The more I think about it, the more I’m convincing myself that the Blackhawks are going to be more than just watchable this season. Dare I say, they might actually be good?
In the past few seasons, there has been a sense of optimism around the team that has felt genuinely false most of the time. Heading into the 2021-22 season, the Blackhawks feel like a team that will be tough to get a true grasp of on the ice, but after putting together a number of hypothetical rosters in the last few days, I feel like there a lot of different lineups that the Blackhawks could ice and all of them could be decently competitive.
• This thought comes on the heels of the news yesterday that Alexander (Alex) Nylander signed a one-year deal with the team after missing all of last season due to a knee injury. Nylander was the last unsigned player the Blackhawks had to get under contract this offseason, so the team is basically all set to go from a roster standpoint.
Chicago Blackhawks Sign Alexander Nylander to a One-Year Deal https://t.co/yzrInbUMvM
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) August 16, 2021
• Nylander comes into the season after missing all of what was supposed to be his “prove it” year last season. After coming to the Blackhawks in a one-for-one trade for Henri Jokiharju, Nylander came into the organization with a lot to prove, having just been traded for a player that most of the Blackhawks fan base was behind as a future piece of the franchise. After a less-than-stellar first season in Chicago, where Nylander sometimes disappeared for stretches of the year, Nylander had a hill to climb to get into the good graces of the organization and the fan base. That hill is still there for 2021-22.
• I’ve been a critic of Nylander’s for his ability to be a ghost some nights. On other nights, Nylander looks like he is that player that warranted the eighth overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. He has the skill-set to be successful in the NHL…
The Blackhawks apply some pressure with their fourth goal (via Alex Nylander) of the night against the Calgary Flames pic.twitter.com/eZMwQXOMGT
— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) February 16, 2020
• But his issue has been consistency and what seems like the willingness/unwillingness to be a player who doesn’t need to be carried by other skill players on the same line. If you are truly a talented player who deserves to be playing in the top-six forwards group, the phrase “He has to play with Kane, otherwise he’s not good” shouldn’t be tied to your name.
• Last season was not a good scenario for Nylander as far as his place within the organization. While he sat out recovering from a meniscus injury, players like Brandon Hagel and Philipp Kurashev came into the lineup and played in the roles that Nylander would have last season. And they did it well. As he says in his recent interview with NBC Sports Chicago’s Charlie Roumeliotis, it was tough to watch from the sidelines last season as the young guys helped propel the team.
• With the summer that the Blackhawks had from a roster construction standpoint, Nylander has his work cut out for him to not only show that he hasn’t lost anything from his skill-set following the surgery, but that he also belongs in the lineup regularly and that he can be more than a depth option on this team. It may be a new season for Nylander with the Blackhawks, but the goal is still the same: Prove it.
• A Happy Blackhawks Birthday to former 2010 Stanley Cup Winner Troy Brouwer!
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) August 17, 2021
• Are we at the point of forgiving Brouwer for his history of being a “Blackhawks-killer” after scoring the winning goals in the 2015 Winter Classic and Game Seven of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs first round? Probably not the latter, yet.
• After having zero prospects in The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler’s Top 50 Drafted Prospects rankings, there’s something to be excited about for Blackhawks fans in his Top 10 Drafted Goalies rankings…
My annual top 10 drafted NHL goalie prospects ranking at @TheAthletic:
1. Yaroslav Askarov
2. Spencer Knight
3-10 (plus scouting reports, 21 honourable mentions, tiers, and more): https://t.co/RUT2vxP5yb
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) August 17, 2021
• Drew Commesso lands on Wheeler’s list here. Commesso is slated to be the starter at Boston University this season and is widely regarded as the lock to the Team USA’s goaltender for the 2022 World Junior Championships this winter. I can’t think back to a time since Corey Crawford was drafted and within the Blackhawks system, that a goalie prospect has looked as promising as Commesso. With the goalie situation looking like a band-aid type of scenario, could it all be a place-holder until Commesso is ready to make the jump to the NHL? Time will tell.
• Congratulations are in order for the Blackhawks’ ECHL affiliate Indy Fuel and their broadcast team after winning the league’s PR/Broadcaster of the Year award!
— Indy Fuel (@IndyFuel) August 16, 2021
• Andrew Smith is the lead play-by-play broadcaster for the Indy Fuel, along with Nick Olczyk as the color analyst. Congrats to them and the whole Indy Fuel communications team!
• News out of the Canadian Junior Hockey ranks, as the Western Hockey League announced yesterday that they will be requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees, players, coaches, and front office staff…
• The league joins the OHL and the QMJHL to require vaccinations for players and coaches. From WHL league commissioner Ron Robison:
With travel restrictions currently in place with the Canada / U.S. border as well as the province of Manitoba, it is important all players and staff are fully vaccinated in order to be eligible to play a full season in the WHL.
• While a much smaller operation than the NHL or other major professional sports leagues in North America, the CHL leagues could provide a bit of a blueprint to handle vaccinations and COVID-19 protocols for other leagues that cross the U.S.-Canada border regularly during their seasons.
• Speaking of Western Canada, the IIHF Women’s World Championships are set to take place in Calgary, Alberta, Canada starting on Friday. Within the COVID-19 protocols for the tournament, all players had to quarantine for five days after arriving in Canada.
NEWS RELEASE: After 1,047 PCR Tests and a 5-day hotel quarantine, all players and staff have tested negative for COVID-19.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) August 16, 2021
• Some good news after the quarantine period, as all tests came back negative and the tournament is on!
• We turn to our friends at The Ice Garden to preview the U.S. and Canadian Women’s National Teams as they look to take home the Gold in the first major Women’s tournament in over 860 days. First, previewing Team Canada thanks to Gabriella Fundaro…
2021 Worlds preview: Canada looks to take home gold for the first time in nine years https://t.co/Gs1EJqN1MK
— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) August 16, 2021
• Looking to make it 20-straight appearances in the IIHF World Championship Finals, we turn to Anne Tokarski to preview the defending champion Team USA Squad…
2021 Worlds Preview: The United States looks to earn their sixth straight medal. https://t.co/YLPznrK8PM
— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) August 16, 2021
• Plenty of women on Team USA to root for with connections to Illinois and even the Blackhawks with Kendall Coyne-Schofield, Megan Bozek, Savannah Harmon, Jesse Compher, and Abbey Murphy all a part of the squad.
• Closing today with some wholesome content as T.J. Oshie teaches his son, Campbell, to skate…
• Adorable. Cannot wait to share this kind of moment with my daughter!
• That will do it for today. Enjoy your Tuesday!