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2014 Camp Preview: Depth at forward gives Blackhawks plenty of options

by Brad Boron and Emerald Gao / Chicago Blackhawks
Photos by Getty Images & Rockford IceHogs

With Blackhawks training camp opening on Sept. 18, chicagoblackhawks.com is previewing the season with stories, interviews and more to get you ready.

Although the Blackhawks’ lineup is mostly set, there are a few players whose showing in the preseason will dictate whether they begin the year in Chicago or with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, and how much playing time they’ll see.

The forward corps lost only two players from the 2013-14 roster—Brandon Bollig and Michal Handzus—and Handzus’ slot is slated for free-agent signing Brad Richards. That leaves precious few opportunities for any newcomers, let alone contributors like Peter Regin and Jeremy Morin, who saw limited time last year, or young up-and-comers such as Teuvo Teravainen, Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault, who have shown promise and could push for spots in the near future.

Here are the forwards who will be contending for increased NHL minutes as camp opens.

Jeremy Morin: Morin is no stranger to the NHL, having made his debut with the Blackhawks in 2010, but the 23-year-old winger didn’t record more than nine appearances in a season until 2013-14, when he tallied 11 points (5G, 6A) in 24 regular-season games and saw his first playoff action.

The Blackhawks inked Morin to a two-year deal this offseason, giving the AHL standout a chance to earn an everyday position in the NHL. The former first-round pick has a great offensive skill set that features a heavy shot, but can also play a grinding game. Morin’s sniper instinct can’t be overstated: He holds the Rockford IceHogs' AHL franchise record with 80 career goals in 205 career games, and his ability to generate shots on goal has increased steadily from year to year (he averaged an impressive 4.43 shots on goal per game with the IceHogs last season).

Morin could be counted upon to provide secondary scoring while playing depth minutes, as he did toward the end of the 2013-14 season. If his game continues to improve,he’s a prime candidate to challenge for more minutes, including time on the power play, as the season progresses.

Brandon Mashinter: With Bollig’s trade to Calgary during June’s NHL Draft, the Blackhawks lost a little bit of size and physicality from their forward group, but VP/GM Stan Bowman was quick to tab Mashinter, who was acquired last December in exchange for 2008 draft pick Kyle Beach, as a possible replacement.

“He came into Rockford and played really well for us, to the point where we re-signed him during the season to a two-year deal,” Bowman said. “He’s played in the NHL before, not in a big way. As a younger player he got some games in San Jose.”

The 6-foot-4 power forward is not afraid to go into the corners and in front of the net, and he finishes his checks; he registered 94 penalty minutes between Rockford and Hartford last year, while also tallying 35 points (15G, 20A) in 58 games.

“There’s definitely value in having a player like that who can do some different things,” Bowman said. “We’re certainly going to give him every opportunity to show what he can do.”

Joakim Nordstrom:

Joakim Nordstrom
Center  - CHI
Goals: 1 | Assists: 2 | Pts: 3
Shots: 26 | +/-: -2
One of the surprise standouts from last year’s camp, Nordstrom enters 2014-15 looking to prove he can earn a spot and stick with the big club. The 22-year-old Swedish center saw 16 regular-season games in three stints with the Blackhawks in 2013-14, his first full season in North America, while also racking up 33 points (17G, 16A) in 58 games with the IceHogs. He also appeared in seven games in during the playoffs, though he was held scoreless.

While he didn’t produce much offense at the NHL level, Nordstrom excels at playing a dependable, responsible game, which is always a priority for Head Coach Joel Quenneville, especially in a fourth-line role. However, it will be up to the coaching staff and management to decide whether Nordstrom or one of his other young, talented counterparts from the farm system gets the first chance at cracking the lineup.

Peter Regin: Regin arrived in Chicago via trade with the New York Islanders in February, touted as a possibility for the second-line center role. Though he only posted four points (2G, 2A) in 17 games with the Blackhawks, Regin proved himself a sturdy, hardworking two-way player who occupied a pivotal role in the postseason, filling in admirably for the injured Andrew Shaw for five games.

The Herning, Denmark, native can play both center and wing and has the ability to slot in up and down the lineup, which will prove valuable over the course of an 82-game regular season. Where Coach Quenneville will slot Regin in to begin the campaign is a question that could be answered at training camp.

Keep an eye on: Alex Broadhurst, Matt Carey, Phillip Danault, Mark McNeill, Teuvo Teravainen

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