With all the eyes of the hockey world focused on Chicago for the NHL draft, the Blackhawks made two huge moves before the draft. Bowman first traded away fan favorite Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin. The Blackhawks traded Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte for Brandon Saad and Anton Forsberg.
Bowman had to make some moves to compensate for the loss of another core member. The Hawks lineup was severely weaken earlier in the week when it was announced that Marian Hossa would not play in 2016-17. Jay Zawaski reported that Hossa is done for this career.
After the draft dust settles, it is now time to speculate on the Blackhawks lines for next season.
With the acquisition of Saad, the speculation after the trade was the top line would be Jonathan Toews, Richard Panik and Saad. This line makes the most sense because of the positive effects Saad has on Toews game. Toews is a much better player with Saad on his wing. The Hawks have not been the same team since Saad was traded away.
Joel Quenneville made the same conclusions after the Saad trade:
They do not want to go backwards, this line wants to go forward. Saad should get the top line to generate more consistent offense. That was lacking from the top line in years past. I believe this will be the Top line the majority of next season.
With Panarin being traded in the Saad deal, the Hawks might have filled a hole on the first line but now have a hole on the second line. While most believe that anyone can score 20 goals on the opposite wing of Patrick Kane, it might not be that easy.
The Blackhawks are going to start the season with Kane, Artem Anisimov and Nick Schmaltz on the second line. Schmaltz showed a lot of promise last season with the Blackhawks. He played well when he was on the first line with Toews and Panik. While losing Panarin hurts on the second line, Schmaltz playing with Kane is a nice second place prize. Schmaltz is a play maker on offense and could fit in nicely with Kane.
The best part is that if Schmaltz works out that is awesome then you can play super prospect Alex Debrincat on the third line in his rookie season. If Schmaltz does not blossom right away, you can move him down to the third line and still have success. The Hawks could have two consistent scoring line this upcoming season as opposed to being second line heavy.
So my projected line is Kane, Anisimov, Schmaltz/Debrincat.
Here is where the lines start to get dicey. This line to start the year could change from shift to shift. It all depends on what Coach Quenneville had for lunch. There will be a TON of forwards in the running for this line. Debrincat, John Hayden, and Anthony Louis are prospects that could be factors on this line during the season.
I went with an NHL experienced line. I am not sure how the top propsects will shake out when it comes to the third line.
My projected third line is Tanner Kero at Center, Ryan Hartman at Right Wing, and Tomas Jurco at Left wing. I am a big fan of Kero at center. He played well last season and seemed to be a fit in the bottom six at center. Hartman gives this line some grit and scoring. I feel like Hartman scored on every line he was on last season. The Hawks really like Jurco, and they protected him in the expansion draft. He was drafted for a third round pick and will be given a chance to play. He brings size to the third line. Jurco is currently an RFA but should receive a qualifying offer.
This could be the Blackhawks “grind line” next season.
The fourth line is another huge mystery to me. This line is dependent on Marcus Kruger status with the organization. Stan Bowman did not comment on Kruger’s status. The prevailing rumor is that Kruger will be traded on July 1st to Vegas for a draft pick. Kruger is due a 2 million dollar bonus on 6/30/17. On July 1st, Kruger becomes more trade-able this season. My projected line is based on Kruger not being a Blackhawks forward when the season begins.
My fourth line projects at Vinnie Hinostroza at Center, John Hayden at Right Wing and Alexandre Fortin. Hinostroza bring speed to the fourth line, Hayden brings size and scoring touch while Fortin is my wild card. If Fortin has a camp like he did last year, he makes the Blackhawks out of training camp. Fortin is 6’0 ft and is coming off his best offensive season in QMJHL. Fortin plays well in his own zone and can play on the penalty kill. This are two skills that the Blackhawks coaching staff values in their forwards.
Those are my projected line to start next season: What are yours?