After a hectic and eventful offseason, the Chicago Blackhawks have entirely revamped their roster. Because preseason has already started for most teams and the regular season will quickly follow within the next two weeks for all, here are the top Blackhawks to watch this season.
Top Five Blackhawks to Watch in 2021-22
Training camp is officially underway, and the Chicago Blackhawks will look to defy odds and make a run at the postseason with a vastly different roster compared to last season. These are the top five Blackhawks to watch during this 2021-22 season.
Lankinen is coming off a rollercoaster of a rookie season and will attempt to prove he can be a starter. Last season, he faced the most shots among rookies and made the 3rd most saves among all goaltenders to show he can hang with the big guys. Now, under the mentorship of Marc-Andre Fleury, Lankinen must carry this momentum over into this season.
DeBrincat continues to produce night in and night out, finishing third in the league for most goals. He may not be the immediate name that comes to mind when discussing the top goal scorers, but perhaps he should be. Despite his small stature, he was on a 50-goal pace last season and has an active scoring streak of seven games (ten goals in that span). NHL fans should keep an eye out for a possible 50-goal season.
Lastly, Kane is clearly always a guy to watch. Among the greatest American players of all time, he continually brings his game to another level each season. Kane was one of the sole reasons the Hawks were able to stay in a playoff spot for so long last year. In May, he mentioned a nagging injury that has been bothering him for some time now, but most fans would not have noticed as his point production still carried him to 5th in the league overall. Luckily, Kane made it clear in a recent training camp interview that he is “optimistic” it will not hinder him this season.
5) Lukas Reichel
Reichel has had quite an eventful year. After missing out on the World Juniors U-20 tournament last December amid COVID protocols, he was drafted 17th overall by Chicago. This was ahead of most projections, but the Hawks organization is excited to have him. At the entry draft, Reichel told the media he would be NHL ready in “two years” and that Chicago was his favourite team growing up. He spent the next season playing for Eisbären Berlin in the DEL. Here, he skated with players significantly older than him and even went on to win the championship. Coming into this season, many are already impressed with Reichel’s skill that was showcased in the rookie showcase against Minnesota. This season, he will start in Rockford, but an NHL debut is likely.
4) Kirby Dach
Going into his first full regular season, Dach has a lot to prove. During his rookie regular season, he played in both the NHL and AHL as he developed but had a noticeably good postseason run in the bubble; his game improved significantly during the COVID stoppage. Unfortunately, this was not carried over into the 2021 regular season after he injured his wrist at the World Juniors. Dach made a brief appearance towards the end of the season, but it was clear the injury was still ailing him. This season will be a huge indicator of what he has to offer, especially since the Hawks have an abundance of centres.
3) Seth Jones
Although Dach has something to prove this season, no one else has more to prove than Seth Jones. The highly sought-after defenseman signed a monster 8-year contract this summer and needs to demonstrate his worth. Following a down season, he must rebound strong, but the Hawks do not seem worried. Jones is notoriously one of the players’ least favourite defensemen to battle against, and Kane was especially impressed with acquiring Jones: “I personally was really excited about the opportunity of getting Seth Jones […] It’s amazing when they mention something like that, and they go and get it done. It’s a good feeling.”
2) Marc-Andre Fleury
Chicago’s acquisition of the reigning Vezina winner was one of the more surprising moves this offseason. The soon-to-be 37-year-old will wind his career down in Chicago, but his competitive level continues to remain high. During the first week of training camp, his desire to be the best has not gone unnoticed as he has developed a healthy competitive nature with Patrick Kane. Overall, Fleury will make the ideal mentor to Lankinen as he takes the next step in his development, and it will be exciting to see what he has left in the tank.
1) Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Toews is without a doubt going to be the most-watched player on the Hawks roster, if not the entire league. After taking a mysterious leave of absence for the entirety of last season, fans were left to offer their possible theories. However, we now know Toews was suffering from Chronic Immune Response Syndrome that left his body feeling drained. The good news is he plans to play at some point this season but making the opening night roster remains uncertain. Either way, this is a huge relief for Hawks fans. Toews’ leadership qualities are irreplaceable, but his tangibles are equally as important. Without their captain, Chicago ranked 29th overall at the dot last season, and they were visibly missing him as their number one skater in shootouts.
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