Chicago Blackhawks: Is Joakim Nordstrom Ready for the NHL?

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Chicago Blackhawks: Is Joakim Nordstrom Ready for the NHL?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Joakim Nordstrom was a surpsise roster selection by Chicago. Can he stay with the 'Hawks through the long haul?

The Chicago Blackhawks raised their 2013 Stanley Cup banner with a 6-4 win over the Washington Capitals. Making his NHL debut was the young Swede who surprised fans by making the team out of training camp, forward Joakim Nordstrom.

Even before Tuesday night's opener, I would have liked to see Nordstrom continuing his development in the AHL. Nordstrom's debut didn't really convince me otherwise.

Nordstrom didn't commit any grievous transgression that begged coach Joel Quenneville to send him to Rockford. He skated 12:23, including 3:26 on the penalty kill unit. He was on the ice for the 'Hawks first score and was a plus-one on the evening. It's just that the kid is being rushed when he doesn't need to be.

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Quenneville likes his tenacity defensively and so do I. It's just that at 6'1" and 160 pounds, I question his ability to handle himself in the corners with players who have more size. This includes pretty much everyone in the league.

Andrew Shaw can get down and dirty in the corners despite a lack of size, but he outweighs Nordstrom by 20 pounds. I'm not sure Nordstrom is ready to go out and win board battles on a nightly basis.

Add in the fact that Ben Smith finally has ascended to the Chicago roster and it really makes a lot of sense for Nordstrom to drive out to Rockford and start hitting the local restaurants. Seriously, though, he is a player who would benefit from adding some weight and honing his game with the IceHogs.

You can't pin the blame for three power play goals solely on the rookie. On the other hand, Nordstrom wasn't on the ice for much of the heroic Chicago stand late in the game. This was due to the fact that he wildly sent the puck over the glass to give the Capitals a 5-on-3 with 3:33 left.

Delay of game infractions happen to the best penalty killers. There is a lot of talent in this 21-year-old player. Quenneville likely sees a lot of countryman Marcus Kruger in Nordstrom.

Learning on the job is something Kruger knows something about; therefore, it's more than reasonable to expect Nordstrom to be able to learn the North American game in the NHL. I hope Smith gets his chance on the fourth line Saturday when the Lightning come to visit the United Center.

Nordstrom is going to be a player to keep an eye on. Time will tell if that happens with the 'Hawks or a bit further West.

 

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