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Taylor Raddysh has been a worthwhile acquisition

The forward — acquired in the Brandon Hagel trade — can still be put in a better position to succeed

Winnipeg Jets v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

If you’ve paid attention to the Chicago Blackhawks in the latter seasons of the Stan Bowman era, you’ll notice that he had an almost fetish-like instinct to acquire “projects” — players who showed some promise before they were drafted but weren’t working out for the teams that drafted them.

In some cases, these projects worked out (see Strome, Dylan) while in others (Nylander, Alex) they didn’t. Taylor Raddysh, acquired as part of the Brandon Hagel trade before the deadline, effectively in exchange for a fourth-round pick, feels like Kyle Davidson’s first attempt at one of those projects.

But Raddysh shows more promise than some of those failed projects, aligning more closely to the successful mold of Strome (or even a Johnny Oduya from the early days). Raddysh, who scored 12 points in 53 games with the Lightning in his rookie season, came over to the Blackhawks and scored 10 points — including six goals — in 21 games, increasing his points per 60 rate from 1.2 with Tampa to 1.8 with Chicago.

The Blackhawks played Raddysh mainly with Jonathan Toews, with whom Raddysh had a 41.86 expected goal share, which rose to a 49.36 xGF% for Raddysh without Toews and Toews had a 50.02 xGF% without Raddysh. Despite the duo being pretty clearly better apart, they spent 107:52 together, with Raddysh spending just 138:54 away from Toews.

Like Philipp Kurashev, another forward who could be an intriguing middle-six future option for the Blackhawks, Raddysh was at his best during his Blackhawks tenure when skating with Sam Lafferty. In a limited sample, Raddysh was also very good when skating with Kurashev. With Lafferty, Raddysh had a 59.73 xGF% in 82:25, the second-most time with another Blackhawks forward, and a 60.31 xGF% with Kurashev in 72:36.

In Tampa, Raddysh played mainly with bottom-six options for the Lightning like Ross Colton (300:13 together, 54.73 xGF%) and Boris Katchouk (242:27, 57.25 xGF%). Despite that success with Tampa and coming over as part of the same trade, Raddysh and Katchouk spent just 12 minutes together at 5-on-5 for the Blackhawks, perhaps an oversight that could be corrected this upcoming season.

The 2021-22 season was Raddysh’s first in the NHL, and he finished with a wins above replacement mark of 0.48 (per Top Down Hockey) which was better than 39% of the NHL. Most of Raddysh’s production came from his contributions on offense at even-strength, where Raddysh was better than 57% of the league.

Raddysh wasn’t bad defensively either, better than 48% of the league based on Top Down Hockey’s data (and presented in the card above). Raddysh was also good at drawing penalties (77%).

Raddysh’s numbers were better in Tampa, not just shown by his possession stats with the two teams (52.83 xGF% at 5-on-5 with Tampa, 45.47% with the Blackhawks; 54.64 high-danger share with Tampa, 47.31% with the Blackhawks) but Raddysh had a 7.4 goals above replacement mark with the Lightning which fell to 0.4 with the Blackhawks. Raddysh was worth 1.3 wins above replacement for the Lightning and 0.3 for the Blackhawks — although some of that is obviously attributed to Raddysh playing 53 games in Tampa and just 21 with Chicago.

However, in terms of expected goals above replacement, Raddysh was more valuable to the Blackhawks, with 1.6 xGAR in Chicago and 0.6 xGAR with the Lightning. Raddysh was a better scorer for the Blackhawks at 5-on-5, with 1.7 points per 60 at 5-on-5 with Chicago and 1.17 with Tampa. Raddysh had a higher shot percentage (10% vs. 7.14%) with the Blackhawks and more expected goals (0.92 as a Blackhawk, 0.82 with the Lightning).

Raddysh saw an explosion in minutes with the Blackhawks, with his average ice time rising from 11:03 with Tampa to 15:34 in Chicago. He also got a longer look with Chicago’s power play, averaging just 31 per seconds of ice time with the man advantage in Tampa to 3:10 in Chicago. Raddysh scored more man-advantage goals with the Blackhawks but didn’t add any assists, while he scored more assists with the Lightning but no goals.

Raddysh skates well and is able to get to the high-danger zone, especially on the power play. He was responsible for a rate of 4.32 individual high-danger chances per 60 with the Lightning’s power play, but that number nearly doubled to 8.98 with the Blackhawks. That stat shows Raddysh’s potential as a playmaker, although he could benefit from better finishing of those chances.

Raddysh seemed more confident with the Blackhawks than he may have looked with the Lightning, especially due to the faith placed in Raddysh late in the season. At times, Raddysh looked like one of the best forwards for the Blackhawks, although with as much wearing down as other forwards who were with the team longer experienced, maybe that’s for a reason.

The red areas on the chart below show where Chicago’s offense generated chances at a higher rate with Raddysh on the ice. Note the areas at the right point and near the net:

Without Raddysh on the ice, there’s a lot more blue on the chart, which means Chicago wasn’t generating as many offensive chances when Raddysh was on the bench (or skating with Tampa earlier in the season):

A full season of Raddysh with the Blackhawks will help show what he actually is, hopefully under a better direction and leadership. It also wouldn’t hurt to put Raddysh with younger forwards, especially with how good — albeit in a limited sample — he and Kurashev were together. Put them with a center who shoots more and plays additional defense and perhaps that can be a successful line.

Raddysh was an effective stand in for Hagel in the latter part of the season and likely has a chance to figure out his full-time role this season. At just 24, Raddysh is still young and hasn’t had his body worn down by the rigors of the NHL schedule at this stage in his career. That is one positive from Raddysh making a late debut in the NHL while struggling to find a role within Tampa’s organization.