Blackhawks

Blackhawks’ depth could be key as roster becomes clearer

Blackhawks’ depth could be key as roster becomes clearer

Jeremy Colliton has tried to dismiss any notion that forward lines in preseason games or practice groups in training camp give any indication as to what the Blackhawks might look like come October 4 in Prague. But with only two preseason games remaining – one of which could very well be the Rockford IceHogs against the Boston Bruins – it would be quite a shock to see the lines shuffled much before the team heads overseas.

“To me, it’s becoming more clear what our lineup is going to look like,” Colliton said after a 3-2 overtime win over an abbreviated Bruins squad on Saturday. “I think we’re getting what we want out of training camp here.”

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews look like a safe bet to once again start the season on the top line, with Alexander Nylander getting the first look on the left wing. On the second line, the combination of Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat look like they will have Andrew Shaw pestering opponents and opening up some ice for them.

Where the Blackhawks hope to see a major improvement is in the bottom six, where the team struggled to generate offense last season. Stan Bowman’s additions this summer seem to have the Blackhawks in much better position to not have to rely so heavily on their top two lines or top power play unit.

The third line looks fairly set with Brandon Saad on the left wing and Dominik Kubalik on the right wing. David Kampf looks like the favorite to center that line, but the Blackhawks did give Anton Wedin a look there against the Bruins, and he delivered a primary assist on Saad’s goal.

“I think he plays with a lot of energy and he’s a conscientious player. I think he works hard. Both sides of the puck, he’s got a little bit of skill. He’s a strong skater,” Colliton said of Wedin. “I thought he did well, I liked that line. I thought Saad was excellent.”

The fourth line of Drake Caggiula, Ryan Carpenter and Zack Smith earned high praise as well.

“I thought that Carpenter line with Smith and Caggiula was really good, really effective for us,” Kane said. “I think that’s something we might have been missing a little bit last year. Good to see them going, seems like that could be a fun line to watch.”

When the Blackhawks’ season ended this past April, Colliton said he wanted to rely less on Kane and use his star in a more “targeted” way. If the third and fourth lines can generate some scoring, or at the very least some offensive zone time, it could go a long way in getting the Blackhawks into a position to confidently roll four lines.

“We have so much more depth, definitely. There’s no question,” Colliton said. “To have the opportunity to move guys up at times, they should be fresh and ready to make a difference further up the lineup. We have competition, which I think is a good formula for us.”

So, while Colliton may try to play coy on forward lines and defense pairings, Kane has much less to hide.

“That was pretty much our lineup, or close to our lineup, so we’re trying to identify the way we want to play,” Kane said. “Obviously, I think we had some spurts tonight where we did that well and some other times where we struggled a little bit. It’s early in the season, we’re still trying to figure it out.”

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Blackhawks' Alex Nylander and brother William providing meals for essential workers

Blackhawks' Alex Nylander and brother William providing meals for essential workers

During this time of a global pandemic where healthcare workers risk their well-being to keep us safe, and essential works do the same to keep business operating, many teams and athletes have stepped up to do their part and assist their local heroes. Count the Nylander brothers, Alex of the Blackhawks and William of the Maple Leafs, as the latest to chip in for the cause.

Alex and William have partnered up with local restaurants of Stockholm and Toronto to help feed frontline workers and those in need.



“We have partnered with some of our favorite restaurants so that healthy meals can be prepared and delivered to frontline heroes and others in need,” said William. “In Chicago, we are supporting local food banks," added Alex.

As Alex and William both prepare for the NHL’s postseason, the brothers hope to continue to provide and deliver meals to frontline workers and those in need while bringing awareness to COVID-19 in the process.

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Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan skating in Ottawa a positive sign for Hawks

Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan skating in Ottawa a positive sign for Hawks

The NHL has yet to formally enter Phase 2 of their Return To Play protocol, where players can take part in voluntary practices and workouts in small groups at team facilities, but with gradual reopenings across North America, players are slowly ramping up on-ice activities if rinks are allowing them to. 

One of the players that could give the Blackhawks a boost in the 24-team format is Calvin de Haan, who has returned to on-ice activity in Ottawa.

 

de Haan is a native of Carp, Ontario, just outside of Ottawa, and took to the ice just a couple days after the NHL announced its Return To Play plan officially. The 29-year old defenseman was placed on long-term injured reserve after sustaining another shoulder injury in December, forcing him to miss the remainder of the regular season. 



de Haan skated along with Islanders forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Ceci and Riley Brace, who plays professionally in Switzerland. Earlier in the day, Flyers star Claude Giroux also took the ice at the Minto Skating Centre in Ottawa. 

Related: What Blackhawks' roster could look like vs. Oilers

The NHL hopes to officially enter Phase 2 in early June while reports say the NHL will not begin Phase 3 of the Return To Play plan until at least July 10.

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