It’s strange to say, but the Chicago Blackhawks are on the verge of completing their 2021-22 season. Overall, it’s fair to state that this was another hard campaign for the team. They currently have a 24-32-10 record, and general manager (GM) Kyle Davidson has officially committed to a rebuild. He already has traded multiple key players and more moves could be on the way this offseason. However, the team has to finish the regular season before any of this, and these three players should be watched very closely from here on out.
Dylan Strome is a big player to watch for the remainder of 2021-22. After being a healthy scratch on numerous occasions earlier this season, the 25-year-old’s future in Chicago seemed to be in jeopardy. However, he has bounced back from his immensely cold start and is now playing first-line minutes with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat. Due to this, he has been looking like the legitimate top-six center he was when he first joined the team during the 2018-19 campaign.
In 53 total games this season, Strome has 19 goals, 20 assists, and a minus-2 rating. However, over his last 12 games, he has 10 goals to go along with eight assists. With this kind of production, he is currently playing the best hockey of his career and not showing any signs of slowing down. It will be intriguing to see if he can keep up this marvelous pace of play from now until the end of the season.
With the Blackhawks rebuilding and Strome’s name constantly coming up in the rumor mill, it would be great for him to continue to play this well. After trading Brandon Hagel, Davidson showed that he is not afraid to move top players for massive returns. With Strome being a restricted free agent (RFA) this summer, we could see them look to trade him. Keep in mind, if he maintains this offensive explosion for the remainder of the campaign, his trade value will only skyrocket from here.
Although many Blackhawks fans will focus on the two first-round picks the team received from the Hagel trade, Taylor Raddysh has the potential to be a very good addition, too. With the Lightning, the 24-year-old played bottom-six minutes, so his production wasn’t particularly impressive. In 53 games with Tampa Bay, the rookie winger had five goals and seven assists. Yet, since joining Chicago, he has thrived on their second line, as he already has two goals and two assists in five contests.
Raddysh could blossom into a very effective power forward at the NHL level. With the Blackhawks having far less forward depth than the Lightning, he should have plenty more opportunities to succeed. At one point in time, scouts viewed him as having top-six potential, and it’s easy to understand why. During the 2016-17 season with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), he had 42 goals and 109 points in just 58 games. He also took a major step forward in his development last season, as he recorded 29 points in 27 games with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League (AHL).
With Raddysh already having a larger role with the Blackhawks, it will be very interesting to see if he can continue to play this well from here. There’s no question that the Hagel trade was tough on both the team and its fans. Yet, it will be a bit easier to accept if Raddysh blossoms into his full potential. The rest of this campaign could be the start of that coming to fruition.
With the Blackhawks trading Marc-Andre Fleury to the Minnesota Wild, Kevin Lankinen will be the team’s starting goaltender for the remainder of the season. The 26-year-old has struggled mightily this campaign, as he has a 4-8-5 record, 3.50 goals-against average (GAA), and .889 save percentage (SV%). Although this is the case, he now should have plenty of chances to improve on his rough season from here.
Lankinen showed last season that he does have the potential to be a good goaltender at the NHL level. After surprisingly emerging as the team’s starter, he finished the year with a 17-14-5 record, 3.01 GAA, and .909 SV%. It was fair to classify that campaign as a feel-good story, as the Finnish netminder wasn’t expected to be a part of their NHL roster. Yet, he not only made the team but proved to be a reliable goalie in the process. Now he will be aiming to find his previous form before the season is over.
With Lankinen being a pending unrestricted free agent (UFA), it was a bit surprising to see him stay past the deadline. Although he has had a down year, it seemed likely that the Blackhawks could have landed a draft pick for him. Yet, perhaps remaining with the team will be a good thing because he will be a starter again. Furthermore, he also could improve his value and even earn himself another deal with the club if he finishes the season strong.
Although the Blackhawks are not competing for a playoff spot, it would still be nice for them to end the year on a high note. It will be intriguing to see how well not only these three finish the season, but also the rest of the team’s roster too.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, & Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHL Trade Rumors.