December 31-in-31: Chicago Blackhawks

Tony Carr

2020-12-06

Thanks for joining us for our December 31-in-31 series! Every day this month we will be taking a look at each team and diving into their prospect depth charts, risers and fallers, graduating prospects, and top 20 prospects in the system.

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How is it possible that the Blackhawks made the playoffs in 2020 and are in worse position than they were last offseason?

Let’s start in goal. Management decided not to sign long time goaltender Cory Crawford to a contract. This comes after trading Robin Lehner for a bag of magic beans at the trade deadline. At the time this was written, the starting goalie for the Blackhawks in the first game of the season will be one of Collin Delia, Malcolm Subban or Kevin Lankinen. General manager Stan Bowman thinks this is a playoff team in 2021. 

How does the defence look? The short answer is “promising”. The reality of this coming season is that it is going to be a source of a lot of frustration. Cornerstones like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are on the home stretch of their careers and shouldn’t be relied on to carry the load… but they will be. There is a lot to look forward to however. The talent that players such as Adam Boqvist, Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin bring to the rink should make Hawks fans optimistic. If they continue to progress, Chicago will be all set on defence. In 2024. Couple this with the inexperience in net and you can expect to see some high scoring games. Visiting teams will be excited to pad their stats at the United Center this year. 

The combination of Bowman and head coach Jeremy Colliton have done a terrible job of moving the team forward. Bowman has at least brought in talent like Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome and Dominik Kahun. I’m not convinced Colliton has any idea what to do with the talent provided. 

In the 2018-19 season, Colliton was brought in to replace Joel Quenville, which is a daunting task in itself. During this season, the Blackhawks traded for Dylan Strome, who joined the team and was put on a line with his former teammate Alex DeBrincat (Erie Otters of the OHL) and all-world winger Patrick Kane. The result at the end of the year was the following:

Patrick Kane – 44-66-110 (career high)

Alex DeBrincat – 41-35-76 (career high)

Dylan Strome – 17-34-51 in 58 games with Chicago (career high)

So it’s a no-brainer to play them together in 2019-20 right? Not the case, or at least, not enough. Kane played with everyone in the lineup. No offence but if you’re counting on Ryan Carpenter and David Kampf to bring out the best in 88, you have no business behind the bench of an NHL team. DeBrincat spent substantial time in the bottom six, not ideal for your best goal scorer. That doesn’t even take into account the mix of players that he made his captain play with. The worst part of it all is that they essentially burned a year off the careers of Kane and Jonathan Toews. Change was required but did not happen.

The future does hold several positives, most notably, the transition Kirby Dach made from the regular season (where he looked good but inconsistent) to the dominant force he was in the postseason. When he puts it all together, we could be watching the genesis of a top 10 player in the league. 

Other players to pay special attention to this season include Kubalik (can he build on his fantastic rookie campaign), Boqvist (full time NHL’er this year) and Pius Suter (the now annual European free agent steal). 

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Graduating Players

Dominik Kubalik – after an impressive, 30 goal rookie campaign, it’s safe to call him a full time NHL’er.  

Evan Barratt and Ian Mitchell – both players are taking the big step from college hockey to the professional ranks. Barratt will look to build on his great work at Penn State while Mitchell leaves the University of Denver as a Hobey Baker nominee.

Andrei Altybarmakyan – will look to make his mark in North America this coming season, most likely with the Rockford IceHogs.

Pius Suter – brings his Swiss League MVP award with him as he tries to follow in Kubalik’s footsteps. 

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Risers

Brandon Hagel – has made the risers list for a second straight year. Every part of his game is trending upwards following his first professional season. Look for him to be an early call up when injuries hit. 

Matthew Highmore – saw his stock rise after a solid performance in the 2020 postseason. Showing some offensive touch with timely scoring will go a long way to solidifying his spot on the roster. 

Kirby Dach – holds his spot on the risers list after raising his game play during the playoffs. He looked dominant during stretches. Blackhawk fans should be extremely excited about his future. 

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Fallers

Tim Soderlund – was an absolute disaster in his first pro season. Hopefully he regains some confidence playing back home in Sweden during this oddly constructed offseason. 

Alex Nylander – This was my assessment in August 2019; “was very underwhelming at rookie camp. Will definitely see time in the NHL with the Blackhawks but will need to put in more effort to stay there. Much more”. Nothing has changed. He will again be given every chance to succeed, whether he earns it or not. 

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Prospect Depth Chart

Left Wing                              Center                              Right Wing         

Dominik Kubalik                     Kirby Dach                      Michal Teply

Brandon Hagel                       Pius Suter                       MacKenzie Entwistle

Lukas Reichel                        Evan Barratt                    Artur Kayumov

Alex Nylander                        Matthew Highmore          Andrei Altybarmakyan

Left Defence                         Right Defence

Nicolas Beaudin                      Adam Boqvist

Lucas Carlsson                       Ian Mitchell

Chad Krys                               Alec Regula

Isaak Phillips                           Michael Krutil

Goaltender

Kevin Lankinen

Drew Commesso

Ivan Nalimov

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Top 20 Fantasy Prospects

  1. Kirby Dach
  2. Dominik Kubalik
  3. Adam Boqvist
  4. Ian Mitchell
  5. Brandon Hagel
  6. Pius Suter
  7. Nicolas Beaudin
  8. Michal Teply
  9. Lukas Reichel
  10. Matthew Highmore
  11. Evan Barratt
  12. MacKenzie Entwistle
  13. Lucas Carlsson
  14. Phillipp Kurashev
  15. Alex Nylander
  16. John Quennville
  17. Chad Krys
  18. Artur Kayumov
  19. Isaak Phillips
  20. Andrei Altybarmakyan

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and feel free to leave a comment or question whether you agree or disagree. You can find me on Twitter @fiveminutemajor. DM’s are open. Stay safe and here’s to a January start to the season. 

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