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What to watch as Blackhawks open training camp

A new season is upon us.

SPORTS-BC-HKN-BLACKHAWKS-MURPHY-CARLSSON-TB Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks open training camp on Thursday ahead of the 2022-23 NHL season and, well ... it’s hard to think of a season in recent memory with lower expectations than this one.

The team is rebuilding/tanking/whatever-ing and appears to be in a race to the bottom of the NHL standings in hopes of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, aka the Connor Bedard sweepstakes.

But there will be 82 games played between now and next April which will have at least some effect on Chicago’s long-term outlook — and not just in terms of draft positioning.

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first, courtesy of general manager Kyle Davidson’s media session on Wednesday:

We’ll have plenty of time to discuss trade rumors this season. What other things are worth watching before the season gets going?

(Hopefully) healthy returns

Forward Jujhar Khaira and defenseman Connor Murphy ended last season on injured reserve and are still listed as being on IR at the team’s CapFriendly page as of this writing. Both players were spotted on the ice during a few informal practices within the last week, so each appear to ready.

That’s not the case for veteran defenseman Jake McCabe, though, who could be sidelined until, roughly, Thanskgiving after undergoing cervical spine surgery.

Prospect hunting

A handful of younger Blackhawks players could be in contention for full-time NHL positions over the next few weeks. The most obvious name here is 2020 first-round pick Lukas Reichel, who made his NHL debut last season and was as impressive as a top prospect should be during last weekend’s Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase. Some blue-liners could also factor in here, including Alex Vlasic, Ian Mitchell, Alec Regula, Jakub Galvas and Nicolas Beaudin, among others. And while a player in his third NHL season may not necessarily qualify as a “prospect” anymore, there will be plenty of eyes on youngster and noted SCH staff favorite Phillip Kurashev, who we’re all hoping takes a step forward after not really doing so in his sophomore NHL season.

Meet the new boss, (please dear God not) same as the old boss

Luke Richardson has said all of the right things since becoming the Blackhawks head coach back in June and continued to do so during Wednesday’s pre-training camp presser. For the first time, he’ll get the chance to start doing the right things as he navigates a handful of practices and preseason games over the next few weeks.

What are those right things? That’s an excellent question. To be totally honest, I don’t have a good answer for that. Perhaps not doing anything in the next three weeks to suggest that Richardson isn’t worthy of the head coaching role would suffice. Sometimes a lack of egregious mistakes is can be a nice, easy way to get things started.