This post is part of Blackhawks Day on PHT…
Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman will no doubt share Panarin’s story with Jimmy Vesey later this week. The ‘Hawks are reportedly among the favorites to land the 23-year-old winger, and the opportunity for Vesey to come in and make an immediate impact, on a team that’s won three Stanley Cups in the last seven years, is a big reason why.
“There will be a little adjustment there but he has special ability,” said Bowman. “It’s fun to think of the possibilities there.”
Granted, nobody could’ve possibly expected Panarin to score 30 goals with 47 assists, but that’s exactly what he did on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov. He took the opportunity he was given and made the most of it. And now he’s in line for a big payday.
For Vesey, the opportunity with the ‘Hawks, who once again had to shed forward talent this offseason, could include a shot on a line with Jonathan Toews. At the moment, the top candidate to be skating on the captain’s left side is probably Richard Panik, a good player, but certainly no superstar.
And even if asking Vesey to step into a top-six role is unrealistic — because let’s remember he hasn’t even played a game of pro hockey — there are additional openings in the bottom six, possibly on a third line with Marian Hossa and Marcus Kruger.
Vesey told NHL.com that part of choosing where to sign included “sifting through teams and rosters and prospect pools and stuff like that.” After winning the Hobey Baker in his senior year with Harvard, he clearly believes he’s ready step into an NHL lineup right away, an opportunity he already had with the Predators but chose to turn down.
In making his big decision, Vesey may also want to consider what happened to Justin Schultz, another college player who spurned his draft team to become a free agent. Schultz ended up signing with Edmonton, where there was no shortage of opportunity for the young defenseman. In fact, there may have been too much opportunity. When it proved he still needed time to develop, there wasn’t enough veteran talent around him and he eventually buckled under the weight of expectations, his confidence shot.
According to one report, the three favorites to land Vesey are the Blackhawks, Rangers and Devils. While all three of those teams can promise him an opportunity to be in the NHL next season, possibly even in a top-six role, only the ‘Hawks can offer the chance to join a dynasty, surrounded by a bunch of future Hall of Famers.
That’s a heck of a pitch that Bowman can make to Vesey. We should find out later this week if it’s good enough to get him.