A lot of fuss had been made about Oilers forwards Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, the NHL's top two leaders in points at the time of the NHL pause, as well as the veteran experience of the Blackhawks' core group when it comes to the play-in series matchup between the two teams under NHL's 24-team playoff format.
On a Zoom video conference call with the media on Thursday, Hawks head coach Jeremy Colliton made a case for why Chicago's younger players could be the X factor for the series.
"With the layoff, I think it benefits us. We have some older guys, but I'd say overall we're a young team," Colliton said. "I think that's something that gets lost in the shuffle sometimes. I think we led the league in . . . the guys who played 20-plus games in the league, we had eight guys in entry level who played 20-plus games, seven guys who played 35-plus, five of our top-ten scorers were on entry level deals.
"We're a young group and a lot of guys got a lot of opportunity this year and they developed as the season went on. They're going to be a few months older now and they've had a chance to kind of settle into their year and reflect on it and I think they're going to come back with even more motivation and [determination] to take that next step in their development and that's only going to help our team.
"This experience to play in these types of games, I think it's a huge benefit to our group in speeding up the process to getting back to being the team we want to be. Having so many guys get experience this year and opportunities, I think it's going to help us this summer."