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The Blackhawks didn't do a good job replacing the veterans who were traded or departed as free agents in the two years after the team lifted the Stanley Cup in 2010. This caused Chicago to lose in the first round of the playoffs in two consecutive seasons because it didn't have enough depth.
A repeat scenario is unlikely given the impressive amount of young talent that general manager Stan Bowman has acquired in the draft over the last four years.
There are several prospects who could crack the Blackhawks roster next year and provide valuable depth, including Mark McNeill (center), Jeremy Morin (left wing), Jimmy Hayes (right wing), Phillip Danault (left wing), Drew LeBlanc (center) and Brandon Pirri (center).
One player to watch is Pirri, who led the team's AHL affiliate the Rockford IceHogs in scoring last season with 75 points. Veteran center Michal Handzus did an excellent job in the second-line center spot during last year's playoffs, but he doesn't provide the scoring production or speed that teams want from that role. Pirri is a center capable of bolstering Chicago's playmaking skill, puck handling, speed and goal scoring on the second line.
Morin, Hayes and Danault are also likely to feature on the NHL club next season as skilled wingers who protect the puck well and create scoring chances with impressive playmaking skills.
There are two openings on the wing with veterans Michael Frolik and Viktor Stalberg leaving the team in the summer, and the Blackhawks should be able to fill both spots from within the organization using players on entry-level deals, which saves valuable salary cap space.