In case you haven’t heard, the defending Stanley Cup champions have an opening at the second line center position. At the beginning of last season, the Chicago Blackhawks gave the position to Dave Bolland. Even though Bolland scored the game-winning goal in the Stanley Cup Final, he was deemed expendable by general manager Stan Bowman. Due to injuries and inconsistency, he fell out of favor with the coaching staff. Also, the team has some players in Rockford who are ready to step up. Let’s take a look at some players that could be next in line to fill that role:
Brandon Saad- Last year’s Calder Cup finalist could be up for the role. During the 2013 season, Saad play elevated as the season went on. The team may not want to put too much on his plate but he showed that he is up to snuff in regards to helping the team any way he can. Saad has a high ceiling. Nowhere to go but up.
Jeremy Morin- There comes a time when a player exceeds the expectations in the minor league level. The time is now for Jeremy Morin to head to the Madhouse on Madison. He is one of the players the team had to make room for on the big league club. He has done everything asked of him on the minor league level. He will be given every shot to not only make the team, but become the second line center.
Mark McNeill- McNeill was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft. He is a bigger center who can take the punishment that the position is known for. If he can’t make the team this season, expect for him to make an impact in Rockford. That might be his best bet for now.
Brandon Pirri- Pirri led the AHL in scoring last season. Like Morin, he nowhere else to go but up. He will be given more of a chance than anyone else to win the job due to his age and potential. I expect Pirri to get the job if Handzus starts to show his age.
Michal Handzus- The team resigned the veteran to a one-year contract. Handzus took over the second line center position during the playoffs last season. He is the early favorite to win the job out of training camp due to his stellar play in the playoffs. Due to his age and the length of his contract, he might just be a temporary stop gap until one of the younger players is ready to assume the position on a full-time basis.
The Chicago Blackhawks are a deep team. We saw that during the Stanley Cup run when every opponent they faced tried to throw everything but the kitchen sink at them. Instead of getting rattled, the team used their speed and depth to win a second Stanley Cup in the last four seasons.