Jan 032012
Mark McNeill – photo: HockeyBroad.com

By Chris Block

We’ve got TTMI~Radio coming up tomorrow night (Wednesday) January 4th over at BlogTalkRadio.com/TheThirdManIn.

Join us live at 8pm central for our annual New Years resolution and predictions extravaganza.  This show should be Super.

We’ll take a look at why the Blackhawks suck against the Oilers, what’s wrong with Dan Carcillo’s brain… how the Blackhawks don’t seem to care about the brains of Marcus Kruger, Brent Seabrook and others… and we’ll preview the week ahead, including the big matchups Thursday in Philly with the Flyers and back at home Sunday with the Red Wings.

Beer, Bacon & Malort

My good friends over at HockeeNight dot com will be hosting some Red Wings fans this Saturday night, January 7th, at Paddy Long’s in Chicago at 1028 W. Diversey.  That, of course, is on the eve of the Red Wings-Blackhawks matchup at United Center the next night.  Hmm.  Beer, bacon and Malort… don’t mind if I do.

–I’ll have another column running in the Committed Indian this Sunday night.

McNeil, Danault gets deals

On Monday, the Blackhawks made official the signings of both of their 2011 1st round draft picks, centers Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault.

Both players will continue with their junior teams and likely be called to the Rockford IceHogs if those seasons end before Rockford’s does, which at this point looks like it’ll be on April 14th.

Many, including myself, were surprised when Mark McNeil dropped to the Blackhawks at #18 this past June.  McNeil projects to be an NHL power forward one day, whether its at center or on the wing.

Last month, McNeil was among the initial seven cuts of the forty-two selected to compete for 22 spots on Team Canada’s U-20 World Junior Championship team.

Phillip Danault (#26 overall in the 2011 draft) was in the final group of cuts from that team.  With McNeill and Danault both still 18 (they turn 19 within two days of each other next month), each figure to be favorites for next year’s Canada squad.

As far as what these signings mean?  Really nothing.  Shawn Lalonde inked his entry-level deal on New Years Eve ’09 (after getting cut from Team Canada’s WJC team) and didn’t turn pro until after his junior season ended.  Kyle Beach signed his NHL contract with the Blackhawks in May of 2009 and still got sent back to juniors for the 2009-10 season.  McNeill and Danault could both do the same.  McNeill, with his size, is the interesting one because should he manage to continue his season on a similar tear he’s on now, he’d be in place to compete seriously for a spot on next year’s Blackhawks.

McNeil is on a massive roll with his Prince Albert Raiders (WHL).  McNeill posted 9 goals in 9 December games.  Going back a little further, McNeill has scored 14 goals in his last 17 games played with the Raiders.

Danault projects to be a checking line center but is also way behind pace of his goal total of last season when he posted 23 goals in 64 games for the Victoriaville Tigres.  Thus far in 2011-12, Danault has 6 goals in 33 games.  He is, however, more regarded for his overall game than a scorer.  Danault’s faceoff percentage has taken a sizeable boost to 52.6%, from 44.6% last season.

McNeill is second on his WHL team in scoring, while Danault (33gp, 6g, 28a, +4) is currently seventh on the Tigres.  McNeill (37gp, 18g, 22a, -1) ranks 25th in WHL individual scoring.

Just one of McNeill’s 18 goals have come via the power play.  He does though share the league-lead in short-handed tallies with 4.  Those were all legitimate shorties too, no empty-netters at the end of a game.

Victoriaville (23-14-0-2) will be in the playoff picture, while McNeill’s Prince Albert Raiders (14-23-1-2) are currently the second-worst team in their 12-team conference and far out of the playoff race at this point.  Prince Albert’s regular season concludes on March 17th.  So, look for McNeill in a Rockford IceHogs sweater the week after should he not be traded to a contending WHL team, which is very possible.

Cap Geek has pages up now for both Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault although they acknowledge neither player’s contract details are exactly known just yet.  However, each player’s cap hit, as calculated in the current CBA, will be slightly over a million.

Andrew Shaw inks NHL contract

Up until now, 2011 fifth-round draft pick (139 overall) Andrew Shaw had been playing in Rockford under an AHL contract.  As in the case with Rob Flick, the Blackhawks retained the rights to Shaw while he played this season under a minor league agreement.

On Tuesday, the Blackhawks and Shaw officially agreed to terms on a standard 3-year entry-level contract.  This deal has actually been in the works for several weeks now.  Shaw’s AHL pay jumps almost forty percent now with this new deal.

Shaw has 12 goals (two on the power play, another was an empty-netter) with the IceHogs so far in 33 games played.  He really gave the team a jolt in November when he got bumped up to provide some jam and energy on Brandon Pirri’s wing during a team slump.

This deal does pave the way for the Hawks to reward Shaw with a NHL call up if they’d so choose.  Seeing how Shaw has been one of the more consistent IceHogs for much of the season and has been skating on one of the top two lines for the last two months, there’s a solid chance he’ll get that call.  The signing also opens the possibility of the Blackhawks trading Shaw, which they couldn’t do before Tuesday.

Shaw was a fourth liner to begin the year, but with Rob Klinkhammer’s woes, Kyle Beach’s severe shoulder injury and the easing of Jeremy Morin back in after a nine-month concussion absence, Shaw was given an opportunity with Pirri.  Shaw’s energetic, fearless style complimented Pirri very well.

