Toews’ Health, Prospect Observations, Drouin Speaks on Mental Health, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Here we are: Tuesday. One more day between us and the Chicago Blackhawks opening training camp (and therefore opening the 2021-22 season). We await the official training camp invite roster from the club, but of course there are a few names we can all assume will be on it when it comes to some of the prospects, and then the guarantees at the NHL and AHL level. One name that will be in training camp starting on Thursday that was not part of the last training camp for the Blackhawks is Jonathan Toews.

•   Yes, I know, enough about Toews, right? Well, like it or not, a lot of this season’s success will likely hinge on what he brings to the ice this season. After missing all of last season dealing with Chronic Immune Response Syndrome, a healthy Toews is the first step in helping get the Blackhawks back towards the top of the NHL.

•   But what will he be able to contribute this season? Where is his health coming into training camp? According to The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus yesterday, all signs point to Toews being in the best shape of his life coming into camp.

•   That’s great, but it has to be true and not just a cliché. If Toews is not able to be the top centerman for the Blackhawks this season, he can’t be used as such and we shouldn’t continue to hold him to that standard. For right now, if he’s healthy enough to play in a full 82-game season, that’s step one. Expecting him to be the Toews of old is a few steps down the road still.

•   Speaking of health at the most important position, what is going on with the Bears?

•   Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t compare Toews-Dach to Dalton-Fields, that doesn’t seem too fair.

•   Following the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase, one thing was clear: Lukas Reichel is a talented kid. But, like, we already knew that. What we don’t know is how that talent, which has served him well already in two professional seasons in Germany, will translate to the North American game. Reichel has high expectations on him as he heads into his first training camp with the Blackhawks this week.

•   A ton of eyes will be on the 19-year-old as he steps on the ice at the Fifth Third arena on Thursday, but if he’s not ready to go in the NHL right out of the gate, that should be OK. He doesn’t have to be a franchise player the minute he puts on the Blackhawks sweater. If Reichel isn’t ready for the NHL, there’s no harm in him playing in the AHL for a portion or all of this season.

•   Pretty sure IceHogs head coach Derek King wouldn’t mind having Reichel in the AHL either.

•   There’s going to be plenty of competition in training camp for the Blackhawks forwards group who you could potentially slot into middle-six roles. Reichel, if he’s going to play in the NHL this season, would likely fall into that lineup spot. He’ll have his work cut-out for him, battling for a roster spot against players like Brandon Hagel, Philipp Kurashev, Tyler Johnson, Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalík, Adam Gaudette, Alex Nylander, etc.

•   It would be great if Lukas Reichel could end up a breakout star for the Blackhawks like Patrick Williams is doing with the Bulls.

•   Young talented players on the Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks are certainly going to make the fall/winter sports scene in Chicago very interesting this year.

•   Another position battle to keep an eye on in training camp is the bottom-pairing defensemen. We’ll talk more about this in-depth later today, but a player that could be a dark-horse to make a push for NHL ice-time this season in Chicago is Alec Regula.

•   Outside of Seth Jones, Jake McCabe, Calvin de Haan, and Connor Murphy, the bottom of the defensive rotation is somewhat up for grabs. Players like Regula, Nicolas Beaudin, Ian Mitchell, Riley Stillman, Wyatt Kalynuk, and Caleb Jones are all in the mix and will be figuring to be the players to watch in camp for those two or three defensive roster spots.

•   In case you missed it yesterday, EA Sports released more information about the upcoming NHL22 game, Announcing the 50 NHL players that received ‘X-Factor’ special abilities, which includes four Blackhawks players.

•   My hope is that these ‘X-Factors’ actually make these players feel special when you control them, and not just leave it all up to user control. As in, handling the puck with Patrick Kane should feel much, much different from Ryan Carpenter handling the puck. No offense, Ryan.

•   The Blackhawks mic’d up new defenseman Jake McCabe at the annual Four Feathers Invitational earlier this month.

•   Seems like his knee is in good shape if he’s swinging like that. McCabe seems like a good dude.

•   Another good dude from the Blackhawks, goaltender Collin Delia was out at the Premier Select Goalie Clinic this week.

•   I don’t know how you don’t root for that guy.

•   While not a Blackhawks player, he is certainly a Chicago LEGEND. A Happy 71st Birthday to comedian and actor Bill Murray!

•   Never forget that time Bill went to a Vancouver Canucks game, decked out in Blackhawks gear, and tried to win the 50/50 raffle.

•   The hockey community has done a lot of work in the past few years when it comes to mental health. Being more open about people’s mental health, more aware of struggles and difficulties players and fans have, and being a more accepting community when it comes to talking about those issues and triumphs. On Monday, Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin spoke about his sudden absence from the team last season, right as the playoffs were about to begin.

•   You can find the full interview here. Drouin opened up about struggling with anxiety and insomnia last season and how that was affecting not only his game, but his personal life, his physical health, and his mental health. He talks about what being away from hockey during that time meant to him, and why he needed that time to be his best self. Drouin is ready to come back in full force for the Canadiens this season and it will be awesome to see how he plays after taking care of himself last spring.

•   Other news from the Original Six in the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings are bringing back Bobby Ryan on a PTO deal.

•   Ryan, who played with the Red Wings on an NHL deal last season, skated in 33 games for Detroit and tallied seven goals and seven assists. It’s unusual to see a player who played for a club on an NHL deal the season prior, have to come back on a tryout basis, but I’d be shocked if Ryan didn’t end up back with the Red Wings or at least back with another NHL club this season. After dealing with his own off-ice issues and mental health struggles during the 2019-20 season, Ryan’s comeback has been great to see and I hope it continues for him.

•   After announcing the return of the road white Kachina sweaters for the 2021-22 season in Arizona, the Coyotes are looking to stay in the desert beyond this season. The team has proposed a $1.7B arena development in the city of Tempe, Arizona.

•   Renderings of the development released Monday by the Coyotes include proposed restaurants, shops and apartments on a 46-acre tract of land near downtown Tempe. Even though I think moving the team to a more hockey-centric market (Quebec) would be beneficial to the league, you have to respect the dedication the Coyotes fans in Arizona have to the team.

•   Remember the World Cup of Hockey? That was awesome.

•   I don’t think Nathan MacKinnon has turned it off since this moment.

•   That will do it for today. Hope you all have a great Tuesday!

written by

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

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