In an attempt to get some of the great Chicago Blackhawks writers some B/R-wide exposure, I have decided to do a Blackhawks round-table discussion.
For our first community round table I decided to ask the question, “Who is the Chicago Blackhawks' most underrated player?”
Every writer who contributed had differing views and provided great insight to why they chose the players that they did. I found it very interesting that I was the only person to chose a certain penalty killer, whom I will reveal at the end of the article. This is what makes community collaborations so great—they provide you with interesting perspectives and a great overall read.
Hope that you enjoy our first of many Chicago Blackhawks Community collaborations. If you did not get in on these first collaboration and would like to get in on future collaborations please leave me a note or email me (Michael Wagner).
You’d never guess it by all the press and the jerseys that show up at the UC, but the most underrated player on the Blackhawks is Brent Seabrook.
Think about it: In the wins, the praise goes to Toews, Kane, and Sharp, but almost never to Seabrook, who manages to play his position almost flawlessly. Of course, after a loss he and Duncan Keith are just the two worst things to happen to Blackhawks hockey since Bill Wirtz.
He’s not only got a sickening array of shots and some ungodly-good stick-handling ability, he’s got something that a lot of guys not just on the Hawks but the entire NHL don’t have, and what even fewer get credit for—know how, specifically of how to use his body. I can’t think of too many other defensemen who don’t just knock guys down mid-ice, but actually take the puck right off of their opponent's stick in the process.
The man is pure hockey gold, and unfortunately gets overshadowed by the more glamorous wingers, goalies, coaches, and Dale Tallon’s stylish glasses (the fact that they’re the same as mine has no bearing on my opinion.)
If his talent level is matched by production, it’ll be pretty hard to underrate him. But this man means a lot to this team and he hardly gets the accolades he deserves. (Ray Bogusz, Bleacher Report)
Ironically, my most underrated Blackhawk pick was drafted 134th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft by the Boston Bruins. From there, Kris Versteeg played for the Providence Bruins in the AHL, until he was traded on February 3, 2007. Versteeg was traded along with a conditional draft pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for Brandon Bochenski.
Versteeg has been compared to Kane, and both have proved that size doesn't matter in the NHL. Versteeg has earned 12 points so far this year, ranked fourth amongst the 'Hawks roster and second amongst all rookies in the NHL.I wouldn't rule out Versteeg following Kane's lead. A back-to-back Calder Trophy in Chicago isn't too far off.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Versteeg has made a believer of new 'Hawks coach Joel Quenneville:
''From where he was at the start of the summer to today shows how much he's capable of,'' Quenneville said. ''He's a young kid with a good personality in the way he comes to the rink. He's got a lot of energy, good speed, good patience and vision with the puck. And playing with two good players complements his game.'
Last year this time, Versteeg would have been preparing for a game with the Rockford Ice Hogs. Now, he practices with the Chicago Blackhawks and finds himself in the first line with star players: Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
Everyone always talks about Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Martin Havlat, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell, and even Dustin Byfuglien.
There should definitely be some room for Kris Versteeg's name on that list.
It's not too long until the Hawk Quarters in downtown Chicago, IL will have No. 32 jerseys shown in their window. (Craig Nuzzo, Bleacher Report)
I can think of two Blackhawks who are very underrated right now. On the forward side, I would have to stay that Steeger is getting some love, but no one is respecting what the other rookie out there every night is doing. Troy Brouwer is the definition of power forward, and his goal tonight is something that he will be doing for the rest of the year.
He's not flashy, he's not skillful in the common sense, but he is a big physical forward who finishes his checks on the defensive side as well as Burish and Buff. He also puts in those garbage goals, which as the season goes on will be the difference between good teams and elite teams. Just ask the Red Wings how the playoffs last year would have gone without Franzen.
On the blue line, I have to go with Aaron Johnson. I have loved his puck-moving abilities in the defensive zone and I would still consider him to be underrated even if he had not shown the daft scoring touch he has this year. His play on the kill unit has been perfect, and it has been great for the Hawks to have another defensive stopper on the team besides Keith.
