The Blackhawks have always relied on cheap, reliable veteran talent between 2009-2017 to keep their contending window open. Now, they are relying on these young guys to take some of the load. The open roster spots left by players on IR or LTIR meant that the ‘Hawks were able to see who they have ready to go. The youth movement has proven to be much better in Year 1 than anyone expected. Each young player has been quality members of the team, contributing as an asset than a liability every game.
Entering the season, I was high on Philipp Kurashev, Brandon Hagel, and Ian Mitchell, three rookies in their first season, and they have been mainstays on the roster since they debuted. Hagel and Kurashev both get to the dirty areas while maintaining a high skill level, and Mitchell has proven to be a trusted member of the defense. Nicolas Beaudin is also a surprising addition to the roster, and his play so far has been a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect to see him in the NHL this soon, even with the youth movement underway, thinking he might be a couple years away.
Red-Hot Powerplay/Above Average Penalty Kill
The Blackhawks scored three goals on the powerplay vs the Hurricanes, half of their offense so far this season. We saw the powerplay reach massive numbers a couple seasons ago with Erik Gustafsson’s 60-point season. They were a playoff-caliber roster, but they didn’t have their systems in place. Now, they have everything planned out and they are still under-manned with their top-two centers sidelined to injury. Special teams COULD carry you to the playoffs since it’s not how you score the goals to win, it’s how many goals you score.
The penalty kill is sitting at an 81% kill rate, which is above-average at this point of the season (78%). With a reliable powerplay to score the goals and a reliable penalty kill to keep the team in the lead when the calls come against them, this team COULD be something special.