Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks back at it against Stars


Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks back at it against Stars

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Dallas Stars tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. How will Blackhawks respond without Corey Crawford?

In a surprising turn of events, the Blackhawks placed Crawford on injured reserve Friday after he apparently suffered an injury during Thursday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars. He's 11-7-2 with a 2.29 goals against average, .930 save percentage and two shutouts in 21 appearances this season, and is certainly among the goaltenders in the early running for the Vezina Trophy, so it's a major blow that comes at a time where the Blackhawks were starting to roll.

The most difficult part to swallow is, despite Crawford's play, the Blackhawks still find themselves barely outside the playoff picture. They don't have much margin for error, so it will be interesting to see how the Blackhawks respond without arguably their most important player for at least one week.

Jean-Francois Berube was recalled to serve as the backup while Anton Forsberg takes over as the starter for the time being.

2. Can Alex DeBrincat carry over hot November into December?

History was made last month when DeBrincat scored the most goals (10) in a month in Blackhawks history, previously set by Murray Belfour (January 1960), Darryl Sutter (February 1981) and Steve Larmer (December 1982) with nine. He compiled 14 points in 13 games after recording just one goal and four assists in 12 games in October. 

DeBrincat ranks fourth among all rookies with 19 points, trailing only Brock Boeser (25), Mathew Barzal (24) and Clayton Keller (21). Can the 19-year-old winger keep it up into December?

3. Bounce back game for power play?

The Blackhawks tied a season-high with seven power-play opportunities in Thursday's matchup against Dallas, but converted on just one of those. And it was the difference in the game.

With Crawford out, as mentioned above, the Blackhawks need to step up in other areas and the power play is the most notably one. They'll need to take advantage of every chance they can get.

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Adam Boqvist

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 168 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Boqvist is a finesse defenseman who is very skilled, possesses excellent vision and tons of talent. He is fun to watch and full of surprises on the ice. He often plays bigger than his size and skated in his first games with Sweden's Senior National Team in April."

NHL player comparable: Erik Karlsson

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would love to have Karlsson, who is probably being traded out of Ottawa this summer. Every team would love to have him. But that's not realistic for Chicago. So what if they drafted his potential mini me?

Boqvist is electric with the puck and has drawn comparisons to the Swedish defenseman as a best-case scenario.

There are two concerns, though. One is that he may need some time to develop at just 17 years old and his defense a work in progress. The second is that he's sustained head injuries over the course of his young career, which adds a little bit of risk to the equation.

If he can stay healthy and his development isn't rushed, there's major upside here. But are the Blackhawks willing to be patient? We're not so sure.

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?


Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

Here's an interesting development as we approach the NHL Draft: Artemi Panarin has informed the Blue Jackets that he's not ready to consider an extension "at this time" and because of that, Columbus is testing the market for the Russian winger, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen responded to the report shortly after in a statement released by the team:

"Artemi is an elite National Hockey League player. Our position has been that we want him to be a Blue Jacket for many years and that has not changed. He has a year left on his contract, so there is plenty of time to work towards that end. Should anything change moving forward, we will address it at that time and any decision we make will be in the best interest of our club.”

Ironically, Panarin was traded to Columbus on the afternoon of last year's draft as part of a blockbuster package that sent Brandon Saad back to Chicago. It shook up the hockey world, and has the potential to do so again.

Panarin is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, but is free to sign an extension with Columbus on July 1. Clearly, that doesn't seem to be in the cards right now and it's why the Blue Jackets have to put out feelers. They can't risk losing him for nothing.

On the flip side, Panarin has every right to test the open market. He has one year left on his contract that carries a $6 million cap hit. He's due for a hefty raise, will be 27 years old next summer — the prime of his hockey career — and will certainly be looking for a long-term deal after accepting a bridge contract with the Blackhawks.

Speaking of whom, should his former team explore bringing him back to Chicago now that he's on the market?

Every general manager should and will do their due diligence and call for an asking price, Stan Bowman included. Those conversations might start with Alex DeBrincat or Nick Schmaltz, and if that's the case, you say thanks but no thanks and move on. 

The Blackhawks have the Nos. 8 and 27 picks in this year's draft as possible ammunition, but the Blue Jackets are ready to take that next step. They were up 2-0 in their first-round series before losing four straight to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. It's unlikely they'd be looking to center a potential deal around draft picks. 

The only way you even consider it from the Blackhawks perspective is if Panarin is guaranteed to sign a long-term extension at a price you're comfortable with, but that's one of the main reasons why they traded him in the first place. 

To cap it all off, trading for Panarin wouldn't even address the Blackhawks' biggest need and that's a Top 4 defenseman. Those don't grow on trees. The Blackhawks will have the cap space to sign a player like James van Riemsdyk to patch up their top 6. You can't say the same for the free-agent blue line group.

So while it may certainly be fun for Blackhawks fans to come up with possible trade scenarios to get Panarin back in an Indianhead sweater, it just doesn't make great sense for a variety of reasons.