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Chicago Blackhawks’ Roster Projection After 4 Preseason Games

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CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 15: Vinnie Hinostroza
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 15: Vinnie Hinostroza /
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What’s preparing for another NHL season with trying to guess who will make the Chicago Blackhawks’ opening night roster out of training camp?

We’re through two-thirds of the Chicago Blackhawks’ preseason slate. They’re now 2-2, having lost 4-2 against the Boston Bruins on Monday night. Hopefully no one loses any sleep over that.

Of course, it’s always a good time to project who might make the Blackhawks’ opening night roster out of training camp. Only two exhibition games remain, so the roster cuts will be coming fast and furious in the near future.

The Blackhawks currently hold a roster of 20 forwards, 11 defensemen and four goaltenders. I’m going to mock up this projection under the belief the Blackhawks start the regular season with 23 guys (they really should, unless the salary cap just doesn’t permit it).

Let’s do this in two groups: forwards and defensemen/goaltenders. Away we go.

Forwards

Locks: Artem Anisimov, Lance Bouma, Ryan Hartman, Marian Hossa (LTIR), Patrick Kane, Tanner Kero, Richard Panik, Brandon Saad, Nick Schmaltz, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Jordin Tootoo, Tommy Wingels

I don’t think I’m going with any stretches in the “locks” section. While Bouma, Tootoo and Wingels are positively “guys,” they weren’t brought in (or kept around, in Tootoo’s case) to be sent to the AHL. They’ll either get released or be in the NHL roster, and considering this is a Joel Quenneville-coached team, I’m going with the latter option.

Other that those three, I guess the only guy on that list who might be a questionable lock is Kero. But the way I see it, he’s probably your fourth-line center at this point. Depending on the lineup, he’s perhaps the only part of the fourth line that won’t be an anchor, too.

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Hossa ought to begin the year on LTIR. If the NHL investigation into LTIR cases ends with the Blackhawks somehow not being able to put Hossa on injured reserve … well, the Blackhawks have plenty more problems beyond deciding on a fourth-line center.

Maybes: Alex DeBrincat, John Hayden, David Kampf

So, with Hossa on LTIR, that’s 12 forwards up top. If the Blackhawks go with a 23-man roster and opt for 14 forwards, that leaves room for two more.

To be clear, I think two from the group of Bouma/Wingels/Tootoo should ride the pine versus any of these three “maybes,” and I think there’s a fair chance it plays out that way more nights than not.

DeBrincat is the biggest recent training camp maybe prospect in recent Blackhawks history. He’s been entirely impressive after a disappointing rookie tournament earlier in the month, and he seems to be playing himself into “force the coaches to make a decision” territory. Uncomfortable for Q and Co., but I’m sure they’re glad to be uncomfortable in that spot.

Hayden has also been very strong in training camp and during the preseason games. He’s really got a nose for the net I don’t think the Blackhawks can ignore, especially given how much of a struggle it was to find dirty goals last season.

Kampf is a wild card, and an interesting one at that. He’s been seeing top-six minutes in some preseason games, but I think that’s more a product of the Blackhawks wanting to know what they can get out of him. More realistically, I think Kampf could be a really fine fourth-line guy. Yes, that causes problems with both he and Kero being centers, but who said you couldn’t move one of them to a wing?

Not happenings: Laurent Dauphin, Vinnie Hinostroza, Tomas Jurco, Nathan Noel

Blackhawk Up’s Sean Fitzgerald highlighted why the Blackhawks need to move on from Jurco, and it’s hard not to agree given the logjam at forward. Noel … I had no idea he was still on the camp roster until I looked at it just now, to be honest. He’s been dealing with an injury, and he’s not starting this season in the NHL.

That leaves Dauphin and Hinostroza. Let’s start with Vinnie, who obviously has blazing speed the Blackhawks could really use. However, the rest of his game is still lacking, and I think that ultimately makes him one of the last camp roster cuts.

But let’s say the Blackhawks actually part ways with one of the Bouma/Wingels/Tootoo clan (preferably the last guy). Then I think Hinostroza has a pretty good shot at making the opening night roster.

I see Dauphin as a February call-up. I also see him as the future Marcus Kruger for the Blackhawks. I think he’s been entirely solid in camp, but that he’s going to have to cut his teeth with the Rockford IceHogs for a bit before seeing NHL time with the Blackhawks.

Defensemen/Goaltenders

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  • Locks: (Defense) Gustav Forsling, Cody Franson, Duncan Keith, Michal Kempny, Connor Murphy, Michal Rozsival (LTIR), Jan Rutta, Brent Seabrook; (Goaltender) Corey Crawford, Anton Forsberg

    Sorry, no drama for you here. I think this is pretty well set in stone unless a couple of things happen. But before we get into those, let’s talk about the actual players.

    Rutta has been getting better and better reviews as the preseason has gone on, with Coach Q praising him quite a clearly after Monday’s game:

    This feels like a Kampf situation, except the Blackhawks have more of an obvious hole for Rutta right now. I think he’s locked himself into the third pairing.

    Kempny will be asked to play fringe second-pairing minutes off the bat, although there’s a good chance he just slots with fellow Czech Rutta on the third pairing.

    Forsling is probably your seventh guy, but I feel like he’s going to get enough time to play to justify him sticking around. Rozsival will go on LTIR thanks to a sucker punch by Nick Ritchie late last season, and I really wouldn’t be surprised if Rozsival actually retired not long into the year.

    Now, Franson is the interesting case, and the reason I said things are “pretty well set in stone.” There’s always the chance the NHL does NHL things and decides Hossa can’t go on LTIR. In that case, Franson is not signing in Chicago.

    I think the Blackhawks could definitely use Franson. He’s a veteran presence who can quarterback plays from the blue line and move the puck well enough. But they need some money freed up from Hossa’s LTIR to actually sign Franson, who is currently on a PTO.

    If things get wonky and Franson has to leave, take Forsling as 6D and Jordan Oesterle as the seventh.

    As for the goalies, I think this is straightforward. The backup job was Forsberg’s to lose coming into camp, and he grabbed it by stifling his former team, Columbus, in the opener.

    Not happenings: (Defense) Erik Gustafsson, Jordan Oesterle, Ville Pokka, Luc Snuggerud; (Goaltender) J.F. Berube, Collin Delia

    Oesterle gets off this list if the aforementioned wonkiness comes into play. Gustafsson is probably just AHL depth at this point for the Blackhawks, as it’s very telling he hasn’t been to the NHL since spending a nice chunk of the 2015-16 season at that level.

    Pokka … I don’t know. I think the Blackhawks almost have to Mark McNeill him at this point. This kind of felt like his last shot to crack the big league roster, and it’s pretty clear he won’t.

    I think Snuggerud had a dark-horse chance at being the seventh D-man, but he wound up injured in the second preseason game. It seems pretty clear he’ll start the season in Rockford now.

    Berube will definitely see time in Rockford. I could see the same happening for Dellia, who would usurp Jeff Glass in that instance.

    Next: Rockford IceHogs' Roster Taking Shape

    So that’s where I think things stand with the Blackhawks roster as the preseason comes closer to its conclusion. Could the last two games, and the practices between and around them, change how things look? It’s entirely possible, especially from a forward perspective. But I think we’re getting closer and closer to having a set Blackhawks roster to start 2017-18.

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