Saturday, June 6, 2009

Flying High in the Windy City

Hockey is back and alive in the windy city as the young Blackhawk team was able to reignite a love for hockey that has been quiet for years. With the core of the team, with an average age of under 25, buzz around Chicago should be alive for years to come. With the success of sophomores Kane and Toews and a young and mobile defensive core, the Blackhawks went deep into the playoffs and gained valuable experience in their brief resurgence. The only question leading into the summer is their goaltending with UFA Khabibulin a big reason they were successful.

Martin Havlat – Finally healthy, Havlat rewarded his owners with 77 points in 81 games. A UFA this offseason, Havlat has stated he wants to stay in Chicago but will go where the money takes him. He should still be looked at as an injury risk as he somehow stayed healthy during a contract year, hmm. Draft him accordingly as you never know when he will go down.

Patrick Kane – In his second year in the league, Kane gained valuable experience by helping lead the young Blackhawks deep into the playoffs. With 70 points in 80 games, Kane produced similar numbers as he did last season. His ceiling is not known yet but he should increase his production next season. Draft him in your first round or look at him as a keeper.

Jonathan Toews – The young captain not only upped his totals from last season but led his team deep into the playoffs in his second year in the league. Toews has great playmaking ability and leadership qualities. Look for him to improve on his 69 points from last season as he started out slow. A keeper and an early draft pick in all leagues.

Kris Versteeg – His first full season in the league, Versteeg found himself playing on the top line on the young team. With 53 points in 73 games, he is a great option as a depth player and look to draft him in the mid-rounds if he is not kept.

Brian Campbell – His first season in Chicago was a success. Not the best defensive player on the team, Campbell leads the Hawks PP unit and tallied 52 points in 82 games this season. Look for a repeat performance next season, just be wary of his plus minus if your league uses that as a category.

Duncan Keith – Once of Chicago’s top dmen, Keith was stable, even outstanding during the playoffs last season. With 44 points in 77 games, Keith may be kept by fellow GM’s and should be on your radar once the top dmen are picked in your draft.

Patrick Sharp – Suffering from injuries last season, Sharp played in 61 games and netted 44 points. It appears that Sharp was a catalyst at times as Chicago struggled when he was out of the lineup. If he is not kept in your league, grab him in the early mid-rounds as he should hit 70 points next season if healthy.

Cam Barker – In one word, Barker was a success when he was called up last season. Scoring 40 points in 68 games, Barker helped anchor the power-play and was another weapon on an already deep team. Look for Barker to repeat his point totals next season and possibly going into keeper value as well.

Dustin Byfuglien – This part time dman / winger has an edge to him that creates room for his teammates on the ice. He has the ability to score and fight which makes opponents take notice. If your league has Big Buff listed as a dman, you should grab him earlier than you would if he played D.

Brent Seabrook – A stable and trustworthy dman, Seabrook is a defensive anchor on the Blackhawks. Paired with Keith, Seabrook doesn’t put up as many points but can be looked at as a depth player.

Nikolai Khabibulin – This past year was a crazy ride for the Bulin Wall. He was put on waivers, almost played in Russia, pushed aside Huet to be the number one guy, led the Hawks deep into the playoffs and got injured at the end. A UFA this summer, Khabby showed he can still be a top goalie in the league and lead a team into the playoffs. Depending on where he ends up, draft him accordingly.

Cristobal Huet – Pushed aside by Khabibulin, Huet was never given a real opportunity to earn the starting role. Going into next season there are questions surrounding Huet, his contract and possibly bringing back Khabibulin. If Huet is the number one guy, he has keeper value because of the young team he is on. If Khabby comes back, stay away from him.

Antti Niemi – Should challenge as the backup in Chicago and may make a push as the top guy if Huet struggles. Keep an eye on him.


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