The timing of a return to competition for the Chicago Blackhawks is unknown, said general manager Stan Bowman, but it will rely heavily on developing prospects.
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Although defender Adam Boqvist and forwards Kirby Dach and Matthew Highmore are the three players who will be in the spotlight this season, the Blackhawks are also counting on contributions from Philipp Kurashev, Pius Suter and Ian Mitchell.
“We saw that last year with the young players, they all had flashes of really good play,” Bowman said. “Now you have to figure out, can you do it night to night? That’s what separates talented players from the players we remember and talk about. These guys are able to do it even when they’re in the middle of the other team. ”
The Blackhawks (32-30-8, .514 percentage points) finished last in the Central Division last season and were the 12th seed in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They defeated the No.5 seed Edmonton Oilers in four games in the best of 5 qualifying playoffs and lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in five games in the best of 7 in the first round of the conference. the west.
Chicago hasn’t made it past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since winning in 2015, its third championship in six seasons. He did not qualify for the playoffs in 2018 or 2019.
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The Blackhawks believe the remaining core of those glory years, led by forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, their top scorer for five consecutive seasons, can pave the way for young players.
“Jonathan, Patrick, not only did they start well and garner a lot of attention, but they were able to build on it and have a consistent impact on the game,” Bowman said. “This is where some of our young players, they haven’t figured it out yet. How do I do it, not just in flash, but can I do it when I’m getting more attention, when I’m the guy on the other team focused on?
“They lived that life not too long ago, where they went from being a sexy young player to being the other team’s focus, and it’s not easy. You get the attention of the best players on the other team. you and more difficult clashes. So I think they can explain to these young players that there are going to be some ups and downs and you have to try to find your way. ”
Heading into this season, set to begin Jan. 1, 2021, Chicago’s average age on its active roster is 25.8, the second youngest in the NHL after the New York Rangers (25.4 ). Blackhawks traded 28-year-old forward Brandon Saad at the Colorado Avalanche on October 10, a day later Corey Crawford accepted a two-year contract with the New Jersey Devils. The 35-year-old was the starting goalie at the 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup Championships.
Dach was the third pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. The 19-year-old scored 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 64 regular season games last season and six points (one goal, five assists) in six playoff games. Highmore was signed as an undrafted free agent on March 2, 2017. The 24-year-old has six points (two goals, four assists) in 36 regular season games and four points (three goals, one assist) in nine playoff games. Boqvist has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 41 regular season games and zero points in eight playoff games. The 20-year-old was Chicago’s (8th) first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.
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The Blackhawks will also be looking at newcomers, including Kurashev, Suter, and Mitchell. Kurashev, a 21-year-old forward, scored 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 36 games for Rockford of the American Hockey League last season. Suter, a 24-year-old forward, signed a one-year contract as an undrafted free agent on July 16, 2020. He was the most valuable player in Switzerland’s top professional league after leading the National League A with 30 goals and 53 points in 50 games played for ZSC. Mitchell, a 21-year-old defenseman, scored 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists) in 36 games as a junior for the University of Denver.
Chicago plans to use a warden committee with Malcolm Subban, 26; Collin Delia, 26 years old; and Kevin Lankinen, 25. Subban has the most experience with 66 games in the NHL.
Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton has said there will be adversity for young players, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“When they succeed, they will be stronger, they will be better, they will be better prepared,” Colliton said Tuesday. “It’s another thing that we’re trying to communicate better with the media and the fans, it’s going to go from top to bottom. Sometimes a player will play 20 minutes, sometimes they will play eight, sometimes they will not play. It’s part of their learning curve and it will make them better in the end and it will make our team better on the road. ”