Young talent and old stars give fans something to feel good about
If there’s anything fans of the Chicago Blackhawks should be excited about this season, it’s some of the young talent on the team and the resurgence of a couple veterans. Instead of focusing on the negative play as a whole, let’s highlight who has been fun to watch so far.
Drafted 29th overall just a year ago, 19-year-old defenseman Henrik Jokiharju has been impressive and exceeded expectations. While he doesn’t have a goal yet in 23 games, 10 assists for a rookie blue-liner isn’t something to complain about. He’s one of five rookie defensemen with 10 points or more so far this year.
Jokiharju is also great defensively, as he should be. He has the best Corsi-for percentage (56.09) of all Blackhawks skaters at even strength and fourth-best (55.61) at all strengths. The team creates high-danger scoring chances (50) than they face (42) with him on the ice. Without a doubt, Jokiharju has quickly grown into the best defender Chicago has at the moment.
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Alex DeBrincat continues to prove everyone who passed on him before the Blackhawks picked him in the second round wrong. He has 10 goals and 10 assists in 26 games, putting him on pace for 63 points this season. His ability to use his size to his advantage and drive play is fantastic. And with his former junior teammate Dylan Strome now on his line, it’ll be interesting to see if they can recreate some magic and give the offense some life.
For the veterans, it’s great to see Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews find their game again. Despite a rough start to the season, Saad has rejuvenated his old self. Whenever he’s on the ice, he’s hunting for the puck and forechecking to give the Blackhawks offensive opportunities. In October, Saad had just 6 points in 13 games. In November, he recorded 8 points in 11 games. That may not seem like a lot, but he’s noticeable every time he takes a shift now, which is something we didn’t see earlier in the year.
The captain hasn’t been too bad himself, so everyone can stop calling for him to be traded. 21 points in 26 games puts Jonathan Toews on track for 66 points this season, which would tie his point total from 2014-15. Most fans can probably agree he looks way better this year than he has before, with his speed being the most noticeable improvement. Sure, he regressed for a couple of years, but Toews is still one of the top two-way centers in the league. No matter what people say he’s never been bad.