There are eight games remaining for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2021 season. The eight games is a higher number than the percentage chance that the Blackhawks have of making the postseason. While not mathematically eliminated yet, remember they have to face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. So, you do the math.
With that in mind, I think it’s best that the final eight games of the season serve as a showcase for the depth of the organization. The full depth.
Yes, we have already seen a ton of rookies and young players make their debuts and impacts on the season, but there’s no excuse the Blackhawks couldn’t give another bone or two or three out to rookies and young players to close out 2021.
The likelihood of this happening, though, is slim. The Blackhawks need to sell tickets for next season and what better way to sell tickets than saying, “Hey look! We made the playoffs!”
Unfortunately, they won’t have that to sell. So next in line to sell tickets should be the hope for the future. Showcase your “rebuild” talent alongside the already established rookies and young players that will be part of the future.
Here’s a shortlist of players who I believe deserve a crack at the NHL lineup for Chicago at some point over the final eight games of the season:
• Mike Hardman – After signing with the Blackhawks following his second year with Boston College, Hardman has been skating with the Taxi Squad. He tallied 22 goals and 44 points in 58 games with Boston College in his two NCAA seasons. He signed a two-year deal, but will burn the 2020-21 season anyway, so might as well give him his NHL debut at this point of the season.
• MacKenzie Entwistle – One of the top forward prospects for the Blackhawks that has played almost exclusively with the Rockford IceHogs this season, Entwistle has had a rough go this season after dealing with a positive COVID case earlier in the year and it had affected his start to the AHL season. He has nine points in 19 AHL games this year and made his NHL debut back on March 23rd.
Here’s #Blackhawks prospect, MacKenzie Entwistle’s goal from today (#58 in red). He has eight points (3G, 5A) in 15 2/3 AHL games. Evan Barratt (#26 in red) picks up his 12th point (4G, 8A) in 19 2/3 AHL games. Love the celly from Entwistle at the end. #AHL #HawksProspects pic.twitter.com/r0r9AWH3aC
— Chicago Prospects (@Chi_Prospects) April 8, 2021
• Nicolas Beaudin – He’s been in and out of the lineup and roster for the Blackhawks this season, but with eight games remaining and Calvin de Haan dealing with an injury, it makes sense to keep Beaudin in the lineup. He rejoined the team earlier this week and got back into the lineup on Friday night against Nashville. Keep him there and let him play out the season in the NHL. Beaudin has ten points in nine AHL games with the IceHogs this season and six points in 15 NHL games.
• Ian Mitchell – Much like Beaudin, Mitchell has been in and out of the lineup and roster this season. After being hyped-up heading into the year, Mitchell fizzled at the NHL level and eventually lost his spot in the lineup. He’s back with the team now and there’s no need to keep him in the press box with the season basically over. Mitchell has four points in 34 NHL games this season and one assist in five AHL games.
• Adam Gaudette – Acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline for Matthew Highmore, Gaudette has been in just one game for the Blackhawks so far. He tallied an assist in his team-debut but that was all we’ve seen of him. He is playing on an expiring deal and will be a restricted free agent this summer. In 34 NHL games this season with Chicago and Vancouver, Gaudette has eight points and over his career, 53 points in 153 NHL games.
• Collin Delia – We’ve harped on it enough this season, but Delia was done a disservice by the Blackhawks. The least they could do for him at the end now is give him a few starts to avoid injury to players like Kevin Lankinen, who will likely be the starter in Chicago next year, and to Malcolm Subban, who will be exposed in the expansion draft and will be the probable backup in Chicago for 2021-22. Delia had a rough start to the season, like everyone else, but was never afforded his second chance in net. If anything, getting starts now gives Delia a chance to put better performances together heading into a offseason where he may be looking for a new NHL opportunity.
— Rockford IceHogs (@goicehogs) March 7, 2021
• Alec Regula – Injuries hampered his first professional season, but Regula has been decent for the IceHogs this season as a rookie. Acquired in the Brendan Perlini trade prior to last season, Regula has been one of the top defensive prospects in the Blackhawks system since he landed in the organization. His mixture of size, vision, and skating ability make him a intriguing part of the future. Why not give him a shot.
• Andrei Altybarmakyan – One of the more impressive forwards for the IceHogs this season, Altybarmakyan has nine points in 20 AHL games in his first professional season in North America. Altybarmakyan came to the IceHogs this season after playing the last two seasons in the KHL in Russia, where he had 23 points in 87 games with HK Sochi. He possesses a good mixture of skill and grittiness to his game that would be interesting to see how it translates to the NHL game. Altybarmakyan figures to be in the NHL mix for the Blackhawks next year and his contract expires at the end of the 2021-22 season.
Not all of these players are guaranteed NHL roster spots next season, though, and some might not be with the organization next year, but the final eight games of the season provide the Blackhawks the opportunity to give them NHL ice-time and see where some of these players might be after a weird 2021 season. Without the likelihood of playing in the playoffs, these last eight games are the last time these guys will play significant hockey again until September.