Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks 2016-17 Over/Under: Niklas Hjalmarsson

By Mario Tirabassi
Mar 2, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) skates with the puck chased by Detroit Red Wings left wing Henrik Zetterberg (40) in the third period at Joe Louis Arena. Chicago won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 2, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) skates with the puck chased by Detroit Red Wings left wing Henrik Zetterberg (40) in the third period at Joe Louis Arena. Chicago won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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As the regular season begins in just a couple of weeks, the Chicago Blackhawks are looking to improve on their early exit last season. Over the next few weeks, Blackhawk Up will give projections for the stats of each player heading into the season, based off the trend of past three seasons, career averages, and potential linemate projections. 

Niklas Hjalmarsson continues to be rock-solid for the Chicago Blackhawks

Three things can be counted on in life: death, taxes and Niklas Hjalmarsson blocking shots. In 550 career NHL games, all with the Chicago Blackhawks, Hjalmarsson has blocked 1,005 total shots. In six different seasons, he has blocked more than 100 shots, with his highest total coming in 2010-11 when Hjalmarsson stopped 166 shots on his own.

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But, there is more to the 28-year-old Swede than just being a human brick wall.

One of his more underrated skills is his ability to move the puck out of danger. Hjalmarsson had a career-high defensive-zone start percentage in 2015-16, with 56.1 percent of faceoffs with Hjalmarsson on the ice happening in the Blackhawks’ zone.

Taking that into consideration when also looking at his 51.3 Corsi percentage from last season, it makes a case for Hjalmarsson being one of the biggest possession assets for Chicago’s defensive core.

While not the most offensively focused defensemen for the Blackhawks, Hjalmarsson can hold his own in the offensive zone and has a decent shot, in the rare instances he uses it for shots on net.

Playing with Duncan Keith for the majority of the last two seasons has forced Hjalmarsson to be more defense-minded when on the ice. Not that Keith is a liability on defense (far from it), but Hjalmarsson’s role is to play more boards to blue line than Keith, who frequently jumps into the Blackhawks’ offensive attack.

With the two slated to be paired together again in 2016-17 as Chicago’s top defensive pairing, Hjalmarsson will be relied on to be the top defense-minded player in the Blackhawks’ blue line core.

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Factors

Last Three Seasons:

  • 2013-14: 81 GP – 4g, 22a, 26Pts, +11, 21:17 TOI
  • 2014-15: 82 GP – 3g, 16a, 19Pts, +25, 21:53 TOI
  • 2015-16: 81 GP -2g, 22a, 24Pts, +13, 22:23 TOI

Career Average:

  • 82 Game AVG: 2G, 15A, 17Pts, +14, 20:18 TOI

Potential Linemates:

Projection: 3G, 20A, 23Pts

While Hjalmarsson is still going to be one of the Blackhawks’ top defenders next season, the addition of veteran defenseman Brian Campbell makes his life a little easier. Campbell can come in and be relied on to play a top-four defensive role with Hjalmarsson, Keith and Brent Seabrook, and make sure the Blackhawks won’t ever have to be in a situation like last season where a three-man blue line was used.

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Hjalmarsson’s minutes per game may decrease a little, but it will be welcomed for a guy who blocks shots at the rate that he does. And while health has never been a major issue for him in his time in Chicago, those minutes, hits and blocked shots take their toll.

Writer Prediction: Slightly Over 

Being able to be more comfortable and slightly more rested game in and game out should do wonders for Hjalmarsson and the rest of the Blackhawks’ defensive group.

If he can continue to be utilized on Chicago’s penalty kill and be an asset on even-strength offensive chances, then there is no reason Hjalmarsson cannot duplicate, or even improve upon, his numbers from the last few seasons. Therefore, the production projection for Niklas Hjalmarsson is 23 points for the 2016-17 season.

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