The Chicago Blackhawks’ 2017-18 season begins today against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Many pundits have the Blackhawks as a bubble playoff team this season. While we may not be as sure a thing as we have been in years past, a number of guys give me a lot of optimism for the season.
It’s difficult to pick just one person to want to watch in a hockey game. That expectation goes even further out the window when it comes to opening night for the Chicago Blackhawks.
They’ll be hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight to open the 2017-18 regular season. While it’s fair to say you could watch just about everyone looking for some kind of hint at how their season will play out, I’ve narrowed it down to three for tonight’s game.
It’s hard not to put this cat (pun intended) on the opening day list, as it’s Alex DeBrincat’s incredibly hyped NHL debut. His is an impressive story, as many thought his size would prevent him from making it in the NHL, and his performance at the team’s annual prospect camp seemed to prove those experts right.
However, his play in training camp and the preseason told a far different story, and one much more important. His play in the preseason earned him an opening night roster spot a spot that no one would have guessed he’d have a chance at earning in July or early August.
Definitely keep an eye out for DeBrincat tonight, as he’ll quickly be tested against one of the league’s top teams. But be sure to watch him all season, too, as he could quickly become a 50-point scorer.
Right now, Nick Schmaltz looks like the player he was after his midseason AHL stint last year — multiplied by 10. His play has looked night-and-day different for the Blackhawks in camp and the preseason. He looks more confident with the puck and smart off of it.
He’ll likely begin the night centering Patrick Kane and DeBrincat, and if that line performs how I imagine it can, the Blackhawks’ top six could be the best in the league again, and Kane will hit or scratch 100 points this season.
Schmaltz will be lining up across from future HOFer Evgeni Malkin, and if there’s one area of concern with Schmaltz, it’s his ability to win at the faceoff dot. Keep an eye out for that facet of Schmaltz game. If he can improve on winning possession of the drop, then Schmaltz will be close to a complete player.
When Brandon Saad was traded to Columbus in 2015, my first reaction was negative, and then I thought about it and felt it was a really good trade.
When the team traded back for him, my first reaction was negative, and then I thought about it and feel it’s a really good trade.
Saad actually had his two best offensive seasons in the NHL with the Blue Jackets, but it never really felt like he caught on with the team or the coaching staff in Columbus like he did in Chicago. I expect Saad to have a fantastic season, potentially hitting 70 points.
I think his passion for hockey is stronger in Chicago and his chemistry with the team is even stronger, and his preseason play showed to me he was ready to take on a bigger role in the offense than he had previously without sacrificing his defensive game.
Rejoice, Chicago: The Man Child is back, and with him the hockey season.