Two skilled wingers - both worthy prospects - and likely only one spot open.
|Jack Skille celebrates his game-winning goal against Dallas on Sunday. |
This is the situation the Blackhawks and two of their most-promising forwards, Jack Skille and Troy Brouwer, find themselves in. Although both prospects have made big contributions so far in training camp and preseason action, there may only be one spot available on the Blackhawks’ opening day roster. Whoever doesn’t get that spot may be back on his way to Rockford.
“We don’t want to hold back our young guys,” said Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon about the competition at forward. “I’m anxious to see the young guys [including Skille and Brouwer] fighting for that forward spot. We’re going to give them every opportunity to make the hockey club.”
Both Skille and Brouwer have shown off their abilities so far in the preseason. Brouwer scored the game-winning goal in the Blackhawks’ first preseason matchup against Columbus, as the Hawks came all the way back from a three-goal deficit to win the game 4-3. Skille notched what turned out to be the game-winner against Dallas, a smooth-looking backhand off a feed from defenseman Brian Campbell.
“I’ve just got to be consistent every time I’m on the ice,” says Skille, explaining how he hopes to win the spot. “Just show up every shift. Every time I’m on the ice – do the things I do best. Drive the net, shoot the puck, be responsible with the puck, check the puck… I want them to notice me every time I’m out there.”
Skille, Chicago’s 2005 first-round pick, and Brouwer, a seventh-rounder from 2004, both headed into the off-season with their eye on a spot with the big club. Skille says that he spent the summer working on his hands and shot, while Brouwer spent time on his skating, which he said was the one thing 'holding him back.'
|Troy Brouwer shows off his physical style of play against Columbus. |
Head Coach Denis Savard says that the hard work that both have put into their conditioning in the off-season is on display now.
“[Skille] was outstanding. He’s in great shape and it’s showed in these games; guys who are well-conditioned get ahead of everybody,” Savard said. “[Brouwer], if he’s going to continue playing the way he has, it’ll be tough to return him. His conditioning has been remarkable and it shows in his game.”
Both Brouwer and Skille, who were teammates in Rockford and Norfolk for the last two years, share a mutual respect for one another, while acknowledging that this is a competition that only one of them will likely win.
“He’s a great kid,” said Skille of Brouwer. “A good player, he has a lot of skill. He can score on command, so he’s pretty tough competition.”
“It’s gonna be tough. Jack’s a great player and a good friend,” said Brouwer. “But it’s a competition. All I can do is go out there and do what I do well and hope that works.”