After months of talk and speculation, the Chicago Blackhawks will finally put their new team on the ice Thursday as they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in their season opener at the United Center.
Who will stand out? What will the Blackhawks accomplish this season? To help answer those questions, here are our five bold predictions for the team’s upcoming season.
Brandon Saad Will Set a New Career High in Goals
When Brandon Saad signed a lucrative deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2015, he followed it up by scoring a career-high 31 goals that season.
With his reunion with Jonathan Toews, and with Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz drawing the attention of opposing defensive lines, we’re predicting that Saad will eclipse the 31-goal mark now that he’s back with the Blackhawks.
Nick Schmaltz Will be the Next Artemi Panarin
Panarin was incredibly hyped as he came out of Russia, and he backed it up by finishing in the top 10 in scoring in each of his two seasons in Chicago.
Although Schmaltz has already played in his first NHL season, we’re predicting that he’s going to make a similar splash, helping Kane to achieve eye-popping numbers and racking up some awesome statistics of his own as he skates on the second line.
Brent Seabrook Will be a Healthy Scratch at Times This Season
Over the last few seasons, there has been a noticeable decline in Seabrook’s skating ability, and he even looked a step slow during this preseason.
With that in mind, and with two extra defensemen on the roster to start the season, we’re expecting that Seabrook will occasionally be given days off, likely in the back half of back-to-back games. The Hawks will need him fresh for the playoffs, and that could be a way to execute that gameplan.
The Blackhawks WILL Trade for a Top-4 Defenseman
The Blackhawks currently have $2.4 million in cap space thanks to long-term injured reserve status for Marian Hossa and Michal Rozsival, and we’re predicting that they will not only utilize that space, but they will use it to dramatically improve their blue line before the stretch run begins.
The Hawks’ Penalty Kill Will Be Even Worse Than Last Year
Last season the Blackhawks’ penalty kill was 24th-best in the NHL, and we’re predicting that after the loss of Hossa and Marcus Kruger, they’re going to be even worse this year. They may end up challenging the rest of the league at the bottom of the standings, as they don’t have any ready-made replacements available to take over Kruger’s role.