Development Camp has come and gone, and up next is training camp. There will be multiple storylines to keep an eye on.
Chicago Blackhawks’ development camp was pretty entertaining and we got to see some of the top prospects in action. Development camp was also the first taste of North American hockey for some players. We caught a glimpse of the future in last week’s camp.
Training camp will be starting shortly, and there are some major storylines to keep an eye out for. There are only a few roster spots open, so we should be seeing some intense battles. This could be the first step towards a real youth movement in Chicago.
There will be a total of five storylines that I will be watching out for once Blackhawks’ training camp officially kicks off. Let’s take a closer look as to what those will be.
Kirby Dach certainly impressed during Blackhawks’ development camp last week. The 3rd overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft has high expectations placed on him and he has lived up to the hype thus far.
Although Dach was playing against other prospects, he was arguably the most impressive player in camp. The moves he was making out on the ice were amazing to see.
Oftentimes, he looked more like a wily veteran than a rookie. Much to the surprise of many Blackhawks’ fans, it looks like Bowman may have gotten this pick correct. We will know for sure as time goes on.
Stan Bowman has left the door open for Kirby Dach to make the NHL roster this season, so ultimately, it is up to Dach. Right now, it looks like he is up for the challenge.
He seems NHL ready at this point, so it will be interesting to see how he performs in training camp and preseason games against NHL talent.
In case you missed his development camp performance, here were some of my favorite Kirby Dach highlights from camp.
Of all the Blackhawks’ defensemen prospects, Adam Boqvist has the highest ceiling and it isn’t close.
Boqvist was highly touted coming out of the 2018 NHL Draft and he has lived up to the hype. If I had to describe him in two words, they would be dynamic and electric.
Boqvist had a great first season of North American hockey with the London Knights of the OHL. He was a point per game player (60 points in 54 games) and looked like a natural out there.
The one knock on him is his defensive play, but he posted a 12 ± rating with the Knights last season and made a few solid defensive plays in Blackhawks’ development camp.
We have all heard about Adam Boqvist’s elite offensive skills and they were on full display in development camp last week. I know that he pulled off this move against other prospects, but I think it’s pretty safe to say moves like this will translate pretty well to the modern NHL.
Boqvist has made his intentions known for this upcoming season — he intends on going pro. He will play for either the Chicago Blackhawks or Rockford IceHogs in 2019-20.
He was close to making the Blackhawks’ NHL roster last season, so it will be interesting to see if he can stick with the team through training camp and preseason this time around. I honestly can’t wait to see more!
Where Will the New Faces Fit In?
This offseason was an extremely busy one for Blackhawks’ GM, Stan Bowman. Improving a historically bad defense and penalty kill was at the top of the list. For the most part, I believe Bowman achieved that goal.
The defense was revamped via trade and looks to be significantly better than last season — on paper at least. We will know more in the coming weeks.
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The first of the two big additions on defense is Calvin de Haan. De Haan is known for being a shutdown defenseman who can also contribute on offense when needed.
He will fill an enormous void in the Blackhawks’ top-4 that hasn’t been filled since Niklas Hjalmarsson was traded.
Olli Maatta is the other defensive upgrade for the Blackhawks. Maatta has had his fair share of ups and downs over the past six seasons with the Penguins, but he has top-4 upside.
He is 24 years old and known for being defensive-minded. Maatta won’t necessarily wow you, but he will get the job done. In six NHL seasons, he has posted a negative ± rating once (-1 ± in 2017-18).
The Blackhawks also made some additions to the forward group. The first name of forwards to watch is Dominik Kubalik. Kubalik is a sniper with a knack for making plays. He also plays a respectable defensive game.
It remains to be seen where Kubalik ends up, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him playing left wing on the 1st line and the point on the 2nd power-play unit in 2019-20.
Andrew Shaw makes his return to Chicago and is expected to have a significant role this season, either in the top-6 or top-9.
Shaw is coming off of a career year in Montreal with 47 points in 63 games. It wouldn’t surprise me if he saw some time on both the power play and penalty kill this season.
Zach Smith was also acquired last week and looks to bring more grit and defense to the Blackhawks’ bottom-6.
Another bottom-6 addition was Ryan Carpenter, who projects as a 4th line center and penalty kill specialist who can win faceoffs.
One last name to watch is Anton Wedin. Wedin is a two-way playmaker who will likely be pegged for a bottom-6 role in 2019-20. He could potentially start the year in Rockford to help him become more acclimated to North American hockey.
One of the most surprising moves of the 2019 NHL offseason was the signing of Robin Lehner. With Lehner onboard, the Blackhawks may have formed the best goaltending tandem in the entire NHL.
In my opinion, this signing indicates that Corey Crawford‘s time with the Blackhawks may be coming to an end. Crawford has suffered multiple concussions and he is now 34 years old. He is also playing on an expiring contract.
I believe the Blackhawks will see how well he performs this season, if at all, and he may get another short term deal at a cheaper rate next offseason. Only time will tell here.
In Robin Lehner, the Blackhawks have solidified the goaltending position for the 2019-20 and beyond.
Lehner is freshly 28 years old and still has some prime years left in the tank. He is coming off a career-best season in which he was a Vezina Trophy finalist, and winner of both the William M. Jennings and Bill Masterton Memorial trophies.
I have a feeling that Lehner will get a bigger portion of the game split in net this season than Crawford. This will allow Crawford to stay healthy and it lets the Blackhawks see what they truly have in Lehner. I’m excited to see how things play out in net this season.
Brendan Perlini is still without a contract which is kind of surprising, but it does make sense. Perlini was streaky and underwhelming at times after being acquired with Dylan Strome in the Nick Schmaltz trade.
The longer Perlini goes without a new deal, the more likely he is to be traded. Although there is still time to get a deal done, I don’t believe he will be in Chicago next season. Weirder things have happened though.
If the Blackhawks do decide to keep Perlini around, they need to give him a steady role in the lineup. I believe part of his inconsistency was due to the fact that he bounced around the lineup constantly and was even scratched at times.
I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing what Perlini could do with a fair opportunity to prove himself.
Real hockey is just around the corner, and I get the sense that fans are feeling much better about the team than they did one year ago — I know I do.
Where will all of these new faces fit in? That will be the main question going forward. Things will sort themselves out shortly in training camp and preseason games. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for October 4th!