Let’s predict the Blackhawks’ opening day lineup

It’s a whole new team for a whole new season.

With just a few days until the Blackhawks open the regular season against the defending champion Penguins, it’s time for the team to put the finishing touches on its roster. Will it be a good one? Hard to say yet, but it will definitely look a lot different after an active summer by GM Stan Bowman.

The changes look to be widespread across all four forward lines, all three defensive pairings, and the backup goalie spot. Corey Crawford remains the rock between the pipes that we’ve watched for years, but otherwise, this is a whole new recipe for Chef Joel.

Back in early July, I predicted the team’s roster based on its big offseason moves, and a lot of that still applies. But some players, such as Nick Schmaltz and Alex DeBrincat, have turned heads and look set to jump into unexpectedly large roles from Day 1. That’s good news — it’s a sign the kids surpassed expectations.

So here’s what I think the Blackhawks’ roster should look like on opening night. Notice that this isn’t necessarily what I think will happen, as there are a lot of factors at play for the team. For example, they seem to see something in Lance Bouma, which ... yeah, I don’t know about that.

Also, note that this probably won’t be the official roster submitted to the league for the first day of the season. As we’ve noted before, the Blackhawks will likely assemble their proper roster on the second day after placing Marian Hossa on LTIR (assuming no issues there). So that’s what we’re looking at here, rather than the Day 1 roster with Hossa on the books and the team simply trying to get as close to $75 million in cap money as possible.

2017-18 Blackhawks opening day lineup projection

F1Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Richard Panik
F2Alex DeBrincat - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane
F3Patrick Sharp - Artem Anisimov - Ryan Hartman
F4John Hayden - Tanner Kero - Vinnie Hinostroza
D1Duncan Keith - Connor Murphy
D2Michal Kempny - Brent Seabrook
D3Gustav Forsling - Jan Rutta
GoaltenderCorey Crawford - Anton Forsberg
BenchTommy Wingels, Jordin Tootoo, Cody Franson

Now a few notes.

  • I don’t actually expect that to be the fourth line. It seems certain that at least one of Tommy Wingels and Lance Bouma will be in the lineup, and there’s a good chance both of them are. In that case, you might see Hayden and Hinostroza sent to Rockford with Tootoo serving as the 13th forward. That would give the Hawks more experience and grit, but it’s hard to see how Wingels and Bouma are better than Hayden and Hinostroza.
  • I’d place Tomas Jurco on waivers and send him to the AHL. He’s not a terrible player but he just doesn’t stand out in any way. He’s not as good as Hayden or Hinostroza, and doesn’t provide the experience/grit that the Hawks seem to want from Wingels, Bouma, and/or Tootoo. It just seems like a waste of a roster spot at this point.
  • Rutta has won the third right-handed defenseman spot, although I’d still bring aboard Franson on a cheap one-year deal. He’d be a good backup plan in case Rutta struggles or there’s an injury. Jordan Oesterle has been solid in camp, too, but Franson would provide a bit of a different dynamic with his size and big shot.
  • I have no idea whether that defense will actually work. Can Murphy be a top-pairing defender? Can Kempny and Seabrook be a quality second line? Forsling and Rutta, I mean ... it could be good, but who knows? This is why I understand the predictions from some that the Hawks will struggle next season. The defense is still a big question mark./

Do you agree with my lineup? Who do you think should make the Blackhawks’ opening-day roster? Let us know in the comments!