It is time to hand out more grades to the Chicago Blackhawks' forwards. We have already given grades to seven of the forwards. Now it is time to look at some more of the forwards and how they have done thus far. In this edition we will take a look at Bryan Bickell, Marcus Kruger, Brandon Pirri, and Kris Versteeg.
Bryan Bickell (8 G, 2A, 10 P)
After a strong 2013 playoffs, Bickell signed a four-year, $16 million contract. Unfortunately he hasn't lived up to that contract yet. While he deserves some of the blame, he doesn't deserve all the blame. Bickell excelled on the top line in the playoffs, playing along side guys like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. They were fast guys who moved the puck well and knew where Bickell would be on the ice. Now this year, Bickell is playing on the third or fourth line with guys who aren't always offensive minded. He has created some scoring opportunities, but that isn't necessarily his style of play.
Bickell found himself in the doghouse a while ago as he was a healthy scratch on more than one occasion. He does need to pick up his game and even though he isn't scoring at a high rate, he needs to continue making an impact in other aspects of the game. He didn't have the greatest first half to the season, but we have confidence that he will pick up his play just in time for the playoffs.
Marcus Kruger (6 G, 18 A, 24 P)
Kruger has been one of the unsung heroes of the Blackhawks this season. He is one of their best centermen and excels in the face off circle. He does a fantastic job pressuring the puck and he forces teams into bad turnovers. Kruger is a good playmaker who is starting to develop a solid all-around game.
His ability to play on the penalty kill has been a nice asset for the team. A penalty killing unit that started off slow with the absence of Michael Frolik has turned the corner and is starting to protect the net once again. Kruger has been one of the Blackhawks' most consistent players this season.
Brandon Pirri (6 G, 5 A, 11 P, 28 games played)
Pirri has had a couple stints with the Blackhawks this season after being sent down to the minors. He has been inconsistent on both ends of the ice this year and his inability to dedicate himself to the defensive end was a main reason for him being sent down. Pirri is a talented forward who has the potential to turn into a solid player in this league. At 22 years old, he is still trying to adjust to the NHL game and fit into a role on this team.
The Blackhawks acquired Versteeg on November 14 in a four-player deal. Versteeg had two goals and five assists in 18 games with the Florida Panthers.
Versteeg is a goal scorer who has playmaker ability. He isn't the most talented forward on the team, but he brings a nice offensive presence to the second or third line. One thing he does well is shooting the puck on the net in hopes of a rebound. He just needs to keep his shots lower as often he shoots too high as it goes right into the goalie's glove. By shooting lower, it will cause the goalie to use his pads and create more rebound opportunities.
His hustle has been good, but we would like to see him take his motor to another level throughout the rest of the season.
Part four of the forward grades will be coming shortly.
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- Forward Grades for the Chicago Blackhawks: Part Two
- Forward Grades for the Chicago Blackhawks: Part One
- Defensemen Grades for the Chicago Blackhawks
- Goaltender Grades for the Chicago Blackhawks
- Chicago Blackhawks Make Trade, Reunite with Forward Kris Versteeg
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