Chicago Blackhawks: 3 Icehogs Who Should Crack the Lineup in 2011
The Chicago Blackhawks have a lot of depth, not only in their current lineup, but also in their farm team.
The Rockford IceHogs are the current home for all of the players in the 'Hawks system who do not crack the Blackhawks' lineup.
The following slideshow presents three IceHogs players who should get to make an appearance with the 'Hawks at some point during the 2011-2012 season.
Note: If a player appears on the Blackhawks' depth chart, they will not appear here, regardless of which team they end up playing for this season.
3. Brian Connelly
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Weight: 170 lbs
Drafted: Undrafted (Free-agent signing in 2009)
2010-2011 Stats: 11 goals, 41 assists, 52 points, plus-3 (80 games)
Why: Second-best point total overall for the IceHogs in 2010. Brian Connelly played on the top defense pairing and on the top power-play unit for Rockford.
Brian is a very quick defenseman who uses his speed to pinch while on the power play. He has a very hard shot. Brian is a very consistent player, but his lack of size as a defenseman causes him to often fly under the radar.
Connelly would add some speed to the Blackhawks' lineup, and it would be interesting to see how these traits would be in the NHL. He is a very aware player, being able to set up a lot of goals (contributing to his 41 assists last season with the IceHogs).
If he did get a chance at the 'Hawks lineup this season, he would most likely see limited playing time because of his small stature for a defenseman, but he would pleasantly surprise everyone. His awareness, speed, and hard shot can make him a very dependable player, if given the opportunity to show his stuff.
2. Brandon Pirri
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Weight: 160 lbs
Drafted: 59th Overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks
2010-2011 Stats: 12 goals, 31 assists, 43 points (70 games)
Why: His 43 points led all rookies on the team, and was fourth overall on the team.
A skinnier player, Pirri initially had issues with the size of AHL players, but after adjusting midway through the season, he had a strong finish and ended up on the team's top line.
Pirri knows a lot of fancy moves, that while less effective towards AHL and NHL players, make him a threat when going one-on-one against defensemen. His great skating ability also makes him a threat.
Pirri is a very skilled puck-handler and decision maker in the offensive zone. While his defensive skills and faceoff ability needs a little work, he is a very aggressive forechecker. If given the opportunity to play for the Blackhawks, Pirri will prove himself. He may just need the challenge of the NHL-sized players to get him to explode into the great player he has the potential to be.
Pirri needs to put on some muscle before he becomes a full-time feature in the 'Hawks lineup, but expect him to be a feature at least once this season.
1. Jeremy Morin
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Weight: 189 lbs
Position: Left Wing
Drafted: 45th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers; Acquired by the Chicago Blackhawks on June 1, 2010
2010-2011 Stats: 8 goals, 4 assists, 12 points, 34 Penalties in Minutes (22 Games)
Why: Morin played in nine NHL games with the Blackhawks registering two goals and one assist.
Jeremy tries creative things with the puck which he is sometimes slow at putting together. If he can put it together, he will become a force to be reckoned with. He is a sniper, able to find an open spot in the net anywhere from the ice, whether in front of it or by the blue line. Jeremy possesses a quick release and a hard shot.
Morin has a very high hockey-IQ, and competes to his fullest every shift. His all-around game is very solid, making him a great two-way player.
His skating is constantly improving, and he has to potential to become a top-six winger.
Jeremy is a tough player, always finishing his checks and willing to stand up for his teammates, as evidenced by his 34 penalties in minutes in 22 games.
Morin was limited to only 22 games last season because he landed awkwardly on his head and neck and was out with injury for the rest of the season.