Why it's a perfect time for Blackhawks to give Collin Delia a strong look


Why it's a perfect time for Blackhawks to give Collin Delia a strong look

When Corey Crawford missed the second half of last season with a concussion, the Blackhawks found themselves scrambling trying to salvage a playoff push. They used five goaltenders down the stretch, one of which was 36-year-old accountant Scott Foster in an emergency situation.

They're in a much better position this time around, with Cam Ward signing a one-year deal this past summer as a backup but also insurance for this very reason. The Blackhawks also called up Collin Delia to help divide the load as Crawford recovers.

But as the Blackhawks hover near the basement of the Western Conference, it wouldn't be the worst idea to give Delia the majority of the starts going forward because they need to start preparing for life without Crawford — whenever that comes. Crawford turns 34 on Dec. 31 and has one more year on his contract after this season.

Delia, 24, was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Blackhawks in July of 2017, and has quickly worked his way up the ladder. He made a name for himself during last year's Conference Final run in the Calder Cup Playoffs for the IceHogs, which proved that he can perform in big-time moments.

“The adversity that I went through last season, starting in the ECHL and working my way up, it’s a huge character-building moment for me,” Delia said. “I had to see where my game was at, see if this was something that I could take to the next level. I think I kind of proved to myself and my teammates, coaches, staff, that I have the capabilities.”

Delia leads the American Hockey League with a .933 save percentage and ranks third with a 2.34 goals against average in 17 appearances this season, picking up right where he left off last year.

While he’s been splitting time with Anton Forsberg, Delia is doing his part when he’s in net and is building a larger body of work that he can build upon. But it's also giving the Blackhawks something to think about.

“He had a great season,” Colliton said. “He came a long way in a short time. Very important, high-pressure games in the spring and he did a great job. He's kind of picked up where he's left off down in Rockford. Excited to get him here of course. The circumstances are less than ideal, but a lot of times that's when guys break through. They get opportunity through circumstances that are sometimes negative. It's an opportunity for him."

One of the most important goaltending stats, as Delia notes, is games played. The more pucks you see and the more situations you're in, the better for your development.

Considering he has been one of the top AHL performers for a full calendar year now, it's a perfect time for the Blackhawks to give Delia a strong look in the NHL and start building his body of work in the big leagues.

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Blackhawks acquire Olli Maatta, send Dominik Kahun to Penguins

Blackhawks acquire Olli Maatta, send Dominik Kahun to Penguins

One of the Blackhawks’ priorities this summer is to add pieces that will help shore up the defensive part of their game after they gave up the second-most goals in the NHL last season. And they didn’t waste much time doing it.

Less than a week before the 2019 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks announced Saturday that they have acquired defenseman Olli Maatta from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forward Dominik Kahun and a 2019 fifth-round pick.

Maatta is 24 years old, carries a left-handed shot and is a two-time Stanley Cup champion. But he battled injuries last season and fell out of favor in Pittsburgh, where he was a healthy scratch for three games in the first round of the playoffs.

The Blackhawks are hoping a fresh start could help Maatta find his game again, and do it in a place that may better utilize his skill-set. Where he could help is in the defensive part. 

According to The Point, Maatta ranked 9th among defensemen in blocked shots per game (2.05), 26th in defensive zone puck battles won (2.45), 40th in blocked defense zone passes (3.77) and 47th in outlet passes (8.95). 

Maatta, who was taken in the first round (No. 22 overall) in 2012, had 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 60 games last season. His best year came in 2017-18 when he tallied 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) in 82 games. He has three years remaining on his deal that carries a $4.083 million cap hit.

It’s worth noting that when Maatta signing his extension with Pittsburgh on Feb. 26, 2016, the contract included a modified no-trade clause in his final two years, according to Cap Friendly. The Blackhawks will have the option to either honor that clause or nullify it.

The Blackhawks are expected to have some heavy competition among the forwards at training camp with the signings of Dominik Kubalik and Anton Wedin. That likely made Kahun expendable despite a rookie season in which he compiled 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) in 82 games.

2019 NHL Draft Profile: RW Kaapo Kakko

2019 NHL Draft Profile: RW Kaapo Kakko

From June 10-20, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile one top prospect per day — 11 total — leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft as the Blackhawks prepare to pick third overall.

Kaapo Kakko

Position: Right wing
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 194 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report from The Draft Analyst's Steve Kournianos:

"Multi-tooled winger with size and coordination who incorporates his impressive puck skills with a desirable physical package that consistently exhausts opponents. Blessed with incredibly soft hands and tight-quarter quickness, Kakko is a reliable stickhandler who uses timing plays to either get open or create space for his linemates.”

NHL player comparable: Mikko Rantanen

Fit for Blackhawks:

Alright, let’s get this out of the way with: Kakko isn’t going to be on the board when the Blackhawks pick at No. 3. He’s expected to be taken second overall by the New York Rangers.

But, hypothetically, if he did slip, Kakko is probably one of two players in this draft class who could step onto an NHL roster today and make an immediate impact. He’s that good, and we saw it at the 2019 IIHF World Championship when he scored six goals to lead Finland to a gold medal. 

Kakko would give the Blackhawks a dynamic winger on the right side to go along with Patrick Kane, meaning they wouldn't have to worry about their top-six right wingers for many years to come. You shouldn't draft a winger this high unless he's as close to a sure-fire prospect as they come, and Kakko would qualify.

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