Obviously, the three goals on the year are spectacular, but his helpers have been very surprising as well. The best part about all of it is the fact that his M.O. has not been slipping. He is playing at a very high level right now, and is quickly becoming one of my favorite players. (Dieter Kurtenbach, Bleacher Report)
I agree with Dieter. Troy Brouwer is underrated, and proof of that was in his second goal with the Hawks tonight.
The person I wanted to bring up was Duncan Keith. Now, I know a lot of Hawks fans already love the All-Star defenseman, but across the NHL, more people need to realize that he has superior abilities in separating people off of the puck.
No one kills penalties like he does, because no one is better at separating and flinging the puck down ice, preventing a lot of opportunities on the power play. He's a big reason why the Hawks are third in the league in penalty killing. (Jim Neveau, Bleacher Report)
This is a really hard pick with this team. Can we judge what Kane and Toews have done for this franchise? Patrick Sharp being left of all-star ballet? With this years ‘Hawks I would have to say the most under-rated player is Aaron Johnson.
Before the season started everyone knew that the defense was going to be stout, but he was never even mentioned. It’s very easy to get over looked when you have the likes of Campbell, Keith, Seabrook, and Barker. In 11 games this year has six points and leads the team in plus minus with 11. He’s averaging fifteen minutes of ice time and only four penalty minutes! Aaron Johnson would have to get my pick. (Daniel Skiston, Bleacher Report)
Quietly hidden behind the marquee additions of defenseman Brian Campbell and goaltender Cristobal Huet was the July signing of the 25-year-old defender Aaron Johnson. And while the contributions of the other two new Hawks have been visibly referenced in the media, Johnson might have made himself as important on the roster as any of the three.
Johnson, who was drafted in the third round by Columbus in 2001, has started to show an offensive spark in a defensive group that has a number of headline names. Obviously, Campbell and 2007-08 All-Star Duncan Keith are both among the best in the NHL, while Brent Seabrook is certainly no slouch. But it's Johnson that has started to contribute all over the ice.
Quick pop quiz: Who leads the Blackhawks' plus-minus on November 11? Answer: Aaron Johnson, at plus-11. Rookie Kris Versteeg is second at plus-8. Most impressive about Johnson's season, perhaps, is that he has yet to finish a game in the negative—in fact, his plus-minus has only been break-even 0 in three of his 11 games this year.
Johnson is also averaging over fifteen minutes of ice time per game since being recalled on October 14. Only Campbell, Keith, Seabrook, and recently promoted Cam Barker average more ice time for Hawks defenders, with Barker having played in just five games since being recalled (Tab Bamford, Bleacher Report)
Everyone has had very interesting views, but I am surprised that no one even mentioned one of the 'Hawks top penalty killers, Colin Fraser. Yes, I understand that Fraser is only averaging around 10-11 minutes per game—but almost half of his minutes are being logged on the penalty kill, which is one of the best in the NHL.
Fraser was acquired back in 2004 from the Philadelphia Flyers, along with Jim Vandermeer and Bryan Bickell for Alexei Zhamnov and a fourth-round pick. But since he was acquired, he has been stuck in the AHL with the Norfolk and Rockford. In Fraser’s first three seasons in the AHL, he has averaged 34 points and 156 penalty minutes.
Coming into the season, Fraser was not expected to make the ‘Hawks squad—but as roster cuts came and went, Fraser continued to find himself on the big club.
What really got Fraser into the lineup was the suspension of Ben Eager for swinging his stick at Sean Avery. Given this chance Fraser proved to then coach Denis Savard that he deserved to be in the line-up. When Eager returned, it was Craig Adams who found himself out of a job—not Colin Fraser.
Fraser does not put up a great amount of points, with only three on the season, but when he is on the ice not many pucks are going into the net. He has only been on the ice for three goals this season, which has lead to the added faith that Joel Quenneville has had in his top penalty killer.
Colin Fraser, my most underrated Blackhawk. (Michael Wagner, Bleacher Report)
I would like to thank all the Blackhawks writers who provided input for this collaboration, and I hope that we can do this again in the near future. Please continue to contribute to the Blackhawks section and let us make this the best NHL section on the Bleacher Report. Once again, thank you.
Michael Wagner is a Columnist for Bleacher Report and the Community Leader for the Chicago Blackhawks’ section. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to read some of his past articles please check out his article archive.