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Chicago Blackhawks’ Possible Second Line: Sharp-Schmaltz-Kane

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CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15: Patrick Kane
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15: Patrick Kane /
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With the 2017-18 NHL season rapidly approaching, one question for the Chicago Blackhawks centers around who will make up the second line

It now looks like second-line center Artem Anisimov may be headed down to the third line for the Chicago Blackhawks — if training camp lineups are any indication.

When Anisimov when down to a left leg injury last season, people were wondering who could fill his spot. Nick Schmaltz stepped in. While on that line Schmaltz proved his worth, showing he has a knack for finding the puck and being a true playmaker.

Now, Schmaltz has been seen centering the second line in the preseason training camp. Most recently, he was paired with super-prospect Alex DeBrincat on the left wing and Patrick Kane on the right, though Patrick Sharp has also been seen on that line’s left wing in camp.

It’s uncertain if DeBrincat will make the opening night roster just yet, so a second line of Sharp-Schmaltz-Kane certainly seems possible. Let’s take a look at a few aspects of that.

Nick Schmaltz

Schmaltz had a respectable 2016-17 season, putting up a six goals and 28 points. While the first half of the season we saw a timid player getting rid of the puck instantly and not taking many shots, the second half was a different story.

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After a short stint with the Rockford IceHogs, we saw a completely different player emerge — one who proved why he was a 2014 first-round draft pick. In the latter half of the season, Schmaltz had five goals and 19 assists as opposed to his first half of one goal and four points.

He played well enough to get top-line minutes with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik (playing the left wing), then centered the second line with Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin when Anisimov went down.

While Schmaltz has proven he can be a two-way player and solid playmaker, one aspect he has to improve to stay on the second line will be his faceoffs. Last season, he had a dismal 30.9 percent mark at the dot. Improving this is a must to keep that spot.

Patrick Sharp

While at training camp on Saturday, we saw the line of Sharp, Schmaltz and Kane. Many questions around Sharp have been circling his health. Also, does he still have the speed to compete?

Only once the season truly starts will we know the answer to these questions, but for now it looks like Sharpie is back. At his physical, Sharp scored extremely well for his age. Kaner was quoted as saying Sharp is a “freak of nature” for being in as in shape as he is “at that age.”

During the scrimmage on Saturday, the first goal of the game was scored by that line. Sharp chipped a pass to Kane, who then passed cross ice to Schmaltz, who finished the play with a nice shot past Corey Crawford.

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Sharp would continue to look like himself later in the scrimmage, setting up Brent Seabrook and later scoring on a breakaway, showing he still can be a difference-maker. After the game, coach Joel Quenneville was asked if we would see that line. His response was “it could happen,” and in Q Speak that means more than likely.

Looking to the future

While having two veteran wingers with an upcoming center, what are the challenges this line could face?

Kane has proven that no matter what line or what players he is with, he can and will produce. The question is more based on the other two and the line as a whole.

The first issue that may face that line is size. Schmaltz, Kane and Sharp are not exactly the biggest players, so they may be bullied a bit. With Sharp dealing with concussions last year and hip surgery in the offseason, physicality is not going to be a strength.

Putting some big bodies on the back end may be able to soften that blow, with newcomer Connor Murphy or, if signed, someone like Cody Franson could definitely be options to keep the pressure off.

Another question, as mentioned earlier, is about Schmaltz and winning faceoffs. With not much physicality, losing faceoffs is not an option. Sharp himself may be able to help in that department, as he has been reliable at the dot in the post while giving his team another option for some draws.

While there are going to be skeptics and questions, there is also a lot of excitement this line can bring. Having two snipers and a true playmaker could make for some very interesting offense.

If Sharp can continue to show his legs are still under him, you will have three quick players with a knack for scoring. With Kane drawing the most eyes, Schmaltz and Sharp should have a good amount of open ice to create opportunities.

Next: Chicago Blackhawks’ Nick Schmaltz Will Have No Sophomore Slump

At the Blackhawks’ training camp festival, this line was on full display in helping with three of the four goals scored. If that line continues to create chemistry, it could be a very productive line for the Blackhawks this season.  

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