The Chicago Blackhawks had one of the youngest teams in the NHL this season, and at some point, the new core of players will emerge.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will not be around forever, as they are both in their thirties. While guys like Alex DeBrincat (who is already an alternate captain and a vocal member of the team) shouldered some of the weight this year, there must be a glance towards the future at some point of who will lead the Blackhawks.
I’m not even necessarily talking about who will be the next captain of the team. Besides, if Kane is still around when that position becomes vacant, he’s probably a lock for it. However, there are a lot of guys in NHL locker rooms that lead from their play alone, and become mainstays on their respective teams.
Eventually, the fresh-faced rookies that dominated Chicago’s roster this year will be at the top of the pack. The question of who will lead the Blackhawks through the 2020s is an interesting one, as there are a number of guys on the team that could grow into top-six players in the near future.
Again, I’m not necessarily talking about who will be the next captain, or even an alternate captain. Moreso, I’m thinking of who will be able to command the most presence on the ice. With that being said, I think that there are two guys who could fit the description: Pius Suter and Nicolas Beaudin.
I’ve previously written about the fantastic first season that Suter had this year, and if all goes smoothly, he looks primed to repeat that performance in 2022. At 25, he is also one of the older rookies on the team, and as such, he also has a lot of experience playing overseas in his native Switzerland. I honestly think that he was one of the more underlooked rookies in the NHL this year, his season being somewhat overshadowed by outstanding newbies like Kirill Kaprizov and Alex Nedeljkovic.
Suter has already shown that he has great scoring prowess, and is able to find the back of the net with ease. He also plays a good two-way game and is a great motivator. While he is currently a restricted free agent, I’m hopeful that general manager Stan Bowman is able to ink him, because he is a player that could shine in the lineup for years to come.
At the other end of the ice, defenseman Nicolas Beaudin surprised everybody with his outstanding play this year. Although he did bounce around a few times between Chicago and the Rockford Icehogs, Beaudin proved that he was one of the best young D-men that the ‘Hawks have in their farm system.
While the defense as a whole struggled for most of the year, Beaudin was one of the few bright spots. He ended the season with 21 blocked shots, good enough for 12th on the team. He was also first on the ‘Hawks in shooting percentage at 28.6, a rare feat for a defenseman. Beaudin was stellar on the back end this year, and there is no reason that he can’t grow into a significant part of the Blackhawks’ defensive core through the decade.
Overall, with the number of young rookies that were on the team this year, it’s hard to say for sure who will emerge to lead the charge. However, if I had to choose, I think that Suter and Beaudin are two players that I could easily see anchoring this new young group as they mature. With the state of the rebuild in motion and the 2021 NHL Draft looming, perhaps we’ll see some new leadership lifting a Stanley Cup sooner rather than later.