While we are in the midst of the offseason, there is a lot to reflect on for the Chicago Blackhawks. It was a season with a lot of hits and misses, and the same goes for the players. This summer, our Blackhawks team is grading the performance of all the players from the 2020-21 roster. The man who will take the spotlight in this installment is center, Ryan Carpenter.
Carpenter came to the Blackhawks in 2019 as a free-agent signing from the Vegas Golden Knights. He came in to fill a bottom-six role of a center/right-wing that is Marcus Kruger-esque. He is one of those players that won’t produce much in terms of goals and assists – he’s more renowned for his defensive abilities and he has shined in the faceoff dot.
Carpenter was second-best on the team in faceoffs behind David Kampf, whose FO% was 52%. He was third-best on the team in hits behind Nikita Zadorov (190) and Connor Murphy (102).
Carpenter was shuffled with different linemates during the season, as was the rest of the team. But the combination that seemed to have the most success was a line of Matthew Highmore-Kampf-Carpenter. When Highmore left the team after getting traded to the Vancouver Canucks at the trade deadline, Brett Connolly took his place and that seemed to work very well too. Overall, Carpenter’s most consistent linemate was Kampf and whoever slotted in on the left side seemed to feed off of their shutdown vibe. Whether it was Brandon Hagel, Reese Johnson, or Carl Soderberg, the fourth line was the least troubled when it came to needing that spark.
Besides being a fourth-line anchor, Carpetner has been a driving force behind the penalty kill. The Blackhawks have had issues with the penalty kill for years, but since Carpenter arrived, that area has seen improvement. He may as well build a house there, because he looks right at home. Look at this nifty short-handed goal that he scored in March:
The penalty kill has had its ups and downs, but overall, it was better this year. It ended up ranking 19th in the league with an 81% success rate. It did get hot and went on a 17-for-17 streak in April and it seems like the one aspect that they can continue building on. If Carpenter is still on the team next season, the team will likely continue to look for solutions with him at the helm.
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As stated earlier, his defense is what the Blackhawks have relied on and that shouldn’t be understated. During the season, opponents’ shot attempts and scoring-chance rates were the lowest of any Hawks’ forward. (from ‘Blackhawks 2021 player evaluations: Who met expectations? Who fell short?’ -Chicago Sun-Times – 05/15/2021).
Overall, I like what Carpenter can bring to the table. He understands his role. He is a good, complementary player that is probably better fitted on a competitive team like Vegas. While his defense is welcomed, it doesn’t really do much for a team that is in dire need of production. For example, he went 17 straight games without a point. I don’t think that is going to cut it on a team like the Blackhawks. The other part of the equation is where exactly he fits in going forward.
Next season, Kirby Dach will back in full force, and they also have Henrik Borgstrom that they recently acquired from the Florida Panthers. Their 2020 first-round draft pick, Lukas Reichel, is expected to slot in somewhere. They also have Philipp Kurashev and Pius Suter to consider. It seems like he could be a piece that could be on the outside looking in because they have a plethora of young forwards that can fill that bottom-six role. He is on a three-year, $3 million deal that expires after the 2021-22 season. Because of his cap-friendly deal, I could see him being packaged in a trade.
While there is a lot that I like about Carpenter’s game, it’s hard to get behind his points production. Although that is a part of his game that is not expected because he is dependable in other ways, it still is something the Blackhawks need, point blank. On the flip side, he certainly played his defensive role well and that is very significant too. There is a lot of give and take that goes along with his play. Five points doesn’t give us a lot to work with in terms of a full-on analysis, but he may have given us just enough to work with his grade.
Be sure to refer back to this page to see all of our grades given to the roster. It is frequently updated so make sure you don’t miss your favorite player!
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Just a small town girl with Midwestern charm; combined with a love of dogs, writing, frappuccinos, Chicago-isms, sports, and a whole lot of Blackhawks hockey. Twitter: @brooke_lofo.