Chicago Blackhawks Training Camp Position Battles: Backup Goalie

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Chicago Blackhawks Training Camp Position Battles: Backup Goalie

Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks are less than one month away from the opening of the regular season as they take on the Colorado Avalanche on October 13th in Denver. As training camp is set to begin in the next week, there are a number of position battles that will be hotly contested and worthy of keeping an eye on.

One of those battles will be in net as Chicago has four goalies on their current roster that you could potentially see play in the NHL this season. The addition of Marc-André Fleury this summer made the battle for who will hold the Blackhawks’ net for the 2021-22 season less of a contest to be the starter and more for who will be splitting starts with the three-time Stanley Cup winner and last season’s Vezina Trophy recipient. Last season, Chicago rolled a trio of goaltenders with Kevin Lankinen, Malcolm Subban, and Collin Delia. All three are back, but without the use of the taxi squad this season, only one (likely) will be on the NHL roster along with Fleury.

Kevin Lankinen held the net the most for the Blackhawks last season, making 37 starts and coming away in his NHL rookie season with a 17-14-5 record, a .909 save percentage, and a 3.01 GAA. He also recorded two shutouts last season. After coming into the abbreviated training camp last winter as the assumed No. 3 goalie, Lankinen made the most of his first opportunities in net during the regular season and didn’t look back.

Lankinen was a big reason why Chicago was in a playoff position hunt for the majority of the season, but he started to fall off towards the end of the year. His 37 starts last season were the most starts he had made in one season in his North American professional career, with his career-high in appearances coming in the 2016-17 season when he made 42 starts with HIFK in the Finnish Liiga. Prior to the addition of Fleury, Lankinen was likely going to be the starter for the Blackhawks, so he will likely have the upper hand going into training camp to be the backup to Fleury.

Playing backup to Lankinen last season was veteran Malcolm Subban. A former backup to Fleury when he was with the Vegas Golden Knights, Subban was hot and cold last season with the Blackhawks, making 16 appearances (14 starts) and compiling a 6-8-1 record, a .900 save percentage, and a 3.20 GAA. He also recorded two shutouts last season.

Subban got off to a rough start last season, as did Collin Delia, but was able to bounce back and salvage a number of starts and stole a few games for Chicago. He also cost the Blackhawks a few games last season, too. Again, hot and cold. He has a career .899 save percentage and 3.02 GAA in 82 NHL appearances. I would have him penciled in as Chicago’s No. 3 goalie heading into training camp, but it’s neck-and-neck with Delia.

Speaking of Delia, he started the second and third games of last season for the Blackhawks on January 15th and 17th, then had to wait until May before he got into his next NHL game. After becoming the No. 3 goalie last season behind Lankinen and Subban, Delia only made six appearances (five starts) for Chicago. He tallied a 1-3-1 record with a .902 save percentage and a 3.52 GAA.

After playing in 16 games with the Blackhawks during the 2018-19 season, it looked like Delia would be primed to be Corey Crawford’s backup during the 2019-20 season. That was before the team acquired Robin Lehner, and subsequently, Delia spent all of 2019-20 in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs, where he went 16-13-2, had a .912 save percentage, and a 2.66 GAA with three shutouts. After a frustrating past two seasons with the Blackhawks, Delia has an uphill battle to become an NHL regular with Chicago. For all he’s had to go through, being jerked around by the organization, I’d like to see Delia play his way into the backup role.

All four of these goaltenders are signed just for the 2021-22 season on their current contracts, and it seems unlikely that Marc-André Fleury will sign another deal with the Blackhawks after this season. One of Lankinen, Subban, or Delia will emerge this season as the longer-term plan in net for Chicago, and one (or two) will become trade bait during the season.

Author: Mario Tirabassi

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