When will the Chicago Blackhawks be contenders again in the NHL?
By Jake Wheeler
The Chicago Blackhawks’ rise to success again will be a long, painful road. If executed successfully, Blackhawks fans will be cheering in the streets sooner than they believe.
Last night’s painful season opener is an unfortunate reminder for Chicago Blackhawk fans that this season and most likely the next two or three seasons are going to be tough. Due to their recent announcement of a rebuild, exactly how far are the Blackhawks from contending again?
I truly believe the Blackhawks can become contenders in three seasons. However, everything has to go right for that to happen. It starts all of the way at the top with executives and management decisions, to the coaches and players, performing on a nightly basis.
This was supposed to be a growth year for Kirby Dach and Alexander Nylander. However, injuries will sideline them both this season. The 2021-2022 NHL season will be crucial for these two players and their development.
The Blackhawks desperately need help in their pipeline. Not only do they need a goalie now, they also need a good prospect. If the Blackhawks could pick up Joonas Korpisalo from the Columbus Blue Jackets, he would help out in the short term.
He is not going to be the ‘Hawks savior, but he’ll help a lot. With the expansion draft this summer and Columbus having Elvis Merzlikins too, look for Korpisalo to be moved prior to the expansion draft.
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The goalie of the future should be Jesper Wallstedt. I’ve talked about him before, but if the Blackhawks have a pick anywhere from 10-15 he should be their guy. He is the last of the big three (Spencer Knight, Yaroslav Askarov) goaltenders to be drafted early in the first round. He would be a tremendous help to a brutal goalie pipeline and he can learn from and take over for Korpisalo after a few seasons.
Should the Blackhawks finish with a top-five pick this year, their best bet would be to go after Simon Edvinsson or Owen Power. Both are left-handed defensemen who would be great partners for Adam Boqvist. After passing on Bowen Byram with Kirby Dach, the Hawks need top defensive prospects in their system and one of these two defensemen would be ideal.
The Blackhawks also need to get a good selection in the 2022 NHL draft. Shane Wright, Matthew Savoie and Brad Lambert are the consensus top three picks in that draft. All forwards, they’d be a big help to the Hawks. With Jonathan Toews not getting any younger and with how valuable top-line centers are, one of these three would be a big boost.
As mentioned with Dach and Nylander, the Hawks need to see strides from their young players this season. Dach, Nylander, Boqvist, Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin, Philipp Kurashev, Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik and Alex DeBrincat need to develop into the new core. All of these players have the upside if they develop properly.
The ‘Hawks also need depth players like, Brandon Hagel, Lucas Carlsson, Mackenzie Entwistle, Pius Suter, Lucas Wallmark, Chad Krys, Alex Vlasic, Alec Regula, Wyatt Kalnyuk, Landon Slaggert and Drew Commesso to develop, too.
If the Blackhawks can acquire some top talent through the draft, make smart trades and signings, and can develop their prospects, Blackhawk fans should look for them to become contenders in three years. Like I mentioned though, that is only if everything goes the Blackhawks way, and with the likely hood that not everything will go the Hawks way, it may be another four or five years before they are ready to contend.