The Blackhawks have made it possible for a host of players who, more than likely, would not get any press time to get noticed for a day signing five players to one-year, two-way deals. Forwards Evan Brophey, Nathan Davis, and Hugh Jessiman, defenseman Jassen Cullimore and goaltender Hannu Toivonen have all been brought into the Blackhawks fold for depth purposes.
Of the names on this you may have heard of, we’ve talked about Jessiman here before when it was reported that the Blackhawks would be signing him. He’s the former New York Rangers first round pick and the only player from the first round of the 2003 NHL draft to not play a game in the NHL yet.
Brophey and Davis are the other two forwards of the bunch and will help the Blackhawks with their depth issues as anyone that goes down to injury next season will cause major headaches for the Blackhawks on the roster. Both guys had solid but unspectacular seasons in AHL Rockford last year.
Toivonen is an interesting character to re-sign as it’s possible that if Corey Crawford doesn’t provide solid backup support for Marty Turco this season, Toivonen will be in Chicago to do the job. Toivonen has the experience and he’s been around a bit already in his short career. He was a first round draft pick of the Bruins in 2002 and has also played for the Blues. He spent last year in both Peoria and Rockford in the AHL.
Jassen Cullimore is the definition of a cagey veteran. Cullimore, 38, has had quite the long NHL career as a fifth or sixth defenseman and he’s been hanging out in the Blackhawks system the last couple of years with Rockford. With how the Hawks defensive depth has taken blows this off-season, Cullimore getting to make one more go of it in Chicago isn’t out of the question.
With the start of the regular season just around the corner, it looks like Robby Fabbri will not only make his NHL debut on Thursday, but also get meaningful minutes.
During Sunday’s practice the 19-year-old forward played alongside Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz. Nothing is set in stone, but that combination did gel.
“I think we want to look at what the combinations look like now rather than do it at the start of the season,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’re looking at a hard match line and we’re also looking at taking advantage of speed and skill off the rush.
“I really liked what I saw today. I really liked Lehtera’s line, they looked very dynamic off the rush.”
The top line of Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny, and Vladimir Tarasenko seems like a good bet to play together for the time being. Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz will stick together on the second line while Dmitrij Jaskin and David Backes can expect to be regular partners on the third unit. The X-factors will be Fabbri and Troy Brouwer as Hitchcock has left the door open to alternating between the two of them on the second and third line depending on the opponent.
Fabbri was taken with the 21st overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and is looking to make the leap after a brief stint in the AHL last season. At the OHL level, he’s been a dominate force with the Guelph Storm, scoring 25 goals and 51 points in 30 games in 2014-15.
Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.
Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.
“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.
The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.
Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.