The Chicago Blackhawks are going through changes. The club was swept out of the playoffs by the Nashville Predators in the first round last season and that wasn’t going to stand. Chicago made two big trades in late June just ahead of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Niklas Hjalmarsson was traded to the Coyotes for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin, while Artemi Panarin was traded to the Blue Jackets as part of a package that sent Brandon Saad back to the Blackhawks.
In part, the trades were made because Chicago was looking to mitigate costs. The Blackhawks were in tough with contracts to Panarin and Hjalmarsson and adjustments were made. Youth was also a factor, with Murphy six years younger than Hjalmarsson. And Saad has experience in the Windy City already, providing yet another reason Stan Bowman pulled the trigger.
Jonathan Toews can skate alongside any forward and the Blackhawks are hoping to package him up once more with Saad. That’ll be a good thing, especially considering Marian Hossa’s absence for the entire season. Toews put up 58 points in 72 games in 2016-2017 and collected 17 points on the power play. He had two points in four playoff games against Nashville.
Patrick Kane is still Chicago’s most electric scorer. He notched 89 points last season, including 34 goals, and clocked 292 shots on goal. He’ll miss Panarin and that could cause his numbers to drop a little, but it could also cause him to renew his motivation to the team. The 28-year-old should light up the charts once more and is a safe bet for any fantasy league.
Saad could enjoy a very good year if he reconnects with Toews. The 24-year-old is coming off two seasons in Columbus and put up 53 points each year. He could be up for more in Chicago, especially as he sees time on the man advantage. The Pittsburgh native had 210 shots on goal last season and should find more in 2017-2018.
Richard Panik saw time with Toews in 2016-2017 and that was all he needed to prove himself. He posted 44 points in 82 games, including 22 goals, and averaged 14:44 of ice time a contest. That’s easily his best season to date, as he dwarfed every other year of his career. If he finds more time with Toews in 2017-2018, look out.
Duncan Keith keeps on doing it for the Blackhawks. The 34-year-old put up 53 points in 2016-2017, marking his eight consecutive full season in which he posted at least 40 points. He averaged 25:37 of ice time in the regular season and is one of the most statistically dominant blueliners in the NHL. He drives the attack, skates like a beast, plays in all situations, and is one of the best thinkers in the game.
Brent Seabrook had a lower shooting percentage in 2016-2017 than he’s used to, but he’s still the second best defenceman on the Blackhawks. The Richmond native has a dozen years of NHL experience and had 39 points last season, including three goals. He averaged 21:53 of ice time and plays a no-frills game in his own end that limits mistakes.
Murphy is a good pickup for the Blackhawks. He had 17 points in 77 games last season, including two goals and he averaged 19:10 of ice time a contest. He won’t find twine often, but Chicago likes the size and skating ability of this dude. At 6’4, 212 pounds, they’re hoping to use him in a shutdown role and definitely plan on making hay out of his ability to rattle the opposition.
Corey Crawford has found himself inside the top 10 in wins, goals against average and save percentage since the 2010-2011 season. He is one of the most consistent goaltenders in the NHL and always gives his team a chance to win. He went 32-18-4 last season, with a .918 save percentage. His digits took a dip in the post-season, but he’ll bounce back for 2017-2018. Bet on it.
Swedish netminder Anton Forsberg is the backup for Chicago right now. Drafted by Columbus in 2011, he’s seen sporadic action in the NHL and has played for MODO. The Blackhawks brought him aboard in the Panarin trade. They like his frame and his capacity for challenging shooters.