Chicago Blackhawks’ Anisimov, Sharp Interesting Third-Line Options

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 15: Artem Anisimov
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 15: Artem Anisimov /

Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is experimenting with different lines early in training camp, and this has already created some potentially interesting options on the third line

Training camp is well underway for the Chicago Blackhawks, who took on their fourth practice today. We saw another of coach Joel Quenneville’s line experiments, as Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane got to work.

If you can’t access that tweet, Schmaltz scored at least a pair of goals centering the 2016 NHL MVP and 2017 OHL MVP. This is certainly a development that would make Blackhawks fans curious and excited about the second line’s prospects minus Artemi Panarin.

This came after a weekend line combination of Patrick Sharp with Schmaltz and Kane This too piqued Blackhawks fans’ interest.

What should really pique their interest, however, is the prospect of Artem Anisimov and Sharp making up two-thirds of the Blackhawks’ third line.

What must happen for this to come to fruition?

The Blackhawks have some big questions coming into camp — namely, who will their defensemen be, and who will make up the bottom six. That second question is tied directly to DeBrincat’s status with the big-league club.

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There’s no doubt the Blackhawks are going to give DeBrincat a long look, considering they need to replace Panarin and considering DeBrincat is super talented. Opinion is split on which league he starts the 2017-18 campaign in, but let’s spitball and say he makes the Blackhawks’ roster on opening night.

If that’s the case, it seems likely he’ll play on the second line with Kane. So who centers them? Schmaltz has been getting the work of late, but Anisimov is the incumbent at that spot.

Let’s spitball once more and say the Blackhawks actually go to the DeBrincat-Schmaltz-Panarin line to start the regular season. I’d call this a stretch right now, but it brings up the option of starting Anisimov and Sharp on the third line.

This would be a huge deal for the Blackhawks, considering they went into training camp looking like they’d have to choose between a ton of warm bodies for at least two of those spots. Schmaltz and/or Tanner Kero at third-line center would be fine (though two totally different options), but the wings were a huge question mark, especially if Sharp would have to start on the second line.

So with this line getting a workout in training camp, and with Schmaltz getting a lot of rope as second-line center, it opens up the option of a Richard PanikJonathan ToewsBrandon Saad first line, a DeBrincat-Schmaltz-Kane second line and a Sharp-Anisimov-X third line.

What would this mean for the Blackhawks?

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Well, it’s tough to say. It’s so early in the preseason that we can’t say with any certainty that Sharp and Anisimov — or even just one of them — will start on the third line. But the idea of both of them being part of that unit is an extremely positive one for the Blackhawks.

First, that would mean some of the youngsters are stepping up in a hurry. Schmaltz showed a lot of offensive promise last season, but his faceoff work left a lot to be desired. Perhaps the Blackhawks’ coaching staff is seeing strides made there.

It would also mean the Blackhawks actually feel DeBrincat is NHL-ready. My thought earlier this offseason was that the Blackhawks were bringing in so many random bodies because they didn’t want to rush DeBrincat. But if he started the regular season on the second line, that would indicate they don’t feel like they’re hurrying him.

Even bigger, it would mean the Blackhawks’ bottom six is far better stocked than it was projected to be.

Sharp is likely to either play on the second or third line, but if he’s better recovered from his hip surgery than some projections would indicate, he’d be a really solid third-line presence. And Anisimov had a career offensive season last year, his second on the second line.

If you have a guy who scored 45 points last season and another who tallied 55 two seasons ago on your third line, there are great prospects for your forwards. That’s not to mention someone like Ryan Hartman playing on their right wing.

Next: Distraction-Free Blackhawks Can Focus On Winning Again

Again, it’s too early to say for sure what the forward lines will look like in October. But early returns in training camp have created some interesting possibilities for the Blackhawks.