Artemi Panarin finishes top five in league MVP voting
While guys like Crow, Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov and others have been important to Chicago’s success so far this season, Panarin is just on another level. He’s having the exact opposite of a sophomore slump, averaging just shy of a point per game.
Panarin’s 38 points are tied for fifth in the league with Tyler Seguin and Phil Kessel. That’s some good company. I think Panarin will continue to roll at this pace for the rest of the regular season, and it will ultimately lead him to a top-five finish in Hart Trophy voting.
Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are probably already penciled into the top three, and it’s going to be hard to unseat them. But even if Panarin finishes inside the trophy’s top five vote receivers, that’d be wildly impressive.
Marcus Kruger goes to Las Vegas
The Blackhawks will have to expose a few players to the expansion draft, and I think the Golden Knights will select one of the league’s top defensive centermen in Kruger.
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Assuming Kruger’s health is satisfactory, I feel like no one else the Blackhawks will expose, besides maybe Darling in net, will intrigue the Knights as much as Kruger. He’s a great guy to build a steady two-way line around in your bottom six.
While I’ve previously said Darling could be a target for the Knights, I also think there are going to be other exposed goaltenders who they could comfortably select, while there won’t be many (if any) other guys like Kruger on the market.
Now while we’re talking about Darling, I should note I still don’t think he’ll be in Chicago next season. The Blackhawks are going to need to save as much cap space as they possibly can, and the raise Darling will command hurts that. He’s already earned a bigger contract elsewhere.
Brian Campbell leaves Chicago (maybe retires?)
This is another issue of cap space. While Campbell is signed for just $1.5 million this season and would probably take a similar deal next season, I feel like Chicago will go to some of its younger guys on the blue line as a means of improving their salary cap situation, and to get these guys set up for, hopefully, long-term runs in Chicago.
The likes of Michal Kempny, Erik Gustafsson, Ville Pokka and, yeah, probably Trevor van Riemsdyk project as cost-affordable pieces of the blue line moving forward. They’re also young pieces. Campbell is entering the twilight of his career, and he hasn’t given the Blackhawks quite as much offensive push as they were likely expecting.
Best case scenario, Campbell wins the Stanley Cup once again this year with the Blackhawks. He could ride off into the NHL sunset after that.
Michal Rozsival retires
He has to eventually, right?
Chicago Blackhawks draft a “local boy”
The Blackhawks, despite all their trade-deadline wheeling and dealing in recent years, have 10 selections in the upcoming NHL draft, which will be held in Chicago. You just know Bowman and Co. are going to find a Chicago-area kid, even if it’s in the later rounds, to rile up the crowd in attendance.
Hopefully he’s as good and useful as some of the current “local boys” (Darling, Vincent Hinostroza, Ryan Hartman) have been.
One of Alex DeBrincat and Alexandre Fortin makes 2017-18 roster
Fortin was very close, it seemed, to making Chicago’s opening night roster this season. The 19-year-old ultimately was a last-minute cut, and he’s posted 20 points in 24 QMJHL games with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
DeBrincat, a draft pick in 2016 (seems like just yesterday), has been lighting up the OHL for the third consecutive season, posting a silly 64 points in 30 games so far this season.
Both of these guys have some development to achieve before becoming NHL regulars, there is no doubt. But I think the Blackhawks will be intrigued enough by both of these players to give at least one of them an early shot next season.
Fortin has the inside track since he already had one impressive training camp. But both of these guys have some solid offensive skills, and the Blackhawks could certainly use a little more of that in their lineup.
Corey Crawford scores a goal