Chicago shakes up defense — Pokka cut, Svedberg waived

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The Blackhawks made a pair of significant moves on defense Monday, sending d-man Ville Pokka to the club’s AHL affiliate in Rockford while waiving towering blueliner Viktor Svedberg.

Pokka, 22, comes as something of a surprise. Acquired from the Isles in the Nick Leddy trade, he’s pretty decorated and held in high regard, considering he’s yet to make his NHL debut.

Pokka was named to the AHL All-Rookie team in 2015, finished fifth in the league in d-man scoring last year and secured a spot on Team Finland at the recently completed World Cup of Hockey.

(That said, Pokka didn’t exactly light it up for the Finns.)

Svedberg, 25, is coming off a rookie campaign in Chicago in which he made 27 appearances, scoring four points while averaging 15:45 TOI per night.

Known largely for his size — listed at 6-foot-8, 238 pounds — Svedberg also made his playoff debut last season, appearing in three games in an opening-round loss to St. Louis.

Today’s moves could mean that Swedish prospect Gustav Forsling is closer to the NHL than ever before. From TSN:

[Forsling has] been impressive so far, showing poise and maturity far beyond his years. He was named the top player in Swedish junior hockey last season but even early NHL pre-season games are a huge step up in competition.

By all accounts, he has handled it masterfully, looking poised and calm in all situations. He’s done a good job reading plays both with and without the puck. His gap control has been strong and to say that head coach Joel Quenneville, amongst others, has been mightily impressed is something of an understatement.

All that said, there are still things to sort out on defense. Chicago has eight guys currently in the mix — Forsling, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell, Michal Kempny, Michal Rozsival and Trevor van Riemsdyk — and it remains to be seen what the club will do with Svedberg, should he clear waivers.

In other d-man news, Cameron Schilling was also placed on waivers while Erik Gustafsson — who made 41 appearances last year — was sent to Rockford along with Pokka.