Mark McNeil, center, poses with team officials after he was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the National Hockey League entry draft ,Friday June, 24, 2011, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Andy King)
For the second year in a row, the Blackhawks this weekend will participate in the Toronto Maple Leafs' Rookie Tournament in Oshawa, Ontario. Along with the Leafs, they'll be skating with the Penguins and Senators.
Each team brings along their best prospects, be they from college, junior, or their AHL affiliate, so they can get a look at them against some guys wearing other colors.
The Hawks look to be bringing everyone of whom they think highly. Some names you may have heard are this year's first round picks, Mark McNeil and Phillip Danault, as well as Jimmy Hayes and Jeremy Morin.
Morin's inclusion is interesting. It could be that he's not as highly respected or expected to make a run at the big roster as I thought, and he's headed for this tourney. Or it could be that because he missed the second half of last year through injury, the Hawks want to get him as much work and action as they can before training camp to evaluate his health and fitness.
On the blue line, Shawn Lalonde and Dylan Olsen are heading north, both of who saw significant minutes in Rockford last year and who are definitely in the Hawks' future plans, especially Olsen.
Joe Lavin, who signed from Notre Dame at the end of last year, is also making the trip after probably being the most impressive d-man at the Hawks Prospects Camp in July.
The games are generally streamed on NHL.com, so be sure to check them out. If for nothing else, it's cool to see the red and black back on the ice in some form skating in anger.
It'll also be worth checking out how good Morin looks, as he will get a call up at some point, even if it's only as an injury fill-in. Olsen and Lalonde also bear watching. Lalonde looked completely lost at this tournament last fall, frequently out of position and looking as if he were trying to find a certain street in Shanghai. Olsen had the same problems in the AHL last year, so this could be our first indication if he's grown at all since then.
And hey, it's hockey. So how bad can it be?