Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks’ Defense: Constructing Top 7 From Current Roster

By Colin Likas
EVERETT, WA - APRIL 13: Defenseman Henri Jokiharju (16) of the Portland Winterhawks skates the puck out of the defensive zone during the first period in Game 5 of the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs between the Everett Silvertips and Portland Winterhawks on Friday, April 13, 2018 at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, WA. The Everett Silvertips won the game by a final score of 4-0. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
EVERETT, WA - APRIL 13: Defenseman Henri Jokiharju (16) of the Portland Winterhawks skates the puck out of the defensive zone during the first period in Game 5 of the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs between the Everett Silvertips and Portland Winterhawks on Friday, April 13, 2018 at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, WA. The Everett Silvertips won the game by a final score of 4-0. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 06: Blake Hillman #55 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates in the second period against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center on April 6, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The St. Louis Blues defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images) /

What’s the lineup?

I did say at the top I was looking for a seven-man defensive group. I know the Blackhawks carried eight for a large portion of last season, but I really think seven is the better route to go so you’re not having young players just riding the pine.

Here’s what I’ve come up with for a starting six plus one guy in the press box on opening night.

Duncan Keith – Henri Jokiharju

Erik Gustafsson – Brent Seabrook

Blake Hillman – Brandon Manning

Gustav Forsling

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  • It’s not pretty, but it’s a leading seven if the roster doesn’t change whatsoever before the regular season begins.

    Keith could be an early mentor for Jokiharju, and the two could really light things up from an offensive perspective. Jokiharju moves well enough he could cover for Keith in some spots.

    Asking Jokiharju to take on top-flight opponents is one thing that could be dangerous, but Q showed a little bit last season he’s going to let some of his youngsters sink or swim.

    I don’t love the Gustafsson-Seabrook pairing by any stretch, as Gustafsson gets stuck in the wrong end and Seabrook loves jumping up on the play and can’t get back. While this is a nominal second pairing, I think this pairing could eat minutes equal to the third pairing, versus equal to the first pairing.

    Since Manning is pretty much slotted in to play for now, I went ahead and put him with Hillman. Manning is a stay-at-home guy, while Hillman was tossed into more defensive-end situations during his short first NHL stint. This could be the de facto shutdown pairing, as rough as that sounds.

    And Forsling rounds out the faction, to jump in for someone like Seabrook or Manning. (For the record, if Hillman is paired with Forsling, that’s no longer a shutdown pairing.)

    Next: Blackhawks' Free Agency Raises Eyebrows, Adds Hope

    I know this is probably the most insane grouping of defensemen to deem an opening-night crew for 2018-19. And I’m sure the Blackhawks have some more plans up their sleeves when it comes to altering their roster. But for right now, this is a group that could begin the year on the back end.

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