The Chicago Blackhawks are halfway through their training camp and preseason, and there are still plenty of questions about which players will be on the final roster when the season begins.
The Blackhawks will almost certainly be a younger team in 2017, as they will once again be forced to keep young, cheap talent on their roster as they try to stay below the NHL’s salary cap.
Which players will make the cut?
To answer that, we have our predictions on what the roster will look like at the halfway mark of the preseason:
Forwards (14): Artem Anisimov, Lance Bouma, Laurent Dapuhin, Alex DeBrincat, Ryan Hartman, John Hayden, Patrick Kane, Tanner Kero, Richard Panik, Brandon Saad, Nick Schmaltz, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Tommy Wingels
The forward battle is one of the most intriguing of camp, and there are a couple of matchups that are worth keeping an eye on.
One of those matchups is whether or not DeBrincat is going to make the roster. During the preseason games he’s played in, his speed and goal-scoring skill have been evident, and on a roster where there are so many questions in terms of offensive ability, we feel he needs to be on the team.
The players worth keeping an eye on that aren’t on our list are Jordin Tootoo, Tomas Jurco, and Vincent Hinostroza.
All three players unquestionably have the ability to be on the roster, but with so many quality options like DeBrincat and Hayden, they may have a tough time cracking this lineup.
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Defensemen (7): Gustav Forsling, Cody Franson, Duncan Keith, Michal Kempny, Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta, Brent Seabrook
In an ideal world, the Blackhawks would be able to keep eight defensemen on the roster, but with there being so many big questions about the forward group, they may have to stick with only one extra blue liner to start the season.
There really aren’t a lot of surprises in this group other than perhaps Jan Rutta, who has stood out for his quality play on the preseason ice.
The team likely would prefer to give him more seasoning in Rockford, but if he’s going to be a quality, smart defenseman, then they’re going to need to include him in a group that is fairly thin by NHL standards.
One other player to really keep an eye on is Jordan Oesterle, who has also looked solid so far this preseason. At 25 years old, the defenseman is likely looking to make an impact at the NHL level, and if Chicago decides to keep eight players on the blue line, he could find himself on the opening night roster.
Goalies (2): Corey Crawford, Anton Forsberg
So far this preseason at least, Forsberg has outplayed Jean-Francois Berube for the back-up job, but the competition is hardly over as three contests remain.
With Crawford expected to play against the Boston Bruuins on Monday night, it’s likely that each back-up contender will get one more game to showcase his skills, and those games could be good for the coaching staff to make their final decision in net.