Question 2: Who is the most surprising Blackhawk so far?
Greg Bradshaw: Richard Panik
Panik has been the biggest surprise. Establishing himself on the top line and working so hard offensively has worked wonders for him and his line. He’s emerged as a huge threat.
George Clifford: Tyler Motte
After an impressive late-season stint with the Rockford IceHogs, hard-working rookie forward Motte has claimed one of Chicago’s coveted roster openings to play in all nine games this season.
Tenacious on the puck, the speedy forward has scored 2 goals and 2 assists while averaging more than 13 minutes of ice time, including heavy minutes on the penalty kill. Currently plus-3 with 14 shots on goal, Motte’s only shortfall right now is five needless penalties.
Sean Fitzgerald: Artem Anisimov
Despite struggling at the faceoff dot, Anisimov has six goals. He is tied for the league lead in goals and has the most even-strength goals.
Aaron Goldschmidt: Artem Anisimov
In the shadows of the Rookie of the Year and MVP of the league, Anisimov quietly racked up 42 points last year. His expectations have been low and often sound like “just get the puck to Kane,” but Anisimov has been in all the right spots this year. If he can improve at the faceoff dot, Anisimov can have a career year and continue to be the second-line center the ‘Hawks have longed for.
Gail Kauchak: Richard Panik
Well, this is a no-brainer. Panik ended last season playing well on the first line alongside Jonathan Toews. So, for the start of this season, he earned another shot in this position. The job was basically his to win or lose.
I personally thought Panik might be OK in this spot, but not especially strong. He has certainly proved me and everyone else wrong!
In nine games, Panik is tied with Artem Anisimov for the most goals on the team (six), and he is also tied with Patrick Kane for second place in points (nine). He has been aggressive, positionally aware and taken advantage of his opportunities.
He has been a bit quiet the last few games, so let’s see if he can turn that around and continue to thrive.
Colin Likas: Tyler Motte
I would’ve said Joel Quenneville “for not forcing TVR down our throats thus far,” but since TVR is hurt, I ruled that out. Richard Panik had a surprising first 10 days or so, but he’s likely to regress to some sort of mean. Artem Anisimov is a great pick for this spot, but I’m going a different direction.
In training camp, the focus among “rookies” was aimed at some order of Alexandre Fortin, Gustav Forsling, Nick Schmaltz and Michal Kempny. Motte was kind of the forgotten man in that boat. Maybe it’s because everyone trusted him already?
I doubt that, but he’s been quietly strong so far. Q actually trusted Motte with penalty-killing duties early this season. Sure, the unit has been worse at killing penalties than Joe Buck is at everything, but that’s still a big leap from Q.
Outside that, Motte has four points while getting jumbled around the bottom six early on. A settled role should only up his offensive production. It’s just nice to see a rookie slot in and comfortably fill a prior area of concern.
Keith Schultz: Richard Panik
He’s been playing at the level he played at during the Blues playoff series, which many thought wasn’t possible. The question is whether or not he can sustain it for an entire season
Mario Tirabassi: Corey Crawford
With all due respect for the great starts Artem Anisimov and Richard Panik have had for Chicago, the team would be in a whole lot of trouble if Crawford wasn’t putting up a .975 save percentage at even strength.
In seven starts, Crawford has given up just 4 goals at even strength, and his 32-save performance against the Kings on Sunday was his first shutout of the season and 20th of his career. While his league-worst save percentage on the penalty kill is troubling, he hasn’t been given a great deal of help, so I don’t worry about that as much.