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Blackhawks Wed Jun 17 2009

Repeat rookie of the year?

Although the Blackhawks season ended in the Western Conference Finals May 27 in a 5-game series loss to the Detroit Red Wings (and a season-wrap up is still forthcoming, hopefully soon), the NHL season is a year-round experience. And with the Pittsburgh Penguins having best the Dead Wings in last Firday's Game 7 for the Stanley Cup, the offseason business now moves to center stage.

It's a crucial summer for the Hawks, who have a number of restricted and unrestricted free agents to deal with, including leading scorer Martin Havlat and goalie Nicolai Khabibulin, along with the NHL entry draft June 26 and the opening of free agency July 1. For a team that achieved far more than what many expected last season, there's pressure to continue that growth toward a Stanley Cup while still staying under the cap as their young core of players mature. I'll have a more in-depth analysis of what can be expected ahead of the July 1 deadline, but there's still one matter to tend to regarding last season: the handing out of the awards.

The NHL awards are taking place in Las Vegas this year, a curious choice given the only ice in Sin City is usually in mixed drinks, but the move is an effort to provide some glitz and glamour to the affair. A year after Patrick Kane won the Calder trophy as Rookie of the Year, the Blackhawks will have a candidate up for the award again, as Kris Versteeg is a finalist. Kane will be a presenter of the award, and Hawks greats Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito will also be presenters at the ceremony, along with broadcaster Eddie Olczyk

Versteeg will be competing against winger Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Bluejackets goaltender Steve Mason. Versteeg's 22 goals and 53 points were impressive and a boon to the Hawks developing multiple scoring lines, but a late season swoon most likely knocked Versteeg out of contention, as Ryan passed him for the rookie scoring title. Regardless, the award is probably Mason's to lose, as he backstopped the Bluejackets to their first ever playoff appearance and lead the league with 10 shutouts.

In addition to the ceremony, Versteeg will get additional face time at the NHL Charity Shootout poker tournament taking place tonight, which will be taped for later broadcast. Also participating is Olczyk and former Hawk Jeremy Roenick, as well as Capitals sniper Alexander Ovechkin, along with a mixture of former NHL players and poker professionals.

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Fred / June 18, 2009 10:52 PM

Fuck the blackhawks.

Kenneth Hofmann / June 24, 2009 10:12 AM

Hey Jeremy great article as a aspiring writer and follower of all chicago sports this is a good article. I came across your name as I am looking for opportunies in the writing field.
My fiance ran into one of your co workers and told me to give you guys a try as far as a volunteer writer for Gapers Block. Hope all is good with you and your family and keep up the great work! Go Blackhawks!

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