Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Important back-to-back looming

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Hawk Talk: Important back-to-back looming

Thursday, March 10, 2011
9:08 a.m.

by Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

There were impressive displays of urgency (if not always 60 minutes of playoff-like intensity) during the Blackhawks eight-game winning streak. They'll need even greater degrees of that on Sunday and Monday, when they visit Washington and return home to host San Jose.

The availability of Brian Campbell and Dave Bolland will be in question. Campbell's lower body injury made him unavailable Wednesday in Tampa Bay after perhaps his best stretch of the season -- five points in as many games to lift him to an NHL-leading plus-28 on the season. Bolland had not only generated 22 points in his previous 24 games but had helped get Marian Hossa back on his game, before being on the receiving end of Pavel Kubina's cheap-shot elbow to the head early in Wednesday's game. It's ironic that Campbell could be unavailable against Alex Ovechkin, who ended his regular season a month early a year ago with his hit on Campbell from behind and into the boards. The Hawks also have yet to prove this season they can beat San Jose in general, and former teammate Antti Niemi in particular. It would be nice to have the proof they can, should a playoff date loom down the road.

READ: Three strikes by Hawks' top line not enough

That was an important point earned Wednesday, and very well could've been two if the NHL had followed its own shootout guidelines when it came to Martin St. Louis' shot. Then again, the Hawks have shutout in the shootout on the road this season. Yes, getting four points against the Caps and Sharks would be ideal, especially considering the possible health issues. But grabbing two to three points out of that back-to-back is of utmost importance when you survey the schedule beyond that. After Monday's game, the defending champs play just three games over the following 11 days, potentially getting passed in the standings by several teams in that stretch. Consider what most of the other Western contenders will be doing over that week-and-a-half:

Detroit and San Jose (already ahead of the Hawks) will play five times, as will Calgary, Los Angeles and Anaheim. While the Hawks still have three meetings left with the Wings, just one meeting with the Ducks remains from among those other four after Monday. Nashville and Phoenix will play six times over those 11 days, including a Coyotes-Hawks matchup in Glendale. The Hawks are done with the Preds, who'll play five times at home over the six they'll play. Dallas and Minnesota each play four games in that span, including the Stars' final matchup with the Hawks in Big D in a week.

Sure, the schedule will eventually even out when all's said and done exactly one month from today. But as we've been preaching before and during the hot streak that's positioned what's been a healthy Hawks squad in a good spot for the time being, continuing to move forward (unlike the puck on St. Louis' shootout attempt) makes the job later easier. But nothing really seems very easy, since no one in the West seems willing to stand still.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

NHL Draft Profile: D Quinn Hughes

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Quinn Hughes

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 170 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"He's got the puck skills, is a good skater, and is a guy with some high-end offensive talent. He wants to get right in there and play where it's hard and where you get rewarded. When he gets that puck on his stick, he wants to bury it."

NHL player comparable: Torey Krug/Kris Letang

Fit for Blackhawks:

It's no secret the Blackhawks are looking to restock their pipeline with some high-end defensemen. Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell are on the way. But the former isn't a lock to be a full-time NHLer this season and the latter will continue playing in college for the 2018-19 season.

Hughes, who shined at Michigan and the IIHF World Championship with Team USA, would have the best chance of the three to crack the Blackhawks lineup first. The problem is, he likely won't be available at No. 8, so if Hughes is the guy they're locked in on, they'd need to trade up to grab him. 

If they did that, Hughes would give the Blackhawks a third blue line prospect they can get excited about. He's a left-handed shot, which evens out the balance in the system, and he would become a prime candidate to eventually replace Duncan Keith as the team's No. 1 defenseman.

NHL Draft Profile: F Oliver Wahlstrom

NHL Draft Profile: F Oliver Wahlstrom

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Oliver Wahlstrom

Position: Right wing
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 205 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Wahlstrom already has an NHL-caliber shot with a quick release and the ability to create space for himself and linemates. He's most known for his goal-scoring ability and elite shot, and can hit a one-timer as good or better than many professional players."

NHL player comparable: Phil Kessel

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would probably prefer to take a defenseman at No. 8, but because four of them might go inside the Top 7, the best available player on the board is likely to be a forward. And there's a decent chance that could be Wahlstrom.

Wahlstrom would immediately become Chicago's top prospect, and a player that has the potential to slide into the top six when he reaches the NHL — whenever that may be.

He's committed to college for the 2018-19 season, so it's doubtful he would join the team until at least 2019-20, but Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley said in our draft preview edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast that it wouldn't deter them from picking him. 

And it shouldn't, because you don't want to waste a player of his caliber's entry-level years developing in the minors if he's not ready yet.

"I think the way we would evaluate it is, we project them, we try to get a timeline on when we think they might be NHL ready," Kelley said. "But we're also looking for where they are in their development curve and want their ceiling is. I think in some players, you have to be a little bit more patient for them to reach their ceiling. That doesn't necessarily mean that players can't exceed their development curve, I think we saw that with Alex DeBrincat last year."