The Chicago Blackhawks have been on a pretty good run as of late. They have won four of their last five games and are looking to continue their upward trend. When teams are winning, it’s easy to point out the stars: the Patrick Kanes, the Alex DeBrincats, and the Marc-Andre Fleurys, but the Blackhawks’ wins have also come in part due to their depth stepping up to the plate. One of the players that have been a standout is Philipp Kurashev.
Kurashev’s Blackhawks’ Tenure
Kurashev is in his sophomore year with the Blackhawks and is coming off a successful freshman year.
Last season, he had eight goals, eight assists, and 16 points in 54 games. In that span he showed glimpses of a player that could be exactly what the Blackhawks need him to be: a good depth forward. He showed offensive capabilities that excited fans to see what he could bring to the new, full season.
However, this season started badly. Just like the team itself, Kurashev got off to a very slow start. He looked off and was not producing. He had no goals and five points in the first 19 games. Because of this, he was sent down to the Blackhawks’ affiliate team, the Rockford Icehogs on Nov. 29, to give him substantial playing time and help boost his confidence. In three games with Rockford, he had two goals and three points. He was then recalled back to Chicago nine days after his demotion, hoping that his production would finally click. It worked perfectly.
Kurashev’s New Year Production
Since the 2022 New Year, Kurashev has easily been one of the forwards that have stood out every game. The Blackhawks started the new year egging on a six-game losing streak, however, it wasn’t due to him. When they faced the Nashville Predators on Jan. 1, he was the lone goal-scorer in the 6-1 blowout loss. He has been noticeable, not just by game but by shift. He was working hard to find the puck and create plays during every shift. He has generated a lot of plays that unfortunately didn’t end up in goals, but some have.
One of his best moments was when the Blackhawks faced the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 11. He outworked Jackets’ defenseman Jake Bean to get the puck to Calvin De Haan for a goal that changed the momentum of the game. The Hawks won 4-2, largely in part to that play.
Kurashev is bringing a lot more hustle to his game, which is nice to see. There’s something to be said about effort in the NHL. If you continue to grind, eventually the puck will find you and that is exactly what is happening with him at the moment. He has been outstanding on the forecheck and all of that is being noticed by head coach Derek King. He is a third-line forward, yet it seems like his ice-time has been steadily increasing. His average time on ice (TOI) is 13 minutes in his career. In November and December, his TOI was 11-12 minutes. In the month of January, his TOI has increased to 15-18 minutes a night. During the Blackhawks game against the Seattle Kraken on Jan. 17, he even got some reps with Kane on the top line.
Another way that King has utilized Kurashev is in overtime. A player like him would probably be an afterthought to use in overtime because you would likely look to players like Kane and DeBrincat to get the brunt of the ice time. Yet, coach King decided to put Kurashev in overtime against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 13, where he ended up getting the most bizarre yet entertaining overtime goal that has been seen in a while. Again, that play comes from the hustle to get the puck to the net. He produced in back-to-back games against Columbus and Montreal that benefited the team in what became a four-game win streak.
Kurashev’s Keys to Success Going Forward
The Blackhawks’ depth scoring has been an issue all season. The bottom six that includes the likes of Ryan Carpenter, Jujhar Khaira, MacKenzie Entwistle, Henrik Borgstrom, and more all have less than five goals. None of the defenseman have more than four goals. During the Hawks’ four-game win streak, they got goals from Kurashev, Khaira, and three goals from defensemen. It may not sound like much, but for Chicago, that is a huge development.
The way Kurashev has been playing reminds me of something that former-head coach Jeremy Colliton said about him last April. “In every game, he teases you with the upside that he has. What we’re hoping to get from him is the pace and the tempo every shift and just awareness to be on the defensive side [of opposing players] and get through hands to win battles and help move pucks ahead. If he does that, he’s going to be an extremely effective player.” (from ‘Blackhawks’ Philipp Kurashev struggling with consistency, needs April revival’ – Chicago Sun-Times – 04/04/2021).
I think that quote perfectly encompasses what has been seen of Kurashev as of late. He is winning puck battles, moving the puck, creating plays, and bringing a good defensive side to his game. He has the foot speed to quickly create plays like that as well. Last year, I believe he showed more goal-scoring ability. This season, it seems like he is showing more play-making ability. It’s been nice to see that growth in his game. He has three goals, eight assists, and 11 points in 33 games this season. He is proving that he could be a good two-way forward for the bottom six. To put things in perspective, it took him 15 games to get four points to start the season. He now has four points in the past nine games and is riding a hot hand of highlight-reel plays. Him playing with confidence shows and it has bumped the Hawks back into the win column. This is by far the most consistency I have seen from him.
Kurashev is only 22-years-old, which brings another level of excitement to his game. If he keeps a steady pace of production, it will not only provide the necessary depth to win games, but it will also provide security for the Blackhawks’ future because it will give them another prospect that they’ll feel comfortable building around.
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.