Predicting the Chicago Blackhawks' Future Stars
You could excuse Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman if he jettisoned his low-key personalty and started partying like it was 1999.
Here's what Bowman has going for him:
He is the general manager of the defending Stanley Cup champions, a team that is widely considered to have the most talented roster in the NHL.
He just signed a contract extension that will keep him with the team through the 2017-18 season.
His team is rich with minor league prospects.
While many of the Blackhawks' core players are young enough to maintain their position for years, you can never have enough good players in your system.
Some of the young players will be role players while others will be stars. In this piece, we look at the Blackhawks' future stars.
C Teuvo Teravainen
By the numbers: 13 goals, 18 assists in 44 games for Jokerit in Finland's SM-Liiga
What he does best: A creative playmaker who skates superbly, Teravainen is simply a dominant offensive player. His passing is his best attribute, but he can also beat defenders one-on-one, and he has a heavy shot.
What he needs to work on: Teravainen, 19, is too thin and not strong enough for the NHL. While he will never be a physical player, he needs to add weight and strength to his 5'11", 165-pound frame. When Teravainen can put on enough weight to handle the hard checks he will see in the NHL, there may be no stopping him.
When he arrives: He might be skilled enough to make the team in 2014-15. However, he needs time to add mass. He dons a Chicago uniform in 2015-16.
G Antti Raanta
By the numbers: 21-11-10, 1.85 goals-against average, .943 save percentage, five shutouts for Assat of Finland's SM-Liiga
What he does best: This Finnish star is a battler. He has decent size at 6'0" and 187 pounds, but he is not huge. Raanta is not a spectacular athlete either. However, he uses near-perfect positioning to stop the first start and then will do anything in his power to stop the second, third and fourth shots. While he hails from the same country as Boston's Tuukka Rask, he plays more like Rask's predecessor with the Bruins, Tim Thomas.
What he needs to work on: Raanta, 24, has to get used to the angles that are played on the smaller North American ice. He is supposed to play for the Blackhawks' minor league affiliate in Rockford. Once he is comfortable with that, it should not take long for him to be ready to play at the NHL level.
When he arrives: The Blackhawks signed Nikolai Khabibulin to back up Corey Crawford this year. Raanta could be ready to move up before the end of the year. Raanta should be the backup in 2014-15, and he may be good enough to become an NHL starter by 2015-16.
C Brandon Pirri
By the numbers: League-leading 22 goals, 53 assists for Rockford (AHL)
What he does best: Pirri is on the verge of making the NHL right now. He is in camp with the Blackhawks, and he has the skills to possibly make the team this year. However, that may not be in his best interest because he would most likely be a role player at this point. Pirri is a skilled puck-handler, and he has moves to make the defender miss. He knows how to find the soft spots in the defense and then get his quick, hard shot away.
What he needs to work on: Pirri needs to work on his skating and his defense. The defense will be an issue because he has some lapses. He has to clean up the obvious mistakes if he is going to play regularly for Joel Quenneville.
When he arrives: He could make the team this year, but he could become a key player in 2014-15.
D Adam Clendening
By the numbers: Nine goals, 37 assists, plus-17 for Rockford (AHL)
What he does best: Clendending, 20, is the best offensive defenseman in the Blackhawks system. He showed his smooth moves, his capable puck-handling and a solid shot last year for the IceHogs. Clendening has the proper instincts for the position. He will jump into the play when he senses an opportunity, and he has the speed to get to the spot quickly, make his play and get back on defense. While he is known for offense, he does not shirk on defense.
What he needs to work on: While there are times that Clendening will show dominating talent, there are other times he will tend to float. If he can up his intensity a bit, he has the tools to become a star.
When he arrives: Clendending will be given a chance to show what he can do in training camp, but his time to star in the NHL may not come until the 2015-16 season.
C Mark McNeill
By the numbers: 25 goals, 42 assists, for Prince Albert (WHL)
What he does best: McNeill has a chance to be a solid two-way star who can play excellent defense and execute on the offensive end of the ice. McNeill, 20, has the size and strength to become one of the most dependable players on the team when he hits his peak. He is not flashy and is probably not going to score more than 20 goals, but because he is so responsible, he has a chance to be the kind of player the coach taps on the shoulder when the team is either ahead or behind by a goal in the final minutes.
What he needs to work on: He is not the most natural offensive player, so he's going to have to work on his playmaking and puck-carrying throughout his career. The most troubling aspect of of McNeill's game is his intensity. For a player who is not flashy, he seems to lose focus a bit too much. That is probably a function of age at this point, but he will need to work on that weakness.
When he arrives: Give McNeill two seasons to develop in the minors and he should be playing for the Blackhawks in 2015-16.
RW Ryan Hartman
By the numbers: 23 goals, 37 assists, 120 PIM for Plymouth (OHL)
What he does best: The Blackhawks selected Hartman with their first-round pick in June because he is a well-rounded forward who has the skills to score goals and the intensity to play physical hockey and assert himself against opponents. While he is not huge at 5'11" and 190 pounds, Hartman is not afraid to jump in against bigger opponents. He has the quick hands to make accurate passes or pop the puck in the top corner.
What he needs to work on: This 18-year-old player has all of the necessary ingredients to become a star, but he does not have ideal size, so he is constantly going to have to prove himself. He shows no hesitation to get involved against bigger players. This youngster needs time to develop his skills against other top players
When he arrives: Look for Hartman to advance relatively quickly, but he won't help the Blackhawks until 2015-16 or 2016-17. He will be worth waiting for.