chicagoblackhawks.com's Adam Kempenaar addresses your burning Blackhawks questions. Check back for more Hawks Insider answers as the 2008-09 season approaches.
Who is considered the next top impact player (Toews / Kane) in the Blackhawk organization? -- Mike Deibel, Naperville, Ill.
Good question, Mike... because there isn't an obvious answer to it. The Blackhawks have a deep crop of prospects, but probably aren't counting on anyone to come in and make the kind of impact Toews or Kane did as a rookie. And that's a good thing. Ideally, a team that expects to earn a playoff spot (at the very minimum) should have a strong mix of veteran and young talent that doesn't require them to lean too much on a rookie. But right now there is a spot for a rookie winger to come in and make this team at Training Camp. Jack Skille and Troy Brouwer, to name just two candidates, are guys who could definitely score 20+ goals at some point during their NHL careers.
Although the immediate thought is to go with a forward who can put the puck in the net, the next rookie to make a significant impact might just be a defenseman -- Niklas Hjalmarsson. Blackhawks brass loves Hjalmarsson's poise, work ethic, hockey sense and competitive fire. In terms of currently unsigned players, you have to look at Akim Aliu and 2008 1st rounder Kyle Beach as players with the highest ceilings.
With the acquisition of [Brian] Campbell, what do you think the defensive pairings will be? And who will be the odd man out? -- James, Orland Park, Ill.
James, all signs point to Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook being paired together as they were last season. Campbell then will likely partner with veteran Brent Sopel. Keith and Campbell give you blazing speed on two units. Cam Barker and James Wisniewski would likely be your 5th and 6th d-men with veteran Matt Walker as your 7th -- the guy who maybe doesn't play every night but can be inserted into the lineup against particularly gritty opponents. While Wisniewski is out for a few months recovering from knee surgery, I expect Walker to remain in that 7th d-man role with Jordan Hendry and free agent signees Aaron Johnson and Doug Janik fighting for that 6th spot. Of course, Hjalmarsson (see above) is eventually going to be in the mix as an everyday blueliner for the Blackhawks too.
Is Patrick Kane not in the running for an A? -- Will Jackson, Ottawa, ON
Will's question is in response to the previous Hawks Insider edition where I suggested that Brent Seabrook, Brent Sopel, Patrick Sharp, Robert Lang, Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell were all strong candidates to serve as alternate captains this season. Sure Kane is in the running. Technically, everyone but the goalies could be considered in the running. My answer was based on who wore the A's last season and the fact that teams typically put veterans in those leadership roles -- especially when your captain is only 20. Kane is just a second-year player and will have plenty of years to wear a letter.