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Morin hopes to show Hawks he's NHL ready

by Staff Writer / Chicago Blackhawks

LONDON, Ont. --
The Chicago Blackhawks knew changes had to be made.

The roster that claimed the organization's first Stanley Cup in 49 years in June wasn't going to come back intact -- for salary cap reasons as well as the normal turnover every team goes through.

"When you win a championship, you fall in love with all the players that you had because it was a special group of players," Blackhawks Assistant General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "But it was a special group of players and it was a special time, and to say that you can just put that group back on the ice together and that'll mean another championship, that doesn't always happen. There's a little bit of change I think that's always necessary and keep things fresh."

Jeremy Morin wants to be part of that change. The 19-year-old, acquired in a blockbuster trade that sent Cup heroes Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager to the Atlanta Thrashers, would love to convince the Hawks that he's ready to be part of the group that tries to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. The first steps in that quest currently are being taken here at a prospects tournament that besides future Blackhawks hopefuls also features youngsters from the Penguins, Senators and Maple Leafs.

Morin is a player the Hawks had their eye on even before the deal.

"We scouted him very heavily in his draft year," Cheveldayoff said. "Our amateur staff at the time was very high on him. All the reports and everything were indicating that he was someone we would've loved to have drafted had we had the opportunity. When the deal came into play, he became someone that we were very, very interested in acquiring."

A natural goal-scorer, Morin was taken by the Thrashers in the second round (No. 45) of the 2009 Entry Draft. Last season, he had 47 goals and 83 points with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League last season. He also earned a gold medal with Team USA at the 2010 World Junior Championship in Saskatoon, Sask.

Prior to arriving in Kitchener, Morin spent two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team program. He said the initial transition to the OHL was difficult -- although his stats might indicate otherwise.

"It's a new league, new players, new pace, so you don't really know what to expect," he said, "but you go in hoping to have a good season."

Forty-seven goals would be the definition of a "good season" for just about anyone.

"He can score from anywhere," USNDTP teammate Jerry D'Amigo, attending the camp as a Maple Leafs prospect, said. "It's amazing what he does. He may be non-existent for the whole game and then he just puts something in and he's going to have a lights-out performance the rest of the game."

Morin did just that against D'Amigo's Leafs, scoring a goal in the first game of the rookie tournament, a 6-3 Chicago loss. But while Morin's scoring touch is apparent, it's some of his other talents that have convinced the Hawks' organization of his long-term potential.

"Certainly his goal-scoring ability stands out," Cheveldayoff said, "but I think it's how he scores goals, too. He's got a great shot, a quick release. He thinks the game very well, too. He's not just one of those guys who just gets the puck and shoots it; you can see he's shooting it with a purpose.

"But there's other aspects of his game, too, that really appeal to us. He's a very gritty player for a goal scorer. He competes very hard, he's got a little bit of nastiness to him. We just like his all-round game, but certainly his goal scoring is something we hope translates and keeps on moving forward."

Despite growing up in Auburn, N.Y., Morin was an avid follower of the Dallas Stars, and his favorite player was Brett Hull, one of the game greatest goal scorers.

"He knew how to put the puck in the net and that's who I try to model myself on," Morin said of Hull, whose 741 goals place him third on the all-time NHL list.
The Hawks will take a long look at Morin in London, where he hopes to make the kind of impression that will earn him an NHL roster spot opening night. More realistic, however, is the possibility that he could be headed back to Kitchener.

"He's got the ability to play at a high level, and I think one of the things that we're looking at is to see how training camp goes for him," Cheveldayoff said. "Obviously this is a great start here at the rookie camp, but there's a lot of different options for his development and we'll let his play determine what the best fit is."

The Blackhawks' organization is well-versed in the finer points of player development. The core of their Cup-winning team -- defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, star forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane -- were drafted and developed by the organization.

Cheveldayoff attributes the success to patience.

"Three, four years ago we had this young player playing in our minor-league system named Duncan Keith, and I think things worked out well, but he did spend some time in the minors," he said of Keith, who won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman in 2009-10. "So it's one of those things where it's all about letting the kids grow and letting them achieve the National Hockey League level when they're ready as opposed to trying to push them in. That's what we're looking forward to and we believe that's what we have in place right now."

Author: Jonas Siegel | Correspondent

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