In the midst of the Chicago Blackhawks and Vegas Golden Knights game the Blackhawks would consummate a trade with the Florida Panthers that would see forward Aleksi Saarela sent to Florida for defenseman Ian McCoshen. When first word of the deal first broke during the 3rd period of the Golden Knights/Blackhawks game many were left scratching their head as Saarela seemed a nice piece that had been acquired with Calvin de Haan from the Carolina Hurricanes.
After a strong training camp, Saarela had struggled in his first few games with the Rockford Ice Hogs (only 1 assist in five games) but that could be indicative of the overall performance of Rockford’s early season struggles. Looking a little bit deeper into the deal it could be that Saarela wanted out of Chicago as there had been reports that Saarela wanted a true shot at the NHL this season after spending multiple season in the AHL in the Hurricanes organization.
So what are the Blackhawks getting in McCoshen?
The former second round pick (31st overall) from 2015 has had a difficult time finding his way to the NHL since turning pro back in 2016. McCoshen possesses all the physical attributes that you look for in an NHL player, 6′ 3″, 191 lbs but doesn’t possess much of an offensive upside, seen as more a defensive specialist on the left side of the defense.
He is an extremely quick skater but doesn’t possess the edge work that you would allow you to consider him a great skater. He specialty is in his own end where he has great gap control and can hang with all matter of skater in the dirty areas of the ice. With his addition he provides the Blackhawks with a little more size on the defensive depth chart but will likely continue to hone his game in the AHL.
Another reason the McCoshen deal was consummated could be the injury to defenseman Connor Murphy, as it was announced in the post game, that will see him out for a few weeks with another groin injury. This will be a second groin injury for Murphy this season and with that becoming a bit of a trend the Blackhawks likely wanted to shore up the depth on the defensive front with a similar type of player in McCoshen.
Whatever the case is the Blackhawks have dealt a player that many felt is a legitimate NHL prospect for a player that does have some NHL upside but still have a lot of question marks in his game.