On Monday morning, the Blackhawks sent three prospects packing. One of them, Samuel Savoie, had an impressive training camp and certainly opened some eyes with his performances against NHL competition. But he isn’t ready for full-time NHL duty, and the front office isn’t rushing anyone.
That demotion left the Blackhawks with 26 forwards in camp. Obviously they can only dress 12 (maybe 13 if they’re missing a defenseman), so that’s far too many. Which means there are more than a few guys who still need to either head to Rockford or back to their junior team.
An additional spot is going to be available with the injury to Boris Katchouk, who will miss the first month of the regular season. But that doesn’t make it easier for some young guys to make the team.
In order to consider who might fit in and where, let’s first check the known boxes on the roster. Here are the forwards we expect to be in Denver next week when the regular season opens:
Andreas Athanasiou — Max Domi — Patrick Kane
Taylor Raddysh — Jonathan Toews — Tyler Johnson
Colin Blackwell — Sam Lafferty — Philipp Kurashev
Jujhar Khaira* — __________ — __________
(Khaira is day-to-day with an ankle injury)
Okay, so that’s 11 guys locked in (in theory) including Katchouk, who’s headed to IR.
So that leaves us with the following players to consider for 2-3 spots up front.
- UPDATE: the Blackhawks made a series of roster moves just before practice started on Tuesday… so some of the guys below apparently won’t be on the opening night roster.
So we can, at least for now, scratch Lukas Reichel and Josiah Slavin off the list of possible forwards on opening night in Denver.
DOUBLE UPDATE: the Blackhawks have placed Dylan Sikura, Luke Philp and Brett Seney on waivers to send them to Rockford. So they’re also out.
Here’s who’s left:
- MacKenzie Entwistle — Entwistle, 23, scored five goals with seven assists in 55 games in the NHL last season and could be a useful player in the bottom six. I like a lot of what I’ve seen from him, both last year and during this preseason. And it’s worth noting he has two years left on his contract before hitting RFA, so there could be a growth curve to his game after a good showing last season.
- Mike Hardman — Hardman, 23, appeared in 21 games last year and appeared to be a useful bottom-line guy. The big question is whether or not his speed is up to what Luke Richardson wants on the ice, and if he can carve out a niche as a physical forward in limited minutes. He, too, has two years remaining on his contract.
- Reese Johnson — see everything I said about Hardman. Johnson had six points in 37 games last year and is a wrecking ball on the ice, looking for anything he can hit. He’s 24 now and was an undrafted free agent signing in 2019, so we’ll see if the new front office and coaching staff likes him as much as their predecessors. He did win 50.5 percent of 212 faceoffs in the NHL last season.
- Buddy Robinson — Robinson turned 31 on Sept. 30 and, like Philp and the next two guys on our list, signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Blackhawks in July. He scored one goal with five assists in 32 games with the Anaheim Ducks last season. But what you don’t see on the back of his hockey card is how massive Robinson is; he’s every bit of 6-6 before he puts on skates. His size makes him a fascinating proposition.