The following is an excerpt from the November 21st edition of HawkCast, the Chicago Blackhawks' official podcast. To hear the entire podcast, including an interview with Rockford IceHogs head coach Bill Peters, click here.
Asst. GM of Hockey Operations Stan Bowman answers your questions in Hawks Insider. To submit a question, click here and tune in to the next edition of the show to see if it gets answered on air.
HawkCast: How much of a surprise has defenseman Aaron Johnson been to you? As a fan I have been very pleased with his efforts on the ice. Before acquiring him, how much was he on the Hawks radar?
Stan Bowman: I have to admit he has been a pleasant surprise to all of us. We were hopeful that he might be a depth guy that might be able to fill in. We followed him last year; he was in that grouping of defensemen that we thought might be able to compete for a spot, and then in training camp he played well. Even though he didn’t start here, since he came up he has been really solid from his first game. I think his games have been consistent; he has a good shot,. He has given a little bit of offense here and there and has been reliable. He can play in a lot of different situations.
We are very happy with him. We expected him to play some games for us, that’s why we signed him. But I think he has maybe even exceeded our hopes that he can play a regular role.
HawkCast: What is the status of Kyle Beach (right)? Do you see him making an impact in the NHL right off the bat like Patrick Kane, or marinating for a while in juniors and in Rockford like Jack Skille? What kind of time do you see him taking to get to the NHL?
Bowman: I think he was pretty close to making the team this year out of camp, and he probably could have made it as a fourth line guy. We decided that it was more beneficial in the long run for him to go and continue to develop. When he does get the chance to play here -- which could even be next year -- he would have a more significant role.
I don’t expect him to be a guy that is going to take a long time to make it. I think next year in training camp would be the real decision we would have to make in terms of what kind of role he is going to play. He would have to go back to juniors one more year (because of his age) so Rockford wouldn’t even be in the picture until the following year. I think by that point hopefully he would be able to step in. It's probably going to be one of those decisions next year to see how close he is and see where everyone fits on our team. But he is pretty close to playing.