GM Stan Bowman Is Really Digging the Production of His Youngest Players

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GM Stan Bowman Is Really Digging the Production of His Youngest Players

Chicago Blackhawks

Through the first 13 games of the regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks are in a position they probably didn’t expect find themselves: Somewhere half-way decent.

With 11 new faces in the lineup this season from last, the Blackhawks are 5-4-4 and have earned at least a point in the standings in nine of their last ten games played. And much of their success can be attributed to fast development and contributions from inexperienced players and rookies – the players on whom they’re gambling their future (which is actually a nice side-benefit of the poor hand they were dealt before the season even began).

And speaking of those players, Blackhawks president of hockey operations and general manager Stan Bowman talked with Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers of The Athletic about those new faces and what they’ve meant to the organization so far this year. There is a TON of information on a LOT of players that we won’t cover below, so I suggest you go check out the original for more. In the meantime, I pulled five that stuck out to me the most and added some commentary of my own. Let’s do it.

Kevin Lankinen

There’s no doubt that the Blackhawks wouldn’t be where they are right now this season without the play of goaltender Kevin Lankinen. The rookie is 4-1-3 this season in his eight starts and ranks in the top-ten of the NHL in all the major goaltending categories. All the while, the Blackhawks are still allowing some of the most shots on net in the league and some of the most high-danger chances against them. Lankinen, in a word, has been CRUCIAL for the Blackhawks.

Bowman feels the same, calling Lankinen the “brightest spot” for Chicago through the first dozen games. He alludes to having a good feeling for a game where Lankinen is in the net. What that means for Chicago moving forward is interesting at the goalie position. Nearly everyone, including myself, felt that Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia would be fighting for the starter’s role in Chicago and that Lankinen would be the third in line. Now it’s Lankinen at the top of the chain with Delia as the odd-man out. All three of them are signed through the 2021-22 season, but it makes you wonder what will be the scenario for the upcoming Seattle expansion draft if Lankinen holds the starters role all season.

Philipp Kurashev

As mentioned in the interview, Philipp Kurashev probably doesn’t get this big of an opportunity with the Blackhawks this season if both Dach and Jonathan Toews are healthy. That makes sense, since we also probably wouldn’t have seen Carl Söderberg join the team either. But when the Blackhawks were made thin down the middle, Kurashev was given the opportunity to make a big impact and that’s exactly what he’s done, running away with the opportunity so far.

Centering the top-line for Chicago with Mattias Janmark and Patrick Kane, Kurashev has made the second-biggest rookie impact this season behind Lankinen. Bowman lauds the fact that Kurashev can play both center and wing, and he basically holds onto that point pretty hard. It makes me wonder if he is anticipating moving Kurashev out of the center spot if Dach and/or Toews are able to return to the team before season’s end (more on Kirby Dach later).

Pius Suter

Leading the way amongst the rookie forwards are the aforementioned Kurashev and fellow Swiss newcomer Pius Suter. Both are tied with Ottawa Senators rookie Tim Stützle for the league-lead in goals (4) for first-year players, and Suter is tied for third in rookie scoring this season with seven points.

His versatility on both ends of the ice has stood out to Bowman: “He’s got pretty good offensive instincts, can score goals. Use him on the power play, he’s been a contributor there as well. So, it’s a little bit of everything for him.” Suter’s on a one-year deal and if he keeps up his scoring pace, he could draw a lot of attention from the league next summer if the Blackhawks are unable to sign him to a contract extension.

Ian Mitchell

The leading rookie defenseman for the Blackhawks this season, Ian Mitchell has so far lived up to his billing coming out of college at Denver University. He’s been paired with Calvin de Haan and Duncan Keith this season, showing the trust that the team has in him to hold his responsibilities alongside two of the most deployed veteran defensemen for Chicago.

Bowman has touted Mitchell for about two years now. It’s no secret that he is a big fan of the young defenseman. In the interview, he isn’t as much of an apologist for Mitchell as he was for Boqvist, but that’s because he doesn’t have as much to apologize for. Mitchell’s development through the first 13 games of the season has been steady, and Bowman makes the point that Mitchell is already a better version of himself now than he was when the season first started.

Wyatt Kalynuk

After not signing with the Philadelphia Flyers last summer, former University of Wisconsin Captain Wyatt Kalynuk (On Wisconsin), signed with the Blackhawks and joined an already budding defensive farm system. Kalynuk was touted for his skating ability and two-way game. But it wasn’t until this past weekend that we were able to see it on the ice. After going through training camp with Chicago, Kalynuk was placed on the Taxi Squad and had to wait for his opportunity at the NHL level. He didn’t get it. Instead, he was sent to the Rockford IceHogs prior to their season opener and made his professional debut with them in the AHL.

Kalynuk tallied his first two professional points in Rockford’s season opener, a goal and an assist, and Bowman took notice. “I thought he looked great,” Bowman says in the interview. “For me in Saturday’s game, him and (Evan) Barratt stood out, probably the two young guys that were most noticeable. I really liked his confidence and poise with the puck, especially in the offensive zone. He made a lot of nice plays.” Kalynuk will undoubtedly get a lot of minutes with the IceHogs, but I find it hard for him to crack into the NHL defensive rotation this season, barring (knock on wood) injury.

Obviously, Stan Bowman is going to pump the tires of all his players. It’s his job. You can’t expect him to throw anyone under the bus. But his observations and analysis of the young players for the Blackhawks keeps me optimistic that the future of the organization will be heading in the right direction.

Who knows, maybe this rebuild won’t be as painful as we first thought. I say that knowing I am prepared to eat those words.

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Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.