Blackhawks

Five Questions facing the Blackhawks as regular season begins

Five Questions facing the Blackhawks as regular season begins

The Blackhawks wrapped up their preseason schedule on Saturday night, a youngster-laden lineup falling 2-1 to the St. Louis Blues. The regular season is just about upon us.

But before they open against the Blues again on Wednesday, the Blackhawks have some tough decisions to make. Who stays? Who goes? And once decisions are made, how do things line up (and pair up) heading into Wednesday?

Coach Joel Quenneville told traveling media prior to Saturday’s game that the final roster should be set by Monday; all NHL team rosters must be finalized by 4 p.m. CT on Tuesday. So since it looks like we have a couple of hours before we know the Blackhawks’ answers, let’s look at Five Questions heading into the season opener.

1. Which prospect will make an impact first? Tyler Motte looks like he’s ready for this show. The forward has been great throughout camp, be it 5-on-5 or on the penalty kill. He had plenty of work on the latter while at the University of Michigan, and it shows. Working with Marcus Kruger on the kill doesn’t hurt, either. Where Motte fits in the lineup is a guess right now – the Blackhawks left most of their veterans at home for their preseason finale on Saturday. We should get our first look on Monday, when the Blackhawks return to practice. But in preseason games, wherever he was put in the lineup, Motte played well. Several prospects had good camps, but Motte stood out from the start.

2. Will Alexandre Fortin stay with the Blackhawks this season? You wouldn’t have thought so when the 19-year-old first signed his three-year contract at the start of September, and that’s not a knock on him. Teams just have to think long and hard about burning the first year of a player’s entry-level deal. But as Fortin’s camp has progressed, the Blackhawks’ high opinion of him has grown. Asked earlier this week if the Blackhawks could exercise the 10-game option with Fortin coach Joel Quenneville said, “yes, we could.” Let’s see how this one plays out. As previously written, Brandon Saad wowed out of camp in 2011, was so-so in his first two regular-season games and then was sent back to Saginaw. If Fortin is a big help immediately, he stays. If not, Fortin goes back to his junior team after a few games. Either way, it’s a pretty nice “dilemma” to have.

3. Will World Cup end up being beneficial for those who played in it? The Blackhawks had a slew of guys playing in that tournament, the last of them (Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Corey Crawford) returning late last week. Of the three, Crawford is the only one who saw any preseason games with the Blackhawks – he practiced plenty but only played one-and-a-half games with Team Canada. In terms of preparation, the World Cup should be the best training camp those players had. That includes defenseman Michal Kempny, who got his first big taste of hockey on smaller ice. Great competition and playing games that meant something in September are two benefits for players coming off a rare long offseason.

4. Is Duncan Keith good to go? Keith was disappointed to skip World Cup to make sure his surgically repaired right knee was ready for the season, but it’s looking like he made the right choice. Keeping Keith off the ice, especially early, was probably a tough task for the Blackhawks’ coaches – hurt, healthy, he wants to be out there. But it was the best move for Keith, who looked good in the one preseason game he played last week. Will there be a little rust? Possibly. But in terms of health, Keith said following last Tuesday’s game, “I’m happy the way it is, I’m excited the way it’s been [going], and I think it will be good going forward.”

5. How long will Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin stay apart? As long as the Panarin-Jonathan Toews combination works. The first time that top line struggles, or the Blackhawks aren’t getting what they want out of this balanced lineup, the familiar second line will be back together again. You’ll also see that trio (Kane, Panarin and Artem Anisimov) together on the power play, so the combination won’t completely go away. Again, breaking Kane and Panarin up was not a popular choice; the two clicked beautifully. If the Blackhawks sputter, they’ll be reunited.

Hawks Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with Blackhawks No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach

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AP

Hawks Talk Podcast: 1-on-1 with Blackhawks No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach

After being introduced to the media, Blackhawks third-overall pick Kirby Dach sits down with Charlie Roumeliotis to talk about what it's like to join the historic Original Six franchise, why he wears the number 77 and how he plans on breaking camp in the NHL this fall.

0:35 – Kirby Dach joins the podcast

0:55 – Dach on the history of the Blackhawks

1:25 – His conversations with Kane and Toews

1:40 – The whirlwind after the draft process

2:10 – His meetings with the Blackhawks at the combine

2:50 – What draft day was like

3:23 – On his competitive nature

3:40 – How much hockey does he watch?

4:20 – How his game translates to playoff hockey

4:50 – Why he wears No. 77

5:10 – Will he wear 77 in the NHL?

5:30 – His offseason plans

6:10 – His goal of making the NHL right away

6:25 – Winning the Cup would be…

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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'Winning to me is everything': Kirby Dach wants to play big role in helping Blackhawks win more Stanley Cups

'Winning to me is everything': Kirby Dach wants to play big role in helping Blackhawks win more Stanley Cups

Three days after he became the sixth player in franchise history to be taken third overall, the Blackhawks welcomed Kirby Dach to Chicago on Monday for the first time to show him around his new organization. He was given a tour of Fifth Third Arena, the Blackhawks locker room and plans to explore the city over the next few days.

"It's been crazy," Dach said of the last 72 hours. "After hearing my name called, I didn't hear anything or remember anything. I had to watch the video over a couple times to remember what happened, I kind of just blacked out in the moment and enjoyed it. I flew home two days ago and flew here [Sunday] and it's been awesome. The facility here is first class and I can't wait to get started in a couple weeks in [development] camp."

It's an exciting day for the organization and the city of Chicago because the Blackhawks are adding an elite prospect during a time where they're retooling for a chance to win another Stanley Cup.

"This is an important day for us for a couple reasons," GM Stan Bowman said. "I've had a chance to get to know Kirby over the last few months and I think as you guys get a chance to talk to him and hear from him, you're going to find out that he's really committed to being the best he can be and to making the Blackhawks an elite team.

"The other thing is we talk about what makes a player important in today's NHL. People say you've got to have a high skill level and being able to create offense is important. Other people are going to say you look at the way the playoffs were played and skill's great but you've got to have size and competitiveness. So that's the more important attribute. When you look at the game that Kirby brings to Chicago, he's got a little bit of everything. He's got the skill to play with the high-skill players. He can make plays that can wow you. He's also got the competitiveness to show that he wants it more than anyone else. I think we've got a special player here and as you'll see we're excited for what's to come."

Dach, who's a 6-foot-4, 198-pound center, is the kind of player you build around and he's already joining a group that features three-time Stanley Cup champions Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews. He already received phone calls from Kane and Toews welcoming him to the franchise.

"Growing up as a kid in Canada, you're always watching hockey," Dach said. "And when they were winning Stanley Cups all the time in Chicago here — with the three in the six years — Toews and Kane, Keith and Seabrook, were a big part of that. And to be in a dressing room with those guys now is pretty surreal, and those are the moments you dream of as a kid. To have it come true, you have to take a step back and realize that."

While he may have looked up to them as a kid, Dach is now part of the group and wants to play a large role on a team that wins not just one more championship but several.

"Winning to me is everything," Dach said. "There's a saying, 'You gotta hate to lose before you like to win.' And I hate to lose so anything I do I always have to win no matter what it is. It's something that drives me and the ultimate goal in hockey is to win the Stanley Cup and I'm going to work as hard as I can and push myself to every limit to get there because that's what I want to do.

"Obviously Chicago's had a couple runs here in the past where they've been able to do that and I want to be a part of those runs and be a key member of those teams."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.