Editorials

What Line Will Chicago Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat Play On in 2018-19?

By Samuel Boland
EDMONTON, AB - DECEMBER 29: Alex DeBrincat
EDMONTON, AB - DECEMBER 29: Alex DeBrincat /
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DeBrincat-Anisimov-Kane

This potential combination earned 20% of the votes from fans. After a below average year in points (31) last season, and a career worst +/- (-17) quite a few Blackhawks fans have been suggesting Artem Anisimov’s time in Chicago be over. Additionally, this past off-season Artem’s partial no movement clause kicked in, meaning he had to give the club 10 teams he’d accept a trade to.

It’s true, his $4.55 mil cap hit being off the books would be nice if the Blackhawks could do so without giving up any major prospects. Anisimov is locked up until 2020-21 and the Blackhawks will have to hand out some hefty contracts to both Schmaltz and DeBrincat in the coming years. If Anisimov is moved before then, it would benefit Chicago’s cap situation.

If Schmaltz can productively center a 2nd line, this sounds like a no-brainer. However, Nick’s 40.1% face-off percentage suggests it may not be time for Anisimov to be moved just yet.

For two years, Artemi Panarin, Anisimov and Kane all lined up together. Those two seasons were Anisimov’s most productive years to date. During the second of the two, 2016-17, he set a career high in points and tied a career high in goals. His previous career best in goals came back in 2013-14 when he was with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

That’s three seasons between those two career years for Anisimov.

Now, two seasons have passed since his last career best. While that only fuels the “trade Anisimov” fire, I believe he can regain his 2015-2017 form relatively easily.

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How so?

Put DeBrincat – Anisimov – Kane together. Clearly, the offensive talent between DeBrincat and Kane is undeniable. Though it isn’t the same as Panarin and Kane, there are certainly parallels to be drawn between the two of them. Saying they have a “knack” for scoring is an understatement. Panarin was as good a sniper as they come and his ability to pick spots on the goaltender is almost unfair. Similarly, DeBrincat showed potential of being a true sniper like Panarin was and his 65 goals in 63 games for the OHL’s Erie Otters certainly helps back up that idea.

Anisimov’s size could help to create a different style offense than the DeBrincat-Schmaltz-Kane combo would which the pair would thrive in. His size and ability to screen the goaltender would create opportunities for DeBrincat and Kane to run wild like he and Panarin did. Furthermore, it would open up ice for DeBrincat to shoot, something which would benefit his game significantly given his lack of experience in the NHL.

In addition to Anisimov’s presence benefiting Kane and DeBrincat, there’s hope that DeBrincat could help him in return. If DeBrincat takes over Artemi Panarin’s old role, Anisimov would then play the same role he played two years ago during two of his best seasons. His production would increase tremendously as a result given he’d be playing with two outstanding scorers. However, with DeBrincat still on the same line as Kane the Blackhawks scoring isn’t spread very far. This creates the potential for a similar problem they experienced back in 2016-17 where the club only had one real scoring line.

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