The Chicago Blackhawks are getting their training camp underway this weekend, and 55 players in all will take the ice in preparations for the upcoming season.
While that is a large number of players, we’re here to help you, identifying 10 that are worth your attention as the preseason gets underway.
Okay, this is a fairly obvious one, but the 2018 first round pick is still worth inclusion. The Blackhawks do have a good number of NHL defensemen on their roster, but if the team decides to trade Erik Gustafsson, or to put Carl Dahlstrom or Slater Koekkoek in the minors, then Boqvist could end up on the roster.
Truth be told, Boqvist came close to making the roster out of training camp last year, and with his stellar offensive ability and developing ability on the defensive side of the puck, he’s a strong candidate to pick off a post this year.
The Blackhawks went out and added Carpenter in free agency this offseason, and he’ll certainly be a contender for a bottom-six role on the team’s NHL roster this season.
He did play some penalty killing minutes last season, averaging 1:15 per game short-handed, and while he’ll average a point every three games, he could still be a solid addition up the middle for the squad moving forward, especially if Kirby Dach doesn’t make the opening night roster.
For the first time since the Blackhawks brought in Ray Emery, Crawford has some serious competition as the team’s starting goaltender, and although all indications are that he’s healthy, the team is very serious about having an insurance policy this season.
Crawford is entering the final year of his contract with the Blackhawks, and it will be fascinating to see how he handles the competition from Robin Lehner, and the fact that he could be playing for his next NHL job if the Blackhawks decide to move on after the season.
The 2019-first round pick has the skillset, the size, and the mental approach to make the team’s roster in his first professional year, but it will be fascinating to see what the team’s approach is to handling his development.
Will they allow him to take on an immediate top-six role in preseason, looking to get him to the NHL in that capacity right away? Will they take a similar approach to the one that former coach Joel Quenneville used with Alex DeBrincat, forcing Dach to show he can play in a variety of roles before turning him loose in a scoring role?
That will be the big question to answer in camp, and will go a long way toward determining where Dach spends the 2019-20 season.
After signing an extension with the Blackhawks, Dahlstrom likely has an inside track toward a roster spot, but with only six assists in 38 games with the team last season, he’s still a candidate to be left in Rockford if Boqvist ends up forcing the team to keep him on the NHL roster out of camp.
The former Coyotes prospect had a decent season with the OHL’s Guelph Storm, scoring 15 goals and dishing out 15 assists.
He’s going to face some stiff competition to get onto the Blackhawks’ roster this season, but if the team is serious about adding some more scoring depth going into the new year, then he could get a serious look from Jeremy Colliton and the rest of his coaching staff.
After a strong season in the Swiss League, Kubalik is on the radar of a lot of Blackhawks observers as a potential top-nine forward candidate heading into the new season.
His statistics do tell the story, as he racked up 25 goals and dished out 32 assists in 50 games last season. His offensive ability is a definite asset, and like Entwistle if he can prove he can help add scoring punch to the team’s lineup, then there is a good chance he cracks the opening night roster.
The Blackhawks made several acquisitions on their blue line, but none come with as many question marks as Maatta, who has fallen off a bit after a very strong start to his NHL career.
Maatta managed just 14 points in 60 games last season, and hasn’t eclipsed 30 points in his NHL career. Despite those numbers, his offensive prowess isn’t what will ultimately decide his success or failure with the team: it’ll be his speed. Maatta has seemingly lost a step from when he came into the league in 2013, but if he can regain that form with the Blackhawks, then he becomes a much-bigger difference maker on the ice.
The former first round draft pick was acquired in a trade that sent Henri Jokiharju to the Buffalo Sabres, and the Blackhawks are hoping that like Dylan Strome and Drake Caggiula before him that Nylander can find the form that led him to be a high draft pick.
Nylander has just three NHL goals and three assists to his credit in 19 games, but he did average over half a point per game in the minors last season, and that kind of production would play well in a top-nine role with the Blackhawks if he can get there.
After being acquired from the Coyotes in the Nick Schmaltz trade, Strome became a key catalyst for the Blackhawks’ offense, scoring 17 goals and dishing out 34 assists in 58 games as he averaged nearly a point per game.
It’s probably unrealistic to think that Strome will continue to put up that kind of production as he continues his run with the Blackhawks, but as restricted free agency looms, he could end up pricing himself out of the Blackhawks’ future plans.