Chicago Blackhawks: Victor Ejdsell becoming one to watch

(Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images) /

The Chicago Blackhawks have a gap in their forward lineup. Last year’s acquisition Victor Ejdsell might be the one to fill it.

You’d be forgiven if you didn’t know that the NHL’s equivalent of the Arizona Fall League was going on right now. There’s the Bears, the Cubs, whatever is falling off a young, promising White Sox these days.

But the Traverse City Tournament is where the Chicago Blackhawks and seven other teams send their top prospects, like Victor Ejdsell, to face-off against each other and see what they’ve got.

Unlike baseball, hockey has these right on the cusp of training camps instead of at the end of a minor league season. It is not uncommon for a player to make some noise in these “rookie tournaments” and at least scratch himself a bigger role on the big club or on the AHL affiliate in training camp.

Alex DeBrincat is a recent example of a player that lit this up last year in Northern Michigan (which could use the light) and rode that wave to the Hawks themselves.

This year, the Hawks sent a few players who might be a touch old or developed for this kind of thing. Dylan Sikura, Ejdsell, Dominik Kahun and one or two others are either closer to 25 than 20 or have a serious college/minors pedigree. Hence, all of them have looked dominant at times in the three games the Hawks have played so far.

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But it is Ejdsell who has the most to gain. After a brief seven-game cameo with the Hawks at the tail-end of last season (he managed one assist), “EggShell” went to the Rockford IceHogs for their playoff run last spring. And he was a force.

In 13 games as the Piggies went to the conference final, Ejdsell piled in seven goals and 12 points. Certainly, that was enough for the Hawks to notice, and his performance in Traverse City–three goals in three games–hasn’t dampened that momentum.

It’s clear to see what the Hawks like about Ejdsell, which can also be seen as a touch worrying, and we’ll get to that. First off, he’s huge. 6-foot-5, 214 pounds. That would easily make him the biggest winger on the Hawks, who clock in a touch small at the moment.

Secondly, he has an NHL-level shot and release already. Most of his goals in the AHL run and this weekend have come on the power play and a rip from the left circle. These are the things you can’t teach, and the only question with Ejdsell is if he can maneuver his frame in time into the open spaces and time to get that weapon of a shot off.

The problem for Ejdsell, and maybe how the Hawks see the game, is that the NHL is a league that is getting faster and smaller all the time. The Hawks have always valued size, but that is becoming less and less of a valuable commodity. It’s why they’ve held onto Artem Anisimov for so long even though he’s essentially just an obelisk for Patrick Kane to ricochet pucks off of into the net.

That doesn’t mean Ejdsell can’t keep up. He’s never going to be fleet of foot but has dutifully worked on his skating so that he won’t be a detriment. Again, he doesn’t have to leave scorch trails on the ice but just has to keep up and be able to get to the spaces to get chances and score.

Ejdsell was brought in as a center but both he and the Hawks now see him as a winger. While that shot suggests he should be playing on the right side despite being a left-shot, so far he’s been on the left with both the Hawks and Hogs. As we know with Quenneville teams, he’ll basically play everywhere like everyone else who isn’t making over $5 million.

And the Hawks have gaps in their top three lines. Brandon Saad, DeBrincat, Kane, and Sikura are really the only ones guaranteed wing spots on the top-nine, and Sikura still has a ton to prove. Chris Kunitz is likely to get another by simply being a veteran which tends to make Quenneville’s mustache twitch, even though Kunitz really is only a fourth-liner at this point in his career.

And the Hawks need scoring, especially from the wings. Kane and DeBrincat are knowns. Saad needs to bounce back. We have no idea what Sikura is. They look short on goals. The power play has needed help for most of our adult lives.

If Ejdsell is given a chance and can prove he can find the spots for chances and goals,and can be a weapon on a second power play unit, he helps a lot. So far, he seems to be up to the challenge. The real questions start on Friday.