Who will get the greatest opportunity in net for the Chicago Blackhawks?
By Justin Klawans
With the offseason departure of Corey Crawford, the Chicago Blackhawks will have a trio of young goalies to choose from next year.
While all three have minimal NHL experience, any one of them could potentially turn into the next Blackhawks’ starter. GM Stan Bowman and Head Coach Jeremy Colliton will have to decide who will come out on top of the rotating door of goalies.
GM Stan Bowman has said in numerous interviews that he is confident in the goaltending trio that the Blackhawks have, and that all three of them should get equal looks next season. Looking from purely a potential standpoint, the best option to turn into a bonafide starter is likely Malcolm Subban.
Subban, a 26-year-old Toronto native, is the younger brother of New Jersey Devils defenseman PK Subban. He was originally a first-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins in 2012, going 24th overall. From there he was claimed off waivers by the Vegas Golden Knights before eventually being traded to Chicago in the deal that sent Robin Lehner to Sin City.
Subban has little NHL experience as a whole. His most appearances in net came in 2018 with Vegas, but he was still only relegated to 22 games. Despite this, he has put up a respectable .899 save percentage. The average save percentage in the league the past two seasons has been .910, so while there is definitely room for improvement, his numbers aren’t terrible.
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The number of pucks Subban lets in could also improve. His career goals-against-average is 2.97, with only one shutout. Again, while these statistics aren’t terrible, there is definitely a chance for Subban to see an upward trend. While he appears right now to be the likeliest candidate to become the Hawks’ next starter, there are two other guys who are looking to claim the net as well.
Another 26-year-old, Collin Delia, could also turn out to be a starter for Chicago in the next few years. The California-born netminder went undrafted after a three-year NCAA career with Merrimack College and was signed as a free agent in 2017.
My personal opinion is that there is a good chance that the newly formed Seattle Kraken could claim Delia in their expansion draft. However, assuming that he does stay in Chicago, his prior experience with the team, though short, could prove advantageous. His save percentage is slightly better than Subban at .906, but his goals-against-average is significantly worse at 3.65 over two seasons.
Despite these statistics, it is important to remember that Delia has had very little time to prove himself. The majority of his professional career has been spent in the minor leagues, and a chance to get significant playing time with the Blackhawks could prove to be the catalyst that he needs to launch his career.
As if the goalie situation wasn’t clogged up enough for the Hawks, there is a third potential netminder for the team in Kevin Lankinen. The 25-year-old from Helsinki, Finland also went undrafted, with his professional career beginning in 2014. He has primarily played for HIFK in the SM-liiga, the highest level of ice hockey in Finland. He signed an entry-level contract with the Hawks in 2018.
His North American career has been spent entirely in the minors, with two seasons spent with the Rockford Icehogs. His AHL save percentage over those two years was a respectable 9.09, and a goals-against-average of 2.70. However, this is in the minors, where the game is typically slower.
With Lankinen having yet to see any NHL playing time, it would be hard to call him a true contender for the net next season. However, he had a respectable career in Finland and it is still very possible that that success could eventually translate to the NHL.
For now, however, it would seem that Subban will come out on top as the next Blackhawks’ starter. Still, Bowman has made it clear that this competition for the net is anybody’s game, so there is no reason that Delia or Lankinen couldn’t eventually take up that mantle.