It’s that time of year again y’all: Prediction season! (And, yes, I look forward to being roasted for what could ultimately become some freezing cold takes).
The 2021 NHL season begins tomorrow, when the Chicago Blackhawks will open their year up against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. So in the spirit of trying to make sense of what will knowingly be a challenging and downright wonky season, here are some BOLD (and some lukewarm) predictions for the Chicago Blackhawks 2021 season.
Will the Blackhawks make the Playoffs?
LOL, God no. They are heavily out-gunned by the Lightning, Stars, and Hurricanes within the Central Division. The only team they MIGHT finish ahead of in the division is the Red Wings. Even that isn’t a given.
Patrick Kane will be the team’s MVP in 2021.
Again, I said some of these will be lukewarm. Kane is the best player on this roster and he’s going to have to drag this team to wins at times this season. He has the skills to do so, and it seems like he is onboard for the rebuild, so as long as he gets to play with the “good” young players.
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) January 12, 2021
Ian Mitchell will outplay Adam Boqvist and be given more responsibilities by season’s end.
All we’ve been fed as fans about Ian Mitchell is how ready he is for the NHL. Over the summer heading into the 2019-20 season, general manager Stan Bowman claimed he thought Mitchell could have played in the NHL the season prior. While this is not to say Boqvist will struggle, I’m just on the bandwagon that Mitchell is going to be good, really good, right out of the gate.
Calvin de Haan on Ian Mitchell: "He's going to be a good player in this league for a long time. He has a bright future." #Blackhawks
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) January 11, 2021
Malcolm Subban will start the season opener, but Collin Delia will play the most games in net.
Subban has the most NHL experience of the three goalies on the roster for the Blackhawks heading into the season. But Delia appears to have more favor within the organization. I mean, Subban played less time for the Blackhawks last season after being acquired from the Golden Knights than it takes to cook a Pop-Tart. The hope, the low-bar hope, is that the Blackhawks can have one or both goaltenders be at least league-average. I believe Delia can get there.
Carl Söderberg is totally getting traded.
He’s 35-years-old and is only clogging the roster if the team is truly trying to go through a youth-driven rebuild. If he can play anywhere near his career average, the Blackhawks should be able to flip him at the trade deadline for draft capital.
Mattias Janmark is totally getting traded.
Again, much like Söderberg, there’s not much for Janmark to do with the Blackhawks beyond this season. He’s 28-years-old, so not really “old” in the sense that Söderberg is “old” (my apologies to anyone who is 35+) but unless he’s the reincarnation of Marian Hossa (he’s not), I don’t see much space for him in the rebuilding process. Get what you can from him in the season, flip at the trade deadline for draft capital.
Brent Seabrook is totally not getting traded.
As much as many Blackhawks fans want Seabrook booted from town years ago, he’s anchored by his contract. In a league that is facing financial hardships due to COVID, I can’t imagine there’s a team out there that would accept Seabrook and his contract without also getting much more than it’s worth to the Blackhawks in return. Chicago is stuck with him for the foreseeable future.
Brent Seabrook is expected to resume skating again soon, Stan Bowman said. He said the organization will announce soon why Seabrook has been out.
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) January 12, 2021
Nikita Zadorov is totally getting a contract extension.
One of the offseason additions to the Blackhawks that will likely not be flipped at the trade deadline will end up being defenseman Nikita Zadorov. Acquired in the Brandon Saad trade, Zadorov is the kind of player the Blackhawks can benefit from having in the lineup on a nightly basis. Big, physical, opponents hate playing against him. As long as he’s not a dumpster fire defensively, I see Chicago investing in Zadorov beyond 2021.
Pius Suter will be good, just not “2019-20 Dominik Kubalík” good.
So far, all indications through training camp point to the Blackhawks investing plenty of time into the 24-year-old Swiss prospect. Comparisons to Kubalík are going to be rampant this season since both of them come from the same European league, in consecutive offseasons, and both won the league’s MVP award in consecutive years. They have similar skill-sets, but Kubalík emerged as a dangerous goal-scorer last season and Suter likely tracks out to be a player who will setup more goals than he scores. If Suter can be close to what Kubalík meant to the Blackhawks last season, it’ll be a win for Chicago.
Philipp Kurashev will be the biggest breakout rookie not named Ian Mitchell.
While he’s not in the starting lineup on night one, Kurashev showed he can hang with the NHL-caliber Blackhawks players. He likely would have made his NHL debut last season, had he not been sidelined with an injury while playing with the Rockford IceHogs. He can play center or wing and has the tools to be effective at both ends of the ice. I believe if he’s given the chance to play, he will make it hard for Colliton to take him out of the lineup.
Speaking of the IceHogs, Rockford will make the AHL playoffs (if they have them).
The amount of young talent that the Blackhawks are sending to their AHL squad is salivating for a person like myself that has spent the past five years immersed in the Chicago farm system. We still don’t know exactly what the 2021 season will look like for the AHL, or what the playoffs will look like, or if there even will be playoffs. At this point, all we know is that the season begins February 5.
The Blackhawks will not win a season series against any team, not even the Red Wings.
Here’s a harsh reality: The only team that I *had* confidence in the Blackhawks finishing ahead of in the Central Division was the Detroit Red Wings. AND THEN Jonathan Toews, Kirby Dach, and Alexander Nylander were ruled out of the lineup for the 2021 season. While the Red Wings are going to be awful, so are the Blackhawks. Maybe not a best-case scenario, but an “of course because
2020 2021″ scenario, Chicago and Detroit split their season series and no one gets bragging rights in the one-season rivalry revival.
Jonathan Toews will return to the team before season’s end.
This is honestly just a hope and prayer that Toews’ health improves to a point where he is healthy enough to come back to the NHL.
The Blackhawks will have a top-five draft pick
The only name that I want to see on the Blackhawks draft board: Owen Power.