2016 for the Blackhawks: Will a youth movement continue?

Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman.

CHICAGO – It’s rare that a Blackhawks fan has to look on the ice, then look down on the roster. After all, the same names have been getting things done in a positive way at the United Center for the better part of the last decade.

Kane, Toews, Crawford, Keith, Seabrook, etc. All players that are familiar to even the casual fan and likely on the backs of the jerseys they wear to watch games in the stands.

Dynasties are built this way. Keep the familiar names in place and then fill in where it’s needed.

While the salary cap attrition brings in those new components on a yearly basis – Stanley Cup win or not – 2016-2017 is a little different from years in the past. It might be a good idea to have that roster handy.

“The guys we have are the ones that are here, and our team’s going to come from this group,” said back in training camp when referring to the holes on the Blackhawks roster that would be filled through young players within the team’s system.

Twenty-one year old Tyler Motte, 22-year old Vinnie Hinostroza, 22-year old Ryan Hartman and 24-year old Tanner Kero are among the names that have graced the roster this season on the front lines. Twenty-year old Gustav Forsling has gotten his fair share of time at defense.

By no means a rookie, Scott Darling has shown signs of being an upper-level goaltender in the NHL so far in his third season. Twenty-five year old Artemi Panarin is one of the best young players in the NHL, entering his second season after winning the Calder Trophy in his first.

These, of course, are just a few young infusions into a roster still stocked with experience. Coming into the season, the Blackhawks have the second-oldest team in the NHL with an average age of 28.06 years old according to NHLnumbers.com.

As 2017 progresses the salary cap and the Blackhawks’ competitiveness will tell if this youth movement continues. In year’s past, prospects have been dealt not just for cap space but also to solidify a team for a run at the Stanley Cup. 2011 first round draft pick Phillip Danault, 21-year old Marko Dano and a first round pick were dealt down the stretch of the 2015-2016 season as the team geared up for a Cup run.

In the offseason, they let go of 21-year old prospect Teuvo Teravainen in order to shed the salary of Bryan Bickell in a trade with the Hurricanes.

Success figures to continue early into 2017 with a solid core in place and the continued development of those young players already up. The question now is whether the Blackhawks keep them around long enough to see what their long-term future with the franchise holds.

Bowman said the team wanted to get younger after years of trading future players to fill roster gaps in the present. This year, above any in recent memory, will prove if that motivation is sincere as the team looks to build on their dynasty over the past decade.