The 2019-20 Chicago Blackhawks are going to be an interesting team. They have made six trades and two July 1st signings this year. That totals eight transactions in roughly a month. With some other minor trades, the draft and re-signings throughout the year this team looks a lot different.
So with all these new players added, here are my line projections of the 2019-20 Chicago Blackhawks. (Quick disclaimer this article is entirely my take/opinion).
Let"s start off with the obvious, where in the world is Brendan Perlini? I personally don"t see a place for him on this team. For sometime, last season, he found himself in coach Jeremy Colliton‘s doghouse. I expect Perlini to get traded, potentially as a sign and trade. (I could also see Kirby Dach getting a look to begin with)
This line starts off with Caggiula, Toews, and Kane. Caggiula is a workhorse. He creates space for his teammates and has some offensive upside, scoring five goals and assisting on seven others in 26 games with the Hawks. Toews had a rebound last season offensively (35 goals and 81 points) and is still great defensively. Kane recorded his best season offensively scoring 44 goals and recording 110 points. This line worked last year and I expect coach Colliton to stick with it.
The second line is a very interesting line. DeBrincat and Strome had great chemistry last year, but it"s still to be seen if they can do it for a full year. The biggest wildcard is winger, Alexander Nylander. Nylander was acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres, which involved Henri Jokiharju.
DeBrincat is a pure sniper who scored 41 goals and recorded 76 points. Strome is a big-bodied playmaker and just fit great next to DeBrincat. He ended the season with the Blackhawks. He had 17 goals and 34 assists in 58 games with the BlackHawks. Nylander, while with the Rochester Americans of the AHL, recorded 12 goals and a total of 31 points in 49 games last year. He"s been described as an offensive forward but has a lack of work ethic. I"d like to see how this line produces, and if they do well keep them together, if not, take Nylander off of it and replace him with Saad.
The third line might be one of my favorite lines. This line provides a rare combination of offense, grit, and defense.
On the left-wing, you have Dominik Kubalik. He looks to make an impact this year after he led the NLA (Switzerland"s highest hockey league) in points with 57 in 50 games. He was also tied for fourth in points at the World Championships with 12. He should bring a scoring touch to that line. Next is forward Andrew Shaw. He was brought back this offseason in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens. He is a gritty forward who still provides a good offensive game. Shaw recorded 19 goals and totaled 47 points in 63 games! Finally, is Brandon Saad. He has been very unlucky. From 2017-2019, he has had an ixGF (individual expected goals for) of 51.86 and he has only put up 41 goals. He"s a great two-way winger and he just needs to be more consistent.
This line should produce but, if other lines can"t get going I could see all of these guys being moved up and/or down the lineup.
This fourth line is a combination of players that coach Colliton seems to love. They all are versatile, possess good size and play good defense.
The left-wing spot would be held by Zack Smith. He is a physical two-way forward. He can play both center and wing but has said himself that he prefers wing over center. Last season he recorded nine goals and 28 points while also recording 81 penalty minutes. Something to also mention is that he served as the alternate captain last season.
I currently have David Kampf occupying the fourth line center role. He"s a strong two-way center. Kampf isn"t flashy but he"s very solid! He scored four goals and 19 points in 63 games. Last season, he also had a stint on the second line and coach Colliton seemed to love him at that spot. Kampf very well could be the third line center, but I see him as an ideal fourth liner.
Finally, we have Ryan Carpenter. He is also a very versatile player. According to Corsica from 2017-2019, he had an xGF% (expected goals for) of 54.76 which is really good. He also put up five goals and 18 points in 63 games last season.
This line won"t produce tons of offense, but it could be that shutdown fourth line the Blackhawks have been lacking since their last cup in 2015. Also, let"s not forget healthy scratch, Anton Wedin. He is a speedy two-way forward, not to forget he"s also very versatile. Last season in the SHL, Wedin put up 27 points in 32 games.
Much like the first line on the offense, coach Colliton sticks with the most consistent first pairing. On the left, you have veteran Duncan Keith. He might be 36 years old, but he is still a reliable two-way defenseman. Last year, he spent most of his time on the first pair. He can still put up points as he had six goals and 40 points last season in all 82 games. Keith can also cover his partner"s defensive deficiencies.
On the right is offensive dynamo Erik Gustafsson. He put up a monster 17 goals and 60 points last year, which both ranked top ten for defenseman last year. I"d expect him to take a step back, but not by much. He"s also a power-play quarterback. If he can improve upon his defensive game he could be a good third defenseman.
If this pair gets better defensively and remain strong offensively this pair could be our first pair for the whole season, barring no injuries. They should average about 20 minutes per game.
The second pairing starts off with newcomer, Olli Määttä, on the left. Määttä is a 24-year-old left-handed defenseman. He recorded a goal and 13 assists for the Pittsburg Penguins last season. He is a reliable two-way defenseman with a high hockey IQ. If he can improve upon his skating he should be very effective in this second pair role.
