Even if the sole reason that the Chicago Blackhawks are infusing more youth into their approach of late is out of necessity for filling voids within their lineup, that it’s happening more often deserves recognition. As onlookers have preached for some time, offering such opportunities to this team’s next generation is essential. Especially if the rebuilding franchise expects to make good on its commitment to foster development.
This edition of Blackhawks News & Rumors highlights some names that are soon to be among the most recognizable and relied upon within Chicago’s roster — if they aren’t, already.
Reichel & Mitchell Recalled From Rockford
Safe to say, most anticipate that Lukas Reichel and Ian Mitchell will be important parts of Chicago’s core once the organization is back to competing alongside the league’s best. So, it makes sense to grant them NHL minutes whenever it’s logical to do so, ensuring they progress that much further in the meantime.
Having already found his way in and out of Chicago’s locker room this season, Mitchell is now back with the club to help offset the narrative surrounding Jarred Tinordi being placed on injured reserve.
Despite accumulating six points in his first five contests with the Rockford IceHogs in 2022-23, the dynamic defenseman was held pointless through the two games he played leading up to this reunion with the Blackhawks. That said, the confidence he’s oozed of late suggests he’s poised to break out any time.
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Speaking of showing up in meaningful fashion, it’s become increasingly impossible to ignore what Reichel is accomplishing in the American Hockey League (AHL). Following up on his record-setting 2021-22 with the IceHogs, the offensive forward has already tallied 23 points through his first 19 games of 2022-23.
He’s done more than enough to justify his promotion into Chicago’s lineup, the first such call-up for Reichel this season, regardless of how temporary it may be this time around.
If this rebuild expects to propel in the right direction, having its youngest stars be primed and ready to lead the way is a must. Granting Mitchell and Reichel the chance to gain this experience will benefit all involved in Chicago, while hopefully amplifying the importance that these two will play in turning the team back into contenders.
Toews Temporarily Unavailable in Chicago
Not feeling up to the task for Chicago’s morning skate on Dec. 6, in advance of their away game against the New Jersey Devils that night, Jonathan Toews also ended up missing the match itself. Which left the Blackhawks with a challenge, when it came to shuffling their strategy accordingly.
“Right now, that’s just what we have here,” said Richardson. “We just found out [about Toews’ illness] right before the skate so we’ll have to adjust as the game goes. Hopefully he’s okay to go and healthy. Otherwise, we’ll miss him – definitely in the faceoff circle as well as other areas.”
Although the captain has cooled down offensively from a surprisingly hot start to the campaign, his dominance in the dot has been maintained. As evidenced by his 64.2 faceoff percentage (FO%), which sits as the highest of his career.
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Although the Blackhawks found a way to edge the Devils with a 52 FO%, it wasn’t enough to compensate in a way that made them miss Toews any less. Shut out for the second game in a row, losing 3-0 to New Jersey on Dec. 6, Chicago has now lost 10 of their last 11.
Even if his offensive output fizzles the rest of the way, having Toews available for faceoffs alone is always going to be to Chicago’s advantage. Simply stated, when you can get the puck to creative players like Patrick Kane or Max Domi more often, good things are likely to occur.
Söderblom Stepping Up for Blackhawks
With the goalie carousel having been in full swing for the Blackhawks early on in 2022-23, as a result of both Petr Mrázek and Alex Stalock being sidelined for their own respective reasons, Arvid Söderblom has already seen far more action than even he likely expected. That said, the rookie has handed the workload like a pro.
Already sitting atop Chicago’s list of goalies this season relating to games played, Söderblom has faced 371 shots through only 12 contests for an average of nearly 31 against per night.
That the 23-year-old has managed to earn a save percentage (SV%) above .900 on a team that’s been anything but structured in front of him isn’t lost on his head coach, either.
Söderblom appears poised to be part of Chicago’s future, for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, though, his performances when called upon — specifically after being thrown into less-than-ideal scenarios — offer all the justification necessary when it comes to predicting that he’ll be their go-to starter sooner than later.
Although things may seem bleak for the Blackhawks at the moment, given their inability to climb out of the league’s basement, a simple shift in perspective should help this fanbase cope. Getting to witness players like Reichel, Mitchell, and Söderblom persevere through such struggles, means they’ll be that much more effective when the rest of this rebuild catches up.
Freelance thinker, paying too much attention to digital aesthetic. Oxford comma enthusiast. Spider-Man supporter. Sports fan, with two favourite hockey teams. If the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs ever meet in the Stanley Cup Final, you can find me wherever they’re playing that night.