We are less than a week into Training Camp for the Chicago Blackhawks (okay, by one day). Every year there are a few surprises that come out of camp, and some players you had marked to be sent down to the AHL prove they are everyday NHL players.
Practices and scrimmages are one thing, but they don’t give you the full picture. That’s where preseason games come in. Wouldn’t you know it — the Chicago Blackhawks played in their first of six preseason games last night, a 4-3 shootout loss against the Detroit Red Wings.
Here are the lines they ran with in practice, according to Charlie Roumeliotis:
Barring any trades, the Blackhawks roster is very full. We’ve got a good idea of who will be cut from camp and sent on their way down I-90 to Rockford. Some big question marks remain, though. Let’s take a look at the Chicago Blackhawks Prospects slated to be in the preseason lineup that you may be able to watch in Rockford this season.
Most Probable IceHogs
Nicolas Beaudin split time between the Blackhawks and IceHogs last season. He showed off some positive development in his game and proved to be effective in the NHL, scoring his first and second NHL goals on back-to-back nights (February 11 and 13) against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Beaudin is a steady defender who can chip in some offense when he takes his opportunities. His game still needs some work. But, without all the acquisitions to the Chicago blue line this offseason, I feel that he would have spent more time developing with the big club this year.
It’s unfortunate for him; every player would rather be in the NHL. On the other hand, it’ll be great for him to earn big minutes in all situations with the IceHogs. Plus, I look forward to seeing him on the ice in-person this year. You miss so many little details watching through a screen.
MacKenzie Entwistle is another player in the same sort of situation as Beaudin. He slotted into the Blackhawks lineup late in the season and proved he belonged. He has improved every season with Rockford and is a prospect Blackhawks fans shouldn’t sleep on.
It’s players like Entwistle and Beaudin that made the Blackhawks “rebuild” promising and exciting. With that plan being completely destroyed, both of them will most likely be sent back to Rockford until a spot opens up for them. It’s great for me because I get to watch them every night, but it’s an unfortunate deal for the players.
Isaak Phillips! If you’ve seen my gameday thoughts over on the From Center Ice Twitter, you know that I am all aboard the Isaak Phillips hype train and rightly or wrongly take all the credit for starting it.
Phillips was drafted in the fifth round by the Blackhawks in 2020. Due to the OHL taking time off because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Phillips was able to come to Rockford instead of going back to juniors to play for the Sudbury Wolves.
Being a fresh draft pick and being so young, no one had super high expectations for him. Once he was given a lineup spot, he didn’t want to let it go. He played in 27 of the 32 games and became one of the most reliable defensemen. His play on both ends of the ice earned attention from the coaching staff and from IceHogs fans. The most notable things he improved on as the season went on were puck battles and jumping up into the play.
It’s beyond refreshing to see an IceHogs defender able to win board battles and break the puck out of the zone instead of it ending up behind their goaltender. That’s something the team has been missing for awhile. Sometimes those breakouts look like him skating the puck out himself and taking it right to the opposing net. He’s not afraid to jump up and get offensive chances, and he improved on his timing and situational awareness as the season progressed.
His overall game was very impressive last season. He’s not to the point of stealing an NHL roster spot, but he’s only 20 years old and coming into his second professional season. The future is bright for this kid and he could be the steal of the 2020 draft.
Henrik Borgstrom was part of the multi-player trade that also brought Riley Stillman and Brett Connolly to Chicago from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Lucas Wallmark and Lucas Carlsson.
A former first round pick of the Florida Panthers, Borgstrom never fully found his footing in the NHL. For the 2020-21 season, he went back to the Liiga and put up 11 goals and 10 assists in 30 games for HIFK. He’s got a lot of talent, but he may get pushed out of the lineup with the Blackhawks finding it more beneficial to see his game in Rockford than having him in the press box. It’s likely he stays in Chicago, but nothing is a guarantee.
So many goalies, so little playing time! The Blackhawks have seven goaltenders on their Training Camp roster, three of them being the guys from the 2020-21 NHL rotation. It’s easy to assume Arvid Soderblom, Cale Morris, and Tom Aubrun will be sent to the AHL/ECHL. But, with the not-so-small acquisition of Marc-Andre Fleury for literally nothing, what are the Hawks going to do with Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban? Kevin Lankinen is the assumed number two this year. Do they plan on running a three-goalie system again? That still leaves an odd man out.
Delia has spent a lot of time with the Rockford IceHogs — 100 games between regular season and playoffs — and is beloved by IceHogs Nation. He makes the most sense to send back to Rockford. Will he want to go back to the AHL? He may not have a choice. The Blackhawks are in a very interesting net situation. They’ve got to figure something out.
Duncan Keith was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Caleb Jones.
I’ll repeat that for emphasis.
Duncan Keith was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Caleb Jones.
That is a huge deal and one that Blackhawks fans are not going to be happy with if Jones does not contribute in the NHL. Of course, it’s not that simple. Keith wanted to be closer to his son (who lives in B.C.), and the Blackhawks had their eyes on acquiring Caleb’s brother, Seth Jones. Regardless of those facts, the deal will still be frowned upon if we look back at it in 10 years and say Duncan Keith was traded for literally nothing. He’s not Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Blackhawks already have Seth Jones, Connor Murphy, Riley Stillman, Wyatt Kalynuk, Calvin de Haan, and Jake McCabe slotted ahead of him. Caleb Jones could be a player who comes in and out of the lineup to give someone like de Haan some rest, but wouldn’t consistent minutes in the AHL be better for his development? That’d be the route I’d go if I was making the roster decisions.
Of all the players on the Blackhawks Training Camp roster, Alex Nylander may be the leader of the “What do we do with this guy?” list.
Drafted eighth overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2016, Nylander came over to Chicago in a trade that didn’t earn him much positive attention with the locals. The Blackhawks sent Henri Jokiharju the other way. The trade didn’t make sense at the time, and it still doesn’t. But there’s nothing we can do about it now.
What we can do is wonder where Nylander fits in this organization. Recall the very full roster the Blackhawks have and then recall that Nylander missed the entire 2020-21 season while recovering from knee surgery. Missing a significant amount of time doesn’t mean a player falls out of favor with the coaching staff (see: Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach), but other kids were given a shot in the lineup and made positive impressions. The Blackhawks may think it wise to start him in the AHL and make him earn his spot. Capfriendly has him listed as no longer waiver-exempt, so they do risk losing him for nothing if they go this route.
Lukas Reichel is last on the list because I sorted them alphabetically. But, he’s also probably the least likely to see ice time in Rockford to start the year. *cue the Blackhawks sending him down in the first round of roster cuts*
Reichel was drafted in the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft (17th overall) by the Blackhawks. After spending one more season in Germany, the Hawks were eager to bring him over to North America, and fans were even more eager to see him play. Apparently eagerness is contagious, because Reichel has come out with purpose and certainly looks eager to make the opening night NHL lineup.
We can cross our fingers and pray to every hockey deity out there, but I wouldn’t bet on Reichel staying in Chicago (doesn’t mean we can’t wish for just a couple games of him in the 815).
Was that enough to get you excited for the 2021-22 Rockford IceHogs season? If not, tune into the Blackhawks preseason games and see these guys for yourself.
Chicago’s next match-up is against St. Louis on Friday, October 1 at 7:30pm CDT.