Entering the 2020-21 campaign, the Blackhawks have a number of young players capable of breaking out and certainly, the organization will be hoping on some steep development curves.
I’d imagine, if the Blackhawks’ season is going to go anywhere, they’ll need one of Malcolm Subban, Colin Delia or Kevin Lankinen to have a breakout season in net. For the purposes of this post, however, I feel that would be too easy a choice, considering the eyes that will be on that position after Corey Crawford’s departure left a huge hole (and a number of questions) in Chicago’s net.
The next guy one might expect would be Kirby Dach. An excellent choice indeed.
Dach played an increased role for Chicago in the qualifying round against Edmonton and their first-round series defeat against Las Vegas. He went from averaging 14:16 of ice-time during the regular season, to 19:24 in the post-season. With the increased ice-time also came more powerplay time, getting a chance to play with Toews, Kane and Kubalik on the first unit. His production reflected his increased opportunity and confidence, as he went on to post six points in nine games — good for fourth on the team (tied with Alex DeBrincat and Olli Maatta). The entire team struggled with possession in the post-season, especially against Las Vegas but Dach was second on the team in Corsi% and fourth in Fenwick%. With his current upward trajectory, coupled with his likely placement as Patrick Kane’s center to start the year, it’s not going to shock anyone to see Dach’s production really take off from his rookie season. But again, I think that’s too obvious a choice.
After Dach, the guy that really stands out to me as having a great chance to breakout next year is defenseman Adam Boqvist.
We saw glimpses of what Boqvist can bring to the table last year. When he’s playing with confidence, he has the hands, skating ability and creativity to make some special things happen with the puck. Be it with his playmaking and vision, or his ability to skate the line and dangle around players to get dangerous shots through, he can be a handful for opposing defenses.
Like all young players, especially young defensemen in the NHL, consistency was an issue and we saw that in the post-season with Boqvist. He was playing conservatively offensively, while having some issues with forechecking against a big and fast Las Vegas forward group. However, it’s that experience that leads me to believe Boqvist will be prepared to bring more to the table in 2020-21.
With the youth movement underway for the Blackhawks, you should expect to see Boqvist get some prime PP time and lots of opportunity in Chicago’s top-4. If pucks starting going in early on and he gets that confidence at the NHL level to make the plays he’s capable of making, the floodgates will open.
Once those floodgates have opened, I wouldn’t expect them to close any time soon.
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