The Chicago Blackhawks are a team known for their depth, but salary cap considerations led to them trading Daniel Carcillo, Michael Frolik, and Dave Bolland since they captured the Stanley Cup. That’s created some opening in Chicago for young forwards and there’s several players that will be vying for those open spots.
One of the prominent ones is 22-year-old Brandon Pirri, who scored 22 goals and a league-leading 75 points in 76 games with the AHL Rockford IceHogs last season.
He only has seven games worth of NHL experience, but the lockout might have worked in his favor because it gave him a chance to play with and against people that would have normally been in the top league.
“It was big to see the way (the NHL players) take things day-to-day at the rink and away from the rink,” said Brandon Pirri, according to CSN Chicago. “It’s where I want to be, so I try taking stuff away from it but also doing what makes me comfortable at the rink. It was fun, but there’s a healthy competition.”
“These guys take care of you, they make sure you’re ready to play at all times,” Jimmy Hayes said, echoing Pirri’s comments about the benefit of locked-out NHLers spending some time in the minors. “They’re always looking out for me and making me feel like a part of the team no matter (if I’m playing in the NHL or AHL).
“It was great to see a lot of those players like (Nick) Leddy and (Marcus) Kruger who’ve got full years under their belt, so it was good to see how to prepare and and learn from them.”
Hayes is another serious contender to win a bottom-six job with Chicago after scoring 25 goals and 45 points in 67 AHL contests last season. He also has six goals and seven assists in 41 career NHL games.
Chicago will be entering the 2013-14 campaign with the same core that just won them the Stanley Cup, but how guys like Pirri and Hayes handle themselves next season could be the difference when a team’s third and fourth lines become critical in the playoffs.