The 2021 NHL season figures to have similar hurdles to the end of the ‘19-20 season, as the coronavirus pandemic continues throughout the world and especially in the United States.
But details are starting to trickle out regarding the NHL’s plan for the next season. According to a report from the New York Post, the League is aiming for an 82-game schedule with fans in the stands that would begin Jan. 1, although there is acknowledgement those stipulations seems unlikely. Hub cities remain a potential tactic for portions of the regular season.
Training camp would be 14 days long, with a maximum of 35 skaters per team to audition for roster spots. It’s the same amount of players the Blackhawks were allowed for the Return to Play format, and they’ve had six players depart from that group but have 10 newcomers and two returning from injuries.
What would the Blackhawks’ training camp roster look like and which players are auditioning for roster spots? Let’s find out.
Who’s out: Drake Caggiula, Brandon Saad, Dylan Sikura
Who’s new: Evan Barratt, Matej Chalupa, Mattias Janmark, Cam Morrison, Brandon Pirri, Andrew Shaw (not part of RTP), Zack Smith (not part of RTP), Pius Suter, Michal Teply, Lucas Wallmark
Top-six forwards don’t have much to worry about. If Dylan Strome re-signs with the Blackhawks, he’s in this group, too.
These veterans should all have spots somewhere on the Blackhawks bottom two lines.
Shaw (not part of RTP)
Smith (not part of RTP)
Highmore and Nylander are younger players who were lineup regulars. Highmore’s ceiling is probably a fourth-line role while Nylander has always had the potential to be a top-six forward. Whether or not he realizes that potential remains the evergreen debate.
The main questions around Shaw (concussion) and Smith (back) revolve around their health. If those veterans are ready for the start of camp, they should be in the lineup somewhere.
On the bubble
Despite all the names above, there are spots to be won especially with health concerns for Shaw and Smith that could leave lineup vacancies.
It’s hard to tab a real favorite among these seven. Pirri is back for a second time with Chicago, and Quenneville did get into a postseason game. Suter should get a long look after being the MVP in Switzerland’s top league. Hagel and Kurashev are on loans in Europe but could return to Chicago in time. Johnson was part of the summer roster after his first AHL season.
Four AHL-bound forwards could be in the mix here: Barratt, Chalupa, Morrison and Teply. Barratt and Morrison are Americans who finished their NCAA careers.
The Blackhawks may have Chalupa stay in the Czech Republic to play in games if training camp doesn’t happen close enough to the AHL’s projected Feb. 5 start date.
If training camp starts before the new year, Teply likely won’t be there as it seems likely the Blackhawks will loan him to the Czech Republic’s national junior team for the World Juniors. If he does compete in the tournament, he could join his junior team, the Winnipeg Ice in the WHL, to play in games before the AHL starts.
Who’s out: Slater Koekkoek, Olli Maatta
Who’s new: Wyatt Kalynuk, Anton Lindholm, Ian Mitchell, Nikita Zadorov
Calvin de Haan
Keith and Seabrook are part of the veteran corps general manager Stan Bowman repeatedly said would not be going anywhere. Murphy is probably part of that group at this point, too. The only question for de Haan is his health moving forward. After the way Bowman spoke of Zadorov following the trade that brought him to Chicago, it’s hard to imagine any other result for him.
The main thing keeping Boqvist from being a lock is he had some moments — especially in the postseason — where he looked overmatched. The hope here is the offseason provided him a chance to recover and improve, making his future solely in Chicago. Speaking of the future, the Blackhawks have been eagerly awaiting Mitchell’s arrival for more than a year now and he could break camp with the team.
On the bubble
There are seven defensemen ahead of this group and NHL teams typically don’t carry eight blue-liners, so if any of these players are going to make the leap to the NHL, it seems like it’d have to come at the expense of the aforementioned seven. There’s also the possibility of an injury opening up a roster spot for someone in this group. Given his high draft status, Beaudin would seem to get the first nod but Carlsson has had an NHL call-up, too. Regula’s trajectory has continued upward since he was acquired in the Brendan Perlini trade last October.
Kalynuk and Lindholm take the spots of Chad Krys and Nick Seeler in this group. Both Krys and Seeler were part of the summer roster.
Who’s out: Corey Crawford
Who’s new: Tom Aubrun, Cale Morris
This competition is wide open. Anyone from this trio could emerge in training camp and become Chicago’s No. 1 goaltender, with the backup spot up for grabs as well. Delia and Subban would need to clear waivers to be sent to the AHL, while Lankinen would not. Tomkins looks to be the AHL backup.
Blackhawks’ potential training camp roster
Forwards (19): Carpenter, Dach, DeBrincat, Entwistle, Hagel, Highmore, Johnson, Kampf, Kane, Kubalik, Kurashev, Pirri, Nylander, Quenneville, Shaw (injured), Smith (injured), Strome, Suter, Toews
Alternates: Barratt, Morrisson
Defensemen (12): Beaudin, Boqvist, Carlsson, de Haan, Kalynuk, Keith, Lindholm, Mitchell, Murphy, Regula, Seabrook, Zadorov
Goalies (4): Delia, Lankinen, Subban, Tomkins