The Chicago Blackhawks will officially begin their quest for a Stanley Cup repeat Tuesday when they drop the puck for a preseason contest against the Detroit Red Wings. The game comes after an interesting training camp that gave us a glimpse at many of the team's newest players.
Each of Chicago's past two championship teams have looked vastly different the next season, but found themselves in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, including the 2013-14 team that reached the Western Conference Final. But this season could be the toughest yet for the Blackhawks to return to the postseason with 11 players leaving leaving the Cup-winning team, and top prospects Stephen Johns and Michael Paliotta also departing in separate trades.
But despite all that, the Hawks are favorites to repeat by Bovada. The Hawks have plenty of talent returning and coming in through the organization, trades and free agency to back up the odds.
Here are the top five takeaways from camp:
The Blackhawks appear prepared to play Patrick Kane until the legal system gives them a reason not to. Kane is still under investigation in New York for allegations of sexual assault -- with a grand injury expected to convene later this month -- but no charges have been filed. There had been a lot of discussion and speculation as to how the Blackhawks and the NHL might handle the situation if it were to drag into the beginning of the season. Now it appears most likely Kane will be allowed to continue participating barring actual charges.
On the ice, that obviously will have a massive impact on the Hawks, given that Kane remains one of the very best players in the world. Off the ice, his presence will lead to tons of questions and comments from media and fans like we've already seen over the past several weeks. Based on the early indications out of Notre Dame, Kane will be warmly received when he hits the ice Tuesday night at the United Center. That's sure to bother a lot of people, rightly so, but the players seem determined to only focus on the task at hand on the ice.
If you were hoping to have the Kane situation entirely sorted out by opening night, there's a good chance that doesn't happen.
Blue line set
The Hawks entered camp trying to find their seventh defenseman, and after one day it appears they weren't impressed by Kyle Cumiskey, Jan Hejda and Lubomir Visnovsky, who were all unrestricted free agents on professional tryouts. On Saturday, Michal Rozsival and the Hawks agreed to a one-year deal worth $600,000 to bring back the veteran defenseman.
With Rozsival, the Blackhawks get a defenseman who’s familiar with the system. What role he plays yet is uncertain, but with Rozsival it looks like the Blackhawks may have their top seven defensemen set (Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor Daley, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Rozsival and David Rundblad).
Marko Dano, one of the players acquired from Columbus for Brandon Saad, got his chance to take Saad's place on the top line alongside Hawks captain Jonathan Toews and forward Marian Hossa. Dano, 20, had a great camp highlighted by scoring three goals, including one on 3-on-3 during Saturday's scrimmages. The Hawks knew about his skills from playing against him, and the captain sees the Dano-Toews-Hossa combination working.
"I don't see why not," Toews said. "He's a good young player, big and strong, has a good shot. Obviously, there's a lot of potential there. You make sure he's comfortable so he doesn't have to think too much. I can imagine what it's like to come in and play with a couple of top-line guys. My mentality, if I were in that position, would be getting those two players the puck all the time. If he does that, he'll be fine. Combinations can change, but it's exiting to see what can happen in that regard."
Teuvo -- center or wing?
The Cup run in 2013 saw Saad storm onto the scene. In 2015, it was Teuvo Teravainen's time. The Finnish rookie had four goals and six assists in 18 games. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville previously stated that Teuvo could end up playing any forward position this season. On Tuesday night against Detroit, he's getting a look at left wing.
No more center woes for this team, however. Anisimov will slide into the role left by Brad Richards, leaving the third line center position to Teravainen, Viktor Tikhonov or Andrew Shaw, who is much more effective at either wing position. But with the cloud of uncertainty looming about Kane's status going forward and Bryan Bickell still feeling vertigo symptoms, Teravainen could move up to the second line wing spot alongside Anisimov. Still, after years of aging options like Michal Handzus and Richards, this is as strong as the Hawks have been up the middle in a while.
So here are two popular options for Teravainen:
Whenever an international player comes overseas to the NHL the first two questions are: how will he communicate with his teammates and how will his game translate to the smaller ice surface? The former will be helped by teammate Tikhonov, who was also teammates with Artemi Panarin at SKA St. Petersburg last season. Pairing Tikhonov with Panarin makes the most sense to help ease communication on the ice while he transitions to the North American game.
During camp, the 23-year-old Russian expressed his gratitude for having teammates to help him through the process.
"It's 100 percent helpful, because when I was signing the contract, I was alone and I thought I could figure it out," Panarin said. "But when I came here and started living here a little bit, [I realized] it would be really tough without some friends around to help me translate a little bit. It's tough coming over and not knowing too much of the language."
Indeed, Panarin's getting a little help from his friends: