around their franchise. Changes were needed on the Blackhawks back-end based on last season’s dismal performance. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Connor Murphy are being joined on the defence by Brandon Manning, Jan Rutta, and Erik Gustafsson.
There are several prospects that will be pushing the current six defensemen over the next few weeks. 2017 first round draft pick Henri Jokiharju and 2018 first rounders Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin are attending the training camp. Of the three, Jokiharju is the closest to being NHL ready. Boqvist and Beaudin will need some additional size and weight, or they will struggle against the big forwards in the tough Western Conference.
Goaltenders in Camp
There are seven goaltenders attending the Blackhawks training camp:
Speaking of Crawford
The subject of goaltending around Chicago has been focused on only one topic since last year. The health of Corey Crawford and his ability to return to Vezina form. Crawford’s play in net will make or break next season for the Blackhawks. Crawford’s health has been kept secret since going on injured reserve last December. The most noteworthy news on Crawford was from a press conference on 9/7 promoting the 2019 Winter Classic. The topic of Crawford was number one with the press and as a result, created more questions than answers.
This was reported by John Dietz of the DailyHerald.com on September 7th.
“General manager Stan Bowman told the Daily Herald that Crawford “should be ready to go” and team president and CEO John McDonough added that “we’re optimistic.” Both men were attending a news conference at the United Center on Thursday for the 2019 Winter Classic in which the Hawks will take on the Boston Bruins at Notre Dame Stadium on Jan. 1.”
The same press conference was covered by Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times, and he had a slightly different take:
“So the wait continues. McDonough — holding court after a news conference touting the Winter Classic between the Hawks and Bruins at Notre Dame Stadium on New Year’s Day — said that Crawford has been working out regularly, but it’s believed he hasn’t been on the ice since an ill-fated trip to Arizona on Feb. 12.”
These non-answers from the Blackhawks only create more concern about Crawford and his team. The Blackhawks signed Cam Ward as a free agent in July. It appears he and Anton Forsberg may have to hold the fort until Crawford’s return. Collin Delia will also be pushing for the backup job during training camp. Delia had a great run for the Rockford Ice Hogs in the AHL playoffs last season.
Pre-season games offer a wonderful chance to see how well prospects and draft choices have progressed over their brief career. The Blackhawks have six pre-season games with which to prepare for the upcoming season. Here are the games leading up to the regular season:
- Tuesday, September 18th – Columbus Blue Jackets (away)
- Thursday, September 20th – Detroit Red Wings (away)
- Friday, September 21st – Ottawa Senators (away)
- Tuesday, September 25th – Detroit Red Wings (home)
- Thursday, September 27th – Ottawa Senators (home)
- Saturday, September 28th – Columbus Blue Jackets (home)
Over the next few weeks, there will be many questions surrounding the Chicago Blackhawks 2018-19 roster. There are many things to figure out before the season opener on October 4th. The status of Corey Crawford is the number one concern for the team going forward into the regular season. The ability of the defence corps to gel into a dependable unit is a close second. The play of the Blackhawks core must also improve this season. Luckily for the Blackhawks, they have several young stars in the making that may brighten the picture for a team in rebuild. The next few weeks will be interesting, to say the least.