Could we be looking at the Hawks second line center this week? Could Viktor Stalberg's replacement be on the ice at Johnny's West?
It is very possible the answer to both of those questions might be yes. That means Ben Smith and Brandon Pirri might have their work cut out for this during training camp. Mark McNeill, Garrett Ross and Phillip Danault are on a mission this week to prove that they belong in Chicago and not Rockford next season.
McNeill and Danault are both attending their third prospect camps and were both first round picks of the Hawks in 2011. Ross is attending his second camp after being a fifth round pick last summer.
All three players finished the season in Rockford last year.Ross appeared in two games while McNeill and Danault played in five. None of the three tallied a point.
First off ignoring everything else and just focusing on money McNeill will carry a cap hit of $1.11 million. Danault has one of $963,333 and Ross is the cheapest at $636,667. Depending on who they beat out all have a shot but being the cheapest could help Ross's chances.
All three have the potential to play center but McNeill and Danault play there naturally. Ross is more natural on the left wing but played some center this past season in the OHL.
Stan Bowman mentioned both McNeill and Danault along with Drew LeBlanc and Brandon Pirri when it came up about who might replace Dave Bolland. The Hawks have been looking for a second line center for years and one of those four could be the answer. With that being said it is also possible Marcus Kruger earns that job and one of the four ends up on the fourth line.
If that is the case then it helps Ross's chances. With the way Andrew Shaw held down the third line and Michal Handzus being re-signed, it might mean that Coach Joel Quenneville is looking for a wing instead of a center.
Ross was teammates with Brandon Saad in the OHL and wants to duplicate his success. Last season Ross scored 44 goals and tallied 46 assists in 61 games. With Stalberg leaving for Nashville, Michael Frolik being traded and Bryan Bickell probably being elevated to one of the top two lines, the bottom 6 will be looking for offense.
The fact that he can take a faceoff should only help his case. Coach Q loves versatile players like that.
Now all three of these guys are going to face tough competition from the likes of Pirri, LeBlanc, Smith, Jeremy Morin and Jimmy Hayes. But the Hawks have shown in the past they aren't afraid of moving guys quickly through the ranks when they are ready.
There are plenty of examples of that on this year's past team. Kruger, Shaw, Saad and Nick Leddy all spent very little time if any in Rockford before the lockout this past season.
So you might want to remember these three guys come September during training camp. Because there is a chance that might make the team or if they don't there is always the chance of cameos throughout the season.