Blackhawks

How Pirri can add depth at center for Hawks

Blackhawks

On Monday, the Blackhawks traded winger Dylan Sikura to the Vegas Golden Knights for center Brandon Pirri.

It wasn't a major move, but it was a bit surprising as although Sikura bounced back and forth between the Hawks and their AHL affiliate the Rockford IceHogs the past couple seasons, he had an ability to generate offense and is four years younger than Pirri, who's 29.

Related: What Brandon Pirri expects from another opportunity with Blackhawks

Pirri was with the Blackhawks organization from 2010-2014.

The centerman, who had two assists in 16 games with the Golden Knights this past regular season after recording 12 goals and six assists in 31 games in 2018-19 with Vegas, could end up seeing more ice time and getting more opportunities to contribute to the 2020-21 Hawks than Sikura would have.

Unfortunately for Dylan — who appeared in 47 games across three seasons in Chicago, registering one goal and 13 assists — like a lot of NHL teams, the Hawks still have plenty of wingers in the organization, but could use some depth up the middle.

Jonathan Toews has shown he's still up to the task of centering the Blackhawks' top line effectively. Kirby Dach should have a strong sophomore season and deserves a promotion to become Patrick Kane's regular center on the second line. Dylan Strome is a restricted free agent, who if he remains a Hawk, could be a steady presence up the middle on the third combo. 

 

David Kampf spent a lot of the 2019-20 season centering the fourth line and was there for the postseason, but the Hawks could end up giving Pirri a crack at the role.

Kampf, who's shown a strong defensive game up the middle for the Blackhawks, only had 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 70 regular season games for Chicago this past year. The team could throw Pirri in to see if he can find his offensive game again and help spark more scoring for the bottom six without giving up too much the other way. 

Prospect Philipp Kurashev, 20, displayed some offensive skill, grabbing 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 36 games with Rockford last season and could also be under consideration as a potential Hawks depth center. Chicago may want the youngster to develop more in the AHL before getting a look.

It sounds like Pirri, who won the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the AHL's top scorer with 75 points (22 goals, 53 assists) in 2012-13 with the IceHogs, is more than up to the task and believes he's grown a lot since his first stint with the Blackhawks that ended when he was traded to the Florida Panthers in March of 2014.

"I think my first go-around in the organization, I was kind of a play-maker, hold the puck, puck possession (player)," Pirri said. "I think over time I just became a shoot-first mentality, support the puck well, forecheck but at the same time give the puck to the guys that are really patient with it and look for guys (player)."

The second round (No. 59 overall) selection of the 2009 NHL Draft by the Hawks sees himself being capable of helping Chicago beyond the regular season as well.

"For the Blackhawks, there's the guys that you know are going to produce every year, but I think for me to provide some depth on whatever line that is and obviously with the salary cap, you need guys that are a lower number that are going to produce and you see that with other teams too," Pirri said. "Come playoff time, it's guys that not necessarily are making the most money, but guys that are on smaller contracts that are still contributing and helping out."

Pirri recorded 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points in 38 games with the Chicago Wolves of the AHL this past season.

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