PHILADELPHIA — A year ago on draft weekend, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman talked about how Brandon Pirri was next in line to step into a major role in the NHL and how all he needed was a chance. It didn’t quite work out, with Pirri falling out of favor with coach Joel Quenne-ville and eventually being traded to the Florida Panthers.
Now it’s Jeremy Morin’s turn.
‘‘He’s been patient with us,’’ Bowman said Friday. ‘‘I know sometimes it’s tough to spend a couple of years in the minors when you’re an NHL-ready player, but give him credit. He’s really done everything we’ve asked him to. The only thing that was missing was an opportunity. Now we’re giving him that opportunity. He’s going to be on the team, and I expect him to flourish, much like Ben Smith did last year.’’
Draft weekend isn’t just about the distant future; it’s about the immediate future, too. The official start of the offseason forces coaches and GMs to look ahead to the fall, to see which pieces fit and which ones no longer do. The Hawks traded Brandon Bollig to the Calgary Flames to free up some cap space, but having young and cheap players step up is a big part of sustaining success in the NHL.
So the Hawks will look to Morin, Teuvo Teravainen and maybe David Rundblad to make the transition from prospect to player during the 2014-15 season. Of course, as Bowman said, they need the chance. And that’s up to Quenneville, who essentially has worked one new player into the every-day lineup each of the last few seasons: Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Brandon Saad and Smith.
Quenneville said Friday that Morin, who had five goals and six assists in 24 games last season, has earned his opportunity.
‘‘Mo has a different element to his game that you look forward to seeing progress,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘He can score, he competes hard, he’s got some pace to his game and I thought he really progressed this year from his last couple of years. . . . You’re comfortable with him in all situations, and he can move up the ladder on our team.’’
Teravainen remains the most touted prospect on the roster. The 19-year-old Finnish phenom played three games with the Hawks last spring and still is projected as the long-awaited second-line center of the future. The idea of the playmaking Teravainen centering Saad and Patrick Kane is tantalizing.
But the Hawks have been adamant that they’ll take it slowly with Teravainen, that they don’t want to put too much pressure and expectations on him too early. That’s a big reason why he only saw a few games this spring.
‘‘I think it’s probably a good summer for him,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘Coming over to this league and coming over to the North American game is going to be a change for him. I’m sure he’s going to grow; he’s going to get stronger. I’m looking forward to seeing how he plays in camp. We expect some progress. He’s going to make the decision for us exactly where he’s going to fit and where we’re going to play him.’’
As for Rundblad, for whom the Hawks traded their second-round pick in the 2014 draft, the swift-skating defenseman has been waiting for a chance his whole career. The Phoenix Coyotes never gave him one, and he played in only five games for the Hawks after being acquired at the trade deadline. Bowman’s high on Rundblad, but Rundblad has yet to win over Quenneville.
‘‘He’s part of our group,’’ Quenne-ville said. ‘‘He didn’t get much of a chance. Not much at all, really. But there’s some upside there, and I don’t think we got there yet. Hopefully we can get that out of him and get him stabilized, where he can prove that he can be a regular defenseman in our league.’’