You can really pinpoint Pirri’s line coming around to when Shaw moved up to that spot.  It was really Klinkhammer’s confidence issues that opened the door.  Once Shaw established himself with Pirri, Klinkhammer was stuck on the fourth line.  When Pirri picked up five goals in two games wrapped around Thanksgiving, it could partially be credited to Shaw as Pirri collected a few easy tap-ins with Shaw drawing defenders as he crashed the goal crease.

Eight of Shaw’s twelve goals have come in his last eleven games.  He posted two-goal games in three of those most recent eleven contests.

At 5-11, and that may be generous, Shaw will try but won’t push many NHLers around.

Don’t call him “Andy”.  He hates that.

Andrew Shaw made a name for himself in prospect camp fighting, and cutting up, 6-foot 3 Dylan Olsen.  This season he’s fought opponents that have had five and six inches on him.  He won’t have a very long career doing that though.

He fought three times this past week after dropping the gloves a total of three times in the first three months of the season up to Christmas.  Some of that is the style he plays and his willingness to answer anticipated challenges for playing on the edge as he does.  Though it also has to do with the way the IceHogs have been put together.  They’re not very big (nor fast, or skilled).  Brandon Bollig is the only heavyweight they have.  Jimmy Hayes wants to be a scorer, not a fighter.  He’s fought once.

–With the signings of Shaw, Danault and McNeill, the Hawks are now within two of the 50 contract max every team is limited to at any one time.  When looking at Cap Geek, or any site that takes its information from there, its important to note Igor Makarov was granted a release from his deal back in September.  So, Makarov’s contract is off the books.  He subsequently signed a three-year deal with SKA St. Petersburg and is currently getting second and third line forward minutes there.  Cristobal Huet does still count amongst those 48, even in being loaned to Fribourg-Gotteron of the Swiss elite league.  Huet’s four-year $22.5M pact with the Blackhawks expires with this season.

The other two notable players now in Rockford and playing under AHL deals are Rob Flick (2010, 4th round) and Pete Leblanc.  Originally a 7th round pick of the Hawks in 2006, Pete Leblanc is having a strong season (10g, 10a, 27gp) and survived until one of the last cuts in this past Blackhawks training camp.

Flick has yet to establish himself.  He’s been stuck on the fourth line when he has played in Rockford, which has been only 11 times (0g, 1a).  His action has been split between center and wing.  He hasn’t fought, which was something he was known to do in the Ontario Hockey League or been much of an intimidating physical presence to this point.  Flick should get more ice time as the season progresses but he’s also a few healthy bodies away at the moment from being back in Toledo.

IceHogs Fighting Leaders

Since its been referenced, here are the IceHogs fight stats

Brandon Bollig (11), Andrew Shaw (6), Jeremy Morin (4), Kyle Beach (2), Shawn Lalonde (2), Ryan Stanton (2), Dylan Olsen (2), Brian Fahey (1), Jimmy Hayes (1), Brandon Segal (1), Ben Youds (1)

Lalonde’s two fights came in the same game, his return after being designated as a healthy scratch for two games…. It goes without saying that someone in the organization should sit Jeremy Morin down and ask him to be more selective or careful.

Morin Shoots…

Speaking of Morin, his struggle continues.

Morin has just 1 lone goal over his last 17 games with the IceHogs.  Throw his three-game Chicago call up in there, and that’s 1 goal in 20 games.  Going back further, Morin has 3 goals in his last 25 games with Rockford and 3 in 28gp figuring in the Hawks games.  Those other two goals came in one game, November 11th at Peoria.

After ending his 9-month absence in scoring 2 goals on the first two shots he was credited with, Morin has 3 goals on 73 shots (4.1%).

–From time to time I enjoy perusing over our site statistics.  It’s interesting to see how many of our visitors are nowhere near Chicago.  We’re “big” in Sweden, which is to be expected with all the Swedes currently on the Hawks.  Back when Tuomo Ruutu was still a Blackhawk there was a steady dose of traffic daily from Finland.

But my favorite part of this site’s traffic analysis is seeing what people are typing into search engines to get them here.  There have been some keyword doozies over the past five-plus years.  I don’t check my traffic much, but here are my favorites from December 31st:

“Patrick Sharp Rabbi”… “brown stain on tongue”… “Jeff Larmer mullet”

And my personal favorite…. “Its time for Hoochie Coochie”

Its been 26 years since Jeff Larmer was relevant in hockey circles.  I can’t speak for his mullet, though.

You wouldn’t believe how many people are regularly searching for pictures of player’s girlfriends (and will scroll to page 18 of that search in hopes of finding one) and wives.  But Rabbi’s?  Wouldn’t have thunk that.

–Second City Hockey is hosting a viewing party Thursday night for the Hawks-Flyers game in Philly.  The Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake Street (just east of Ogden) and steps from the CTA green and purple line trains is the place to be for that.


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  6 Responses to “Hawks sign top picks McNeill and Danault, plus Shaw; Podcast Wednesday and more IceHogs notes”

  1. Great stuff as always Chris.

    Can’t thank you enough for the insight, information, stats and in depth analysis (wow I sound like a pundit!)

    thanks man!

  2. Oh and one more thing: Rabbi Wife Blonde Mullet. That should help them find you easier.

  3. …and just like that, Shaw’s up with the big boys…
    I can’t imagine he’s going to get more than a quick look, but it will be interesting to see how his game plays up in the NHL. He deserves the call-up, no doubt.
    Chris, what do you think LeBlanc’s future is with the ‘Hawks? With Shaw, he’s had a nice six-week run in Rockford. Any chance they sign him and see how he’d project to being a third-line type of guy for a game or two?

  4. Reading about Shaw, Mark Rypien comes to mind.

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