Editorials

What will the Blackhawks’ center situation look like with the return of Jonathan Toews?

By Justin Klawans
Jonathan Toews #19, Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Jonathan Toews #19, Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Blackhawks will look to vastly improve their record next season, and it looks like they’ll have one of the team’s mainstays back to help them.

Chicago Blackhawks fans rejoiced when team captain Jonathan Toews announced that he was back on the ice practicing after a year-long illness. If all continues to go well, the captain will hopefully be back in the starting lineup for the 2021-22 season.

What will this mean, though, for the team’s center position? We already talked about the blue line, today let’s dive into the centerman position. How will the Blackhawks shape up down the middle with their leader back on the roster? After all, despite all of Chicago’s shortcomings the past few seasons, down the middle is the one area where they seem to have a lot of depth. The team currently has nine players whose position is listed as center first.

Now, there are a few guys whose contracts are expiring. However, for the sake of argument, I’m going to assume that the team is able to re-sign both Pius Suter and David Kämpf. Another player to consider is Dylan Strome. While Strome has certainly had his ups and downs with the team, let’s also assume that Chicago doesn’t trade him during the offseason.

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In addition, the Blackhawks also have younger potential at center, and new faces like Henrik Borgström could get some decent ice time next season. With all of these being said, what will the team look like next year with Jonathan Toews back?

It’s probably likely that Toews will be centering a line with Patrick Kane for at least some period of time. However, while these two are considered the face of the franchise, Kane and Toews don’t typically play on a line together for an entire season. After all, you don’t want one line to be too top-heavy with talent. This past year ended with Suter centering the first line next to Kane. Behind Suter were Kurashev, Kämpf and Entwistle to round out the center core.

I think it’s likely that Entwistle will go back to the Rockford Icehogs at some point, so let’s assume that Toews will slot into either the first or second line. It’s also possible that Strome could see some time in the middle as well. While he played on the wing for the majority of this season, Strome is a natural center, so it’s possible that he will move into this position for a period.

If I had to guess the center depth chart for next season, it would probably look something like this, assuming that no giant changes are made to the team’s roster:

Jonathan Toews/Dylan Strome

Pius Suter

Philipp Kurashev

David Kämpf/Henrik Borgström

As I said before, I’d be surprised if Henrik Borgström doesn’t make his Blackhawks debut next year, so it’s very possible that he’ll slot into either the third or fourth line at some point. All in all, while the team still has a ways to go in order to get back to their winning ways, it’s nice to see that there is at least some hope up the middle.

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Plus, if nothing else, it’s great to hear that we can look forward to having the captain back at the United Center sooner rather than later. The team just didn’t feel the same to me this year without Johnny, and I’m eager to see number 19 hit the ice again.

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