Projecting the Best Chicago Blackhawks at Each Position in 5 Years
The Chicago Blackhawks have a lot of things going for them in a positive direction, and it's paid off with two Stanley Cup championships in the last four seasons.
They have solid ownership in Rocky Wirtz, an intelligent and calm general manager in Stan Bowman and one of the top head coaches in the NHL in Joel Quenneville.
However, the biggest reason behind their success is the talent they put on the ice every night.
The team has drafted well, developed talent at the minor league level and made smart trades and free-agent pickups.
The Blackhawks remain at or near the top of the league right now and the future looks solid as well. Top players Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are just 25 years old, and they should still be at the top of their game in five more years.
In this piece we look at the players who project to be Chicago's best at each of the six positions five years from now.
LW Teuvo Teräväinen
Wt: 165 pounds
Analysis: Teuvo Teräväinen actually projects as a center, but he has such a high skill level that he can play anywhere on the forward line.
The Blackhawks drafted Teräväinen with their first-round pick in the 2012 draft. The Finnish native is an explosive skater with an array of moves that should make him a dangerous player when he finally plays in North America on a regular basis.
Teräväinen has a slick left-handed wrist shot and he knows how to beat the defense so he can create time and space, the two most important elements in goal scoring. The Blackhawks are very high on Teräväinen's talent and Hockey's Future says he has a heavy one-timer and the skills to be a superb puck distributor.
C Jonathan Toews
Wt: 208 pounds
Analysis: Jonathan Toews has already led the Blackhawks to two Stanley Cup championships and he has a chance to add multiple titles before he hangs up his skates.
He is widely recognized as one of the top three all-around players in the game. While he can score and set up teammates, he is probably an even better player from a defensive perspective. He plays with toughness and will sacrifice his body to block shots or go into the corner and take the puck away from bigger and stronger competitors.
Toews is also a creative and gutsy competitor. He proved that in the Stanley Cup Final last year. When the Blackhawks fell behind the Boston Bruins two games to one, it seemed like Boston's physical and effective defense was choking off Chicago's offense.
However, Toews decided prior to the fourth game that the Blackhawks needed to take the puck right at 6'9" Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara. Toews' strategy turned the series around as the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in six games.
It's difficult to see anyone in the Blackhawks organization surpassing him in value or ability at the center position.
RW Patrick Kane
Wt: 181 pounds
Analysis: Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are the Chicago Blackhawks' own "Gold Dust Twins."
Kane is simply a scintillating offensive player who is perhaps the best stickhandler in the game today. Kane can execute moves with the puck that other players can barely dream of making.
Kane won the Conn Smythe Trophy in last year's Stanley Cup playoffs. He scored the series-winning goal in overtime of the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings and he also scored three more goals in the Stanley Cup Final, including two in the pivotal fifth game that allowed the Blackhawks to take a 3-2 lead in the series.
Kane has remarkable quickness and a vicious shot. That combination has allowed him to become one of the best clutch players in the game.
He should still be at the top of his game in five years. However, Kane has had some off-ice problems in the past. While they appear to be under control, the Blackhawks don't know if Kane will have any future issues.
If he does, the Blackhawks may want to turn to Ryan Hartman at right wing. Hartman, 19, was the Blackhawks' first-round draft pick last summer. He projects to be a hard-nosed grinder who also has the skill to put the puck in the net.
D Adam Clendening
Wt: 190 pounds
Analysis: Adam Clendening was the Blackhawks' second-round draft pick in 2011.
He has the talent to become an excellent offensive defenseman in the NHL. Clendening is an excellent skater who knows how to move the puck out of his own zone and lead the attack.
He has a heavy shot and he can also find the open man in the offensive zone.
While he is talented on the offensive end, he also plays the defensive game well. He knows how to play a physical game and he is not afraid to go into the corner.
His primary weakness at this point is a tendency to get mesmerized by the play and stand around and watch a bit too much.
Once he breaks this habit, he should be a solid contributor on the Blackhawks for the foreseeable future.
D Stephen Johns
Wt: 234 pounds
Analysis: Johns is a big, powerful stay-at-home defenseman who projects to be the kind of player who can approach 25 minutes per game.
Johns has a nasty streak and excels at punishing his opponents. He loves hitting and often has to be reminded to keep his position because he will often hunt for someone to hit.
He has some solid offensive skills as well. Johns can deliver quick breakout passes and he also has a strong shot from the point.
G Antti Raanta
Wt: 187 pounds
Analysis: While the Blackhawks have first-rate talent throughout their organization at the forward position and on defense, they don't have as much depth at the goaltender position.
Corey Crawford, 28, is a solid No. 1, but there's no guarantee that his play will remain at a high level in five more years.
If it is not, Antti Raanta would be next in line to take over. Raanta was recently brought up from the Blackhawks' minor-league affiliate in Rockford to take over the backup goalie role from the injured Nikolai Khabibulin. He made his first start on Nov. 27 in the Blackhawks' game at Calgary.
Raanta is not the quickest goalie, and he also lacks the size to take away scoring angles from highly skilled shooters. However, he is the kind of goalie who will battle and do anything he can to keep the puck out of the net. He had a stellar record in his native Finland (1.85 goals against average, .943 save percentage in 2012-13 for Assat Pori of SM-liiga), and he has enough confidence to believe that he can play at a high level in the NHL.