The Chicago Blackhawks are set to begin their training camp on Friday, and there are plenty of questions surrounding the team after they failed to make the postseason for the first time in a decade.
Those questions will begin to sort themselves out through camp, but as the process of cutting down the roster begins, here are 10 players fans should keep an eye on this month.
Obviously the biggest story of the offseason was the health of Crawford, and although he reportedly began skating last week, there’s still a good chance he won’t be ready by opening night, no matter what the team says.
The Blackhawks’ forward depth is a concern, but a young player like Ejdsell could potentially make some noise in camp and force his way into that conversation. He has had a really good offseason, and is looking like the centerpiece of a smart trade by Stan Bowman to send Ryan Hartman to Nashville.
Acquired in the Marian Hossa trade, Entwistle would give the Blackhawks’ forward group a decidedly more physical look if he were to make the roster. That seems unlikely at this point, but he should get a serious look in camp.
The Blackhawks have been waiting for Forsling to take a step forward in his development for a while now, and the team could be approaching “put up or shut up” time with the youngster.
Speaking of “put up or shut up,” Gustafsson got a new contract last season, and he’ll have some serious work to do to live up to the team’s faith in him.
The Blackhawks’ 2017 first round draft pick had a strong year and is coming into camp hopeful that he can make the team’s NHL roster. That may not be a given, but he is definitely an intriguing prospect, and he could be a pleasant surprise as camp gets underway.
One of Bowman’s first signings of the summer, Manning has a lot of work to do on a blue line that is rapidly aging and falling behind the rest of the division in terms of its skill and quality.
Another potentially intriguing forward to watch, Sikura has the potential to slide into a middle-six role with the team, but he’s a player that head coach Joel Quenneville may choose to bring along slowly, much as he did with Alex DeBrincat last fall.
The Blackhawks’ captain has had several subpar seasons in a row, but a new attitude and the fire of not making the postseason for just the second time in his career could motivate him to get back to his former glory.
With all the uncertainty surrounding Crawford, it’s fairly clear that Ward is going to shoulder at least some of the starting load for this team, but his performance in preseason could show Blackhawks fans just how much of that burden he’s able to bear.