Enter Artemi Panarin. The Russian scoring dynamo turned a potential retooling season into a contending year, paired along with the league's scoring champion, Patrick Kane. It's hard to say which one helped the other one more in their breakout year, but nevertheless, it was sure impressive and should lead to another big year in the 2017 regular season.
The upcoming season also has some more interesting turns coming, as they have another top prospect coming up in Nick Schmaltz and they will have a blast from the past in Brian Campbell coming back for another turn on the cheap. It doesn't look like the Blackhawks are going to be short on good fortune again this season, but they will have to translate these bits of good news into better play on the ice, especially in the playoffs.
Thankfully, the playoffs don't have anything to do with the regular season pool, so the general success of the Blackhawks between October to May, which there should be lots. That will certainly make the Blackhawks popular when we sit down at the draft to pick out our players.
|Trevor Van Riemsdyk||D||20||N|
Table last updated on August 5th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
What does last year's Rookie of the Year have for a follow-up season? Well, if the IIHF World Championships is any indication, he is the real deal and he will be bringing the show back for another season in 2017. Artemi Panarin is going to quickly fly up the rankings in the NHL, as this kid's talent looks almost limitless. It will be very interesting to see what kind of preview we'll get from him at the World Cup, a tournament that could certainly boost his stock from the 70-point range and into 1st round territory.
I wouldn't normally get too excited about sophomore players, but the 24-year old gets an exemption, given his mature nature and extra couple of years.
First Round Picks
The Blackhawks are already rocking a pair of potential 1st round picks, including last year's Art Ross Trophy winner, Patrick Kane, and then their number one goalie, Corey Crawford, will be expected to stand in for another wheelbarrow full of wins this year.
Kane lifted his play to another level last season, finishing with 106 points and hitting triple-digits again is pretty well expected. Crawford's point total may be a reflection of what kind of depth the team in front of him is playing with, but you know he is going to bring his game every night and they'll be playoff-bound once again.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
After Kane and Panarin, the Blackhawks will be still rocking Jonathan Toews and Artem Anisimov, each should be fairly consistent contributors and then Marian Hossa, who is starting to trend downwards a little in his career at age 37. A down year in 2016 has led to a drop in his projection as well, but he certainly has the potential, even now, to better that number with a healthy year and good help.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
The dynamic duo of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will be leaned upon for big minutes, which should translate into reasonable point totals, again, with potential to be better than these initial projections. The addition of Brian Campbell to the mix may alleviate some of their ice-time concerns in a long season, which is the main reason why their projections drop off a little, but you put the three of them together and you get a good trio. Don't forget about Niklas Hjalmarsson or Trevor Van Riemsdyk, as they should also collect enough points to make a difference too.
It should be Scott Darling behind Corey Crawford again this season and since Crawford hasn't historically been a 65-70 game goalie, it makes Darling into a very good option for a back-up goalie in the pool, if you couldn't lock down a pair of starters. Darling could have done a little better last season, given his appearances, but we'll look for much of the same again in 2017.
Team To Pick From?
Will there be anything left by the late rounds? The depth of the Blackhawks has proven to be fairly good in recent years, so you may want to take a chance on a Blackhawk or two late on, if you can't find anyone else to use a late round pick on. Czech import Michal Kempny could be a guy you can take a flyer on, as the Blackhawks try and import themselves another Panarin.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The Blackhawks only have one restricted free agent left on their books, defenseman Viktor Svedberg, who could be a late round defensive option or a mid-season pick-up in the season.
The projected 23-man roster that the Blackhawks are left with about $2.5 million underneath the ceiling, which should be more than enough for Svedberg or one more quality move around the trade deadline, in theory.
Forward Artem Anisimov underwent wrist surgery in May, which had an 8-week recovery time, but that was the only major injury concern for the Blackhawks in the off-season. I would expect a fairly full roster, when they hit up training camp, barring any disasters at the World Cup.