It has been a long time coming, but it looks as though former second-round pick Igor Makarov is ready to make the jump from Russia to the NHL.
If the prospects tournament and training camp are any indication, Makarov might be a dark horse to make the NHL roster out of camp.
Makarov has impressed many with his play on the ice this preseason, producing at the NHL rookie tournament, during inter-squad scrimmages, and during the first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Before the preseason began many discounted Makarov's chances to make the Blackhawks roster and cited his low numbers in the KHL and lack of commitment to learn the North American game.
During his time in the KHL Makarov was relegated to the bottom six of the lineup and limited ice time. If he does make the team, in all likelihood he will be getting quality minutes, possibly in the top six but more likely on the third line with Dave Bolland.
Also, Makarov seems to be here to stay, stating in an interview with Chicago Blackhawks Blog that he is committed to learning the North American game and that he enjoys the type of hockey that is played in the NHL, "physical and fast-paced."
In the first preseason game Makarov was paired with captain Jonathan Toews and prospect Jeremy Morin. During the game Makarov looked very good, using his speed to his advantage and also tallying an assist on a nice goal by Toews.
Now yes, this is only a preseason game, and until we actually see Makarov produce in a real NHL game against top NHL competition we cannot decide if he is truly an NHL talent, but going off what we have seen thus far I think he is ready.
With players like Jack Skille and Jake Dowell struggling to find their place on the Blackhawks and Makarov excelling during quality minutes, we might see Makarov knock a guy like Dowell back down to Rockford or force the 'Hawks to explore a trade for Skille.
In the first preseason game Dowell and Skille were less than stellar, looking more like an AHLer than an NHLer. Dowell couldn't even hold his own in a fight, which is considered one of his few strengths.
Skille, on the other hand, wasn't terrible but really didn't stand out much either, although he was somewhat effective on the penalty kill when paired with Viktor Stalberg. Skille does look to have the speed to play at the NHL level. However, his on-ice awareness seems to be lacking.
Whatever the case may be, Makarov is making his mark on training camp while others struggle, and if he can continue this torrential pace, in all likelihood he will be a member of the 2010-2011 Chicago Blackhawks.
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