Over the next five weeks, CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.
In his first full season, the 21-year-old Nick Leddy played more games than he ever has in the past (82) and averaged more ice time (22:05 per game). He scored three goals -- none on the power play -- with 34 assists and finished minus-12. He was credited with 93 hits and 124 blocked shots. In the playoffs, his average ice time fell by more than two minutes per game -- to 20:02 -- despite all but one game going into overtime. He scored one goal and assisted on two vs. Phoenix, finishing with eight hits, four blocked shots and a plus-1 rating in the six games.
Boden's take: It was a nice next step season for one of Stan Bowmans best acquisitions since taking over GM duties. Theres certainly room for improvement, but with Leddys natural speed and skill, it seems to be a matter of when, not if for the kid who just turned 21 in March. He now has his first full NHL season under his belt, and a better gauge of how to manage the physical and mental grind.
His youth was exposed too often on the defensive end, as evidenced by the minus-12 rating, worst among the top-five defensemen (including Johnny Oduya after his arrival). But his upside is part of the reason Bowman dealt Brian Campbell a year ago (we know the main reason), and Leddy seems capable of filling that skating, puck-moving, point-producing role. While he scored one fewer goal (three) in almost twice the regular season games he played as a rookie, his 37 points were three more than Brent Seabrook and just three under Duncan Keith, who led Hawks blueliners.
Myers' take: The Blackhawks looked at Leddy as the guy who was going to replace a big part of Campbells game, a puck-moving defenseman who would get more special teams time. It was a lot to put on a 20-year-old players shoulders; sometimes Leddy thrived in the role, sometimes he buckled under the pressure. Leddy was on the ice for his share of goals given up, and he finished minus-12 for the season. But bumps in the road happen, especially when youre a young player given a lot of responsibility in a short amount of time.
Chris: So if this season was a next step, expectations and experience would lead us to believe Leddy should get into the 40-point range. Hes already listed as 191 lbs., but another 5-10 lbs. of muscle would help his game immensely after being pushed around too often in puck battles along the boards. He spent most of the season paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson, but if the Hawks decide to pursue a veteran with more size and muscle from outside the organization, Leddy could benefit even further. Improvement on his shot from the point could certainly help the power play have a bounce-back year. Hes a shy and soft-spoken kid, but if his game gets a little louder this year, it would give this team a huge shot in the arm.
Tracey: Yes, folks, that plusminus needs to get better. Leddy would be the first to admit that -- and it will. If Leddy learns from his mistakes, puts on a little weight and comes into the next season confident and ready to roll, hell be fine. He still has great speed, and when he enters the oppositions zone with it, good things happen.
How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out some of Leddy's highlights above.
Previously: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Steve Montador, Sean O'Donnell, Brent Seabrook
Up next: Patrick Sharp