Next to, Määttä, is a right-handed defenseman, Connor Murphy. He was arguably the Blackhawks" best defensive defenseman last year. He didn"t allow many odd-man rushes and was just great all together defensively. He also recorded five goals and eight assists in 52 NHL games. Murphy should continue to progress this year.
This pair could provide some offense, but ideally, our second pair is the shutdown pairing. I"d imagine this pair sticks for most of the year unless a trade is made or some injuries occur.
Finally, you have the third pairing. Recently acquired defenseman, Calvin de Haan, will be on the left in my line projections. He"s a lockdown defenseman, and he might be the best one this team has had since Niklas Hjalmarsson. You don"t notice him in a good way as he seldom makes mistakes. de Haan, unlike Hjalmarsson, also possesses some offensive abilities. In 74 games with the Carolina Hurricanes last season, he recorded a goal and 13 assists.
On the right, you have veteran defenseman, Brent Seabrook. Over the past few seasons, he has struggled to keep up with the everchanging pace of the NHL. While speed has always been a weak point in Seabrook"s game it has shown even more with age. He"s been on the decline since he signed his last contract in 2015. With that said his play has been highlighted by that contract and it shouldn"t be. He isn"t bad, but he isn"t great anymore either. He still possesses that strong shot, can lay the body and block shots. Most of all, he"s a presence in that locker room and has won three Stanley Cups! Last season, he recorded five goals and 23 assists in 78 games.
This pairing could be really good, and while it may be slow it can still be very effective. They can block shots, play defense and provide offense.
Let"s not forget Slater Koekkoek either. I have him projected as the seventh defenseman on this team. While Carl Dahlstrom and/or Adam Boqvist could fill that role as that seventh defenseman I think sometime in the minors would do them well. Koekkoek is a tall defenseman who owns some offensive skills. He also is a very well-rounded defenseman.
Power Play Units:
Dylan Strome – Jonathan Toews – Patrick Kane
Alex DeBrincat – Erik Gustafsson
The first unit is self-explanatory. This unit carried our team from around mid-December to mid-February. The line has great chemistry and they make magical plays. Dylan Strome is a big-bodied playmaker and can just make plays from anywhere. The same goes for Kane on the opposite wing. Jonathan Toews sits in front of the net and creates traffic. Finally, on the defense, you have Alex DeBrincat and Erik Gustafsson. DeBrincat, as mentioned before, is an insane sniper. He also has insane chemistry with Dylan Strome. Gustafsson is just that true power play quarterback. He can score, make plays and is very flashy. This line should continue to cause panic among opposing teams penalty kill.
Alexander Nylander – Andrew Shaw – Brandon Saad
Duncan Keith – Dominik Kubalik
The Blackhawks bring a new and improved look to their second power play unit. Alexander Nylander is that sniper on the left but he can also be that playmaker. Andrew Shaw can create pressure in front of the net, much like Toews, and can get those deflection goals that the Blackhawks have been lacking. Next is Brandon Saad, he can play along the boards but he can also shoot and makes great passes. Duncan Keith can move the puck and Dominik Kubalik holds a similar role like Gustafsson on the first unit. This unit should be able to hold its own and coach Colliton shouldn"t have to just rely on the first unit.
Penalty Kill Units:
Jonathan Toews – David Kampf
Calvin de Haan – Connor Murphy
On the first unit, you again have Jonathan Toews. Toews, for most of his career, has been an amazing two-way forward and has always been a great penalty killer. I see no reason why he shouldn"t be on this first unit. David Kampf is also a good option for the penalty kill. They often played together on the penalty kill last year and were decent. Kampf can also lay the body and plays a good zone defense. On the backend, you have Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy. As mentioned before both are that shutdown type of guy and can really boost a penalty kill
Ryan Carpenter – Brandon Saad
Duncan Keith – Olli Määttä
Next, you have newcomer Ryan Carpenter on the second unit. According to NHL.com, Carpenter had a 52.6% on faceoffs and is also known as a defensive forward. Brandon Saad, spent some time on the penalty kill last year as well. He"s relentless on the penalty kill and is a good two-way forward. Duncan Keith and Olli Määttä aren"t exactly the ideal pair, as Määttä is playing on his offside, but they should be able to get the job done.
Perhaps, the most interesting part of this Chicago Blackhawks team is the goaltending. Corey Crawford is coming off an injury-riddled season (39 games) and also is 34 years old. Hence, why the Blackhawks brought in Vezina finalist Robin Lehner. The 28-year-old, is coming off a bounce-back/breakout season registering 2.13 goals-against-average and a .930 save percentage. It is expected that both Lehner and Crawford split time this season. Sort of in tandem or a 1A and 1B situation. If one were to go down with an injury the other could step in. I think Crawford gets 1A to start off with, but Lehner could run away with the starting job. I expect goaltending to be a strong suit of this team and it could carry us far.
Predicting lines before the season starts is difficult, but it"s interesting to look at where your team stands at this point in time. I think the Blackhawks could fare very well this season, but they need some things to go right. This team has the likes of Toews, Kane, DeBrincat and Lehner. It will be interesting to see how they will do.
salary info from CapFriendly
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