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Chicago Blackhawks: 3 Players To Watch This Preseason

By Andrew Facemyer

This offseason has been quite a roller coaster ride for Chicago Blackhawks fans. From the untimely departure of Brandon Saad to the off-ice issues with Patrick Kane, we have had to lot to keep up with. Thankfully, hockey will be starting soon. All the drama and cap issues can go away as we get sucked into another season of coach Joel Quenneville‘s mind games and desperately wanting a seventh Stanley Cup for the organization.

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Before Q can begin said mind games, we have the preseason to look forward to in which we will all be excited to see the new-look Blackhawks with the 74 forwards Stan Bowman acquired this offseason. As always, most new acquisitions for any team will always have something to prove. This creates a nice little competition between the existing role players and the newbies for spots in the lineup roulette the ‘Hawks have employed the past few seasons.

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1. Artem Anisimov

Stan Bowman has basically vowed for Artem Anisimov. Given the current cap situation, he still saw it fit to sign a new player who has never played a game in a ‘Hawks uniform to a $4.55 million per year contract. Now, I wouldn’t think much of it if this was what Anisimov was currently making, but this is a raise for him. While I think we can all trust Stan even in the darkest of times, this one still has me scratching my head. Anisimov will have a lot to prove as ‘Hawks fans will expect much more than his career-high of 44 points, and he will have even more pressure if his expected linemate Patrick Kane cannot skate this season. Hopefully, Q will allow Anisimov some decent ice time this preseason to help calm our nerves about this new contract.

While Anisimov’s contract will not kick in until the 2016-17 season, the instability of the Canadian dollar has been a constant worry of the NHL, and we cannot count any cap help in such chaos.

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2. Bryan Bickell

Bickell is currently my placeholder at the No. 2 spot for players to watch in the preseason. With the offseason still in full swing, Stan has been desperately trying to move Bickell, Kris Versteeg or maybe even new Blackhawk Ryan Garbutt. Due to Bickell’s contract, I think Bickell is the skater most likely to wear the Indian Head next year. Bickell has never lived up to that four-year, $16-million contract he received after the 2013 Stanley Cup run, and the ‘Hawks were among the first to notice.

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With the massive amount of forwards the Blackhawks have stumbled upon in the past six months, Bickell may find himself the odd man out come the start of the regular season. If he is able to deliver in this preseason, we may see a revived Bickell. He has proven to be an incredibly streaky player whose sporadic lineup placement has skewed his role on this team at times. Hopefully he will deliver. Bicks is a ‘Hawk who has been here since the dark times, and we would love to see him succeed.

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3. Viktor Tikhonov

The former first-round pick will have a lot to prove in his first season in the NHL after a five-year hiatus in the KHL. His first worry should cracking his way into the forward-heavy lineup the ‘Hawks currently possess. While his first stint in the NHL proved to be a dud, he has proven he can play at the professional level after a couple successful seasons in the KHL and as the leading scorer in the 2014 IIHF World Championships. He always seem to find just enough space which is deadly given the slapshot he carries in his arsenal. He has the added bonus of having experience playing both wing and center, which would make him a nice fit in Q’s blender.

All in all, this should be the most exciting preseason we’ve seen in a long while. There are plenty of new players to watch, and the Blackhawks organization will definitely have some tough decisions to make. Hopefully, this preseason can be the start of another successful season for the ‘Hawks.

Next: Patrick Kane's Future Replacement

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