Photo: ChicagoNow

Two things before we get to the meat of the matter. First is, my only concern for this article is the guys that the Blackhawks acquired in the off-season and (barring injury) are likely going to be on the opening night roster. You know about the returning veterans, and the kids out there aren’t worth your time or mine.

Second, this is an artificial environment. What you could see at the Blackhawks Training Camp Festival is merely an example of what the guys did that day. They are just getting their feet under them, they are skating at 80%, and they aren’t in shape yet. So this is just an initial impression.

Those two things out of the way, here we go! Added bonus is the player’s nickname, where known.

Forwards

Andrew “Bruno” Brunette: He has short strides, and for that reason his acceleration and top speed are not impressive. This is not news, it’s just confirmation of what everyone assumed to be true. The good news is, he’s very stable on his feet, he has very quick hands and excellent puck control. So parking him in front of the net to scoop in rebounds may just be the perfect job for him.

Jamal “Jammer” Mayers: Invisible. Didn’t make an impression, but didn’t suck either. Pre-season games will likely give us a better idea of what he can/will be like.

Rostislav “Rusty” Olesz: The enigma does, in fact, have corporeal form. He got onto the ice and was very quickly fiddling with (and favoring) his right knee. “Oh crap,” I thought, “he’s got knee problems already.” But that turned out to be very wrong. After some adjustments to his socks & equipment, the fidgeting stopped and he started showing us what he can do. For a first time on the ice after not playing in more than six months, I’d say it was a good outing. The boy does have speed, and he can shoot. At this point that’s all we know. Many, many question marks remain.

Daniel “Car Bomb” Carcillo: There’s no denying that this kid is going to be a fan favorite, as he goes into corners with the intention of running somebody pretty much every time. You’ve already heard my opinion about his extra-curricular activities. But from a hockey perspective, Saturday’s performance at training camp better not be all he can bring. He circles like Rudy Galindo in his own zone, ignores his coverage, and is constantly looking for stretch passes. He’s a loner. He’s not a team player. I know neither Coach Q nor Captain Serious will stand for that, so it had better be temporary.

Defense

Steve Montador: Nothing to write home about, but that’s what we needed on the back end — more stay-at-home players like him. We’ll get more information on him as pre-season games begin.

Sami Lepisto: See description for Montador, except add a touch more speed.

Sean “O-D” O’Donnell: He does not carry himself like he’s 6’3″ and 237 lbs. He looks comparable in height and girth to Duncan Keith or Montador or Lepisto. He’s also not as slow as rumor has suggested, and I guarantee you he can run circles around John Scott. He looks like a blue-collar, stay-at-home guy with good positioning, good hockey sense and the ability to anticipate. I’m pleasantly surprised.

Goaltenders

Ray “Razor” Emery: Missing a fibula? You’d never know it. This guy isn’t Steve Passmore: he’s here to play, and he’s serious as shit. He has good up-and-down speed, and no lateral movement problems; decent hands, and excellent perception of where the net is behind him. He covers his angles well, no problem with juicy rebounds. Not much of a puck-handler, but doesn’t attempt that often either. He played the entire first scrimmage, letting in 3 goals on 27 shots. I’d say one of those he’d want back — a quick wrister over his glove hand from in close (which admittedly was an incredible shot). Stamina, vision, mental toughness, how he does with traffic in front of him: we know nothing yet. But for a first look, I’m about as pleased as I was hoping to be after seeing him play.

Alexander “Crazy Legs” Salak: Unfortunately I don’t have nearly as much info on Salak, and I’m going to refrain from cobbling together an incomplete scouting report. He’s in a tough battle for the backup job, he doesn’t need me giving armchair quarterback opinions after seeing him take 8 shots. I’ll tell you, though: I’m pulling for him to make the team at some point, if for no other reason than to hear Pat Foley shout, “CRAAAAAAAAAAZZZEEEEEEEEEEEEEE LEEEEEEGSSS!!!”

Okay, other notes from the day on items I know you were interested in:

  • John Scott’s forwards-to-backwards transitions have improved: he looks much lighter on his feet. Unfortunately his backwards skating is still awful. He’ll be just as pylon-esque as he was last year.
  • Nick Leddy has grown an inch since last year.
  • Kyle Beach is still nothing special, and with Carcillo on the team he’s no longer the most unbalanced head-case either. Time to get a new act.
  • Once he learns the pro game and gets some hair on his gonads, Mark McNeill is going to be a fucking stud.
  • Marian Hossa was not on the ice; he was returning from the funeral of his close friend Pavol Demetra, and has been given some time to get his head back to where it needs to be after that tragic plane crash.
  • Jeremy Morin was also not skating on Saturday, with the team saying he was “day-to-day” with post-concussion symptoms. But that diagnosis turned out to be just “day” — he skated at practice on Sunday.
  • Yes, Baby Toews is at camp. No, he and his brother are not on the same scrimmage squad. Yes, David and Jonathan are having fun taking jabs at each other with the press. Expect him to be among the first or second round of cuts, however: this little family reunion won’t last long.
  • The player who impressed me the most with his improvement over last year was Viktor Stalberg. Remember how he always looked lost out there? Now he appears confident, his direction and intent more demonstrative, and everything about his game is smoother and more powerful. He is still rocket-quick, but his passes are crisper, he’s playing “bigger,” and he has a sense of purpose. I would like to see him get a shot as a top-six winger in some pre-season games, just to see what happens.

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Don’t forget: the main Blackhawks team web site is using their “Blackhawk TV” functionality to stream the pre-season game between the ‘Hawks and Edmonton live from Saskatoon this coming Tuesday. Unfortunately, due to NHL broadcasting restrictions, if you are outside the Chicago or Edmonton broadcast region, it’s blacked out.

Hey, don’t blame the messenger. Instead, feed your dog some cottage cheese, cabbage, beets, turnips and a can of Tex-Mex chili. Then send whatever Rover pukes up to Gary Bettman as a “thank you” for signing the most idiotic broadcast deal in the history of pro sports.

Actually, don’t do that. It would be mean.

To your dog.

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