Just a quick note here on Drew LeBlanc, the Hobey Baker winner whom the Hawks signed last night to a one year deal, or essentially for the rest of this season.
When you first hear that the player who won the award for best college player this season is coming to your team, it might sound like a big deal. It’s not, or tends not to be. Much like college basketball, if you stick around the college ranks in hockey to compete for the Hobey Baker award, either you’re a phenom who lorded over the competition or stuck around long enough for your senior year because you weren’t good enough to go pro.
Looking at the list of past Hobey Baker Award winners, you won’t get out of your seat. There was a lot of hubbub over Matt Gilroy, and he’s pretty much been a poor man’s…..poor man. Blake Geoffrion may have become something one day, but now we’ll never know thanks to his horrific injury. Kevin Porter? Matt Carle? You really have to go all the way back to 2002 and Ryan Miller to find an impact NHL-er who also won hockey’s top prize.
That said, most every report I can find about LeBlanc is pretty glowing. He’s small, no more than 6-0, 180 or so, and that’s going to be an issue. But everything you read raves about the kid’s hands and vision, which sounds like another small forward the Hawks have. Not that LeBlanc is going to be Patrick Kane, but there are ways to combat being small.
You like the reports that even at his size he can create space for himself and find ways in and out of traffic. From what little I saw of St. Cloud State this season, he also ran a point on the power play which is something the Hawks are dying for. No one else but Leddy can, really.
But this just seems a way to jump the competition, see how the kids looks in practice and make your decision from there. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets into a game or two at the end here when everything is wrapped up and nothing is to be played for and Jonathan Toews is put in lucite or something to keep him healthy.
It’s a no-risk, could help move. If the Hawks don’t like the look of him in practice or in whatever game he might get into, it hardly cost them a dime. If they do, they’ll be able to sign him before anyone else gets a crack.
If he works out, it sounds like he’s got more offensive upside than Kruger might. It would also surely send Dave Bolland out of town. But we’ll just see.
Here’s Chris from WesternCollegeHockey.com with a brief report on LeBlanc, as he’s seen him much more than any of us.
LeBlanc’s biggest asset is that he’s an incredible passer. He’s got great vision, and is selfless, almost to a fault. He was by far the best playmaker in college hockey this year, and one of the better ones in a long time. He really made the other players around him a lot better this year. The other big thing he’s got going for him is that he’s a very hard worker. He’s not overly demonstrative about it, but he’s a kid that is always going to get the most out of what he has. To come back from the leg injury he suffered last year and be an even better player shows the level of dedication and heart that he has. He’s a bit iffy in terms of being an NHL-level skater, and while he made some strides defensively this past year, playing in the defensive end has never been his strong suit. He’s always been a bit risky to me as a prospect because he doesn’t play a bottom six style of hockey at all, but if he was put into the right situation with some big shooters, he could carve out a nice niche for himself.