With the Chicago Blackhawks on the outside looking in from the onset of these 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the fact that the postseason is nearing its peak means little to nothing to their fans. However, that doesn’t negate that there are individual athletes worthy of recognition for finding their own way of remaining relevant.
This edition of Blackhawks News & Rumours will centre around those who prioritized playing over an early offseason, recapping their respective performances at the 2022 IIHF World Championships.
Jones, Lafferty, & Team USA Come Up Short
Team USA called upon three Blackhawks for their 2022 tournament roster, in hopes of bettering their bronze medal finish from 2021. Unfortunately, USA’s fate was similar to that of the 2021-22 Blackhawks — both squads failed to succeed.
Sam Lafferty was granted the opportunity to represent his country for the first time and he performed as advertised. Like his efforts with Chicago this past season, Lafferty put in the work when called upon. He ended the World Championship with one goal and two assists, for three points in his international debut. Lafferty also led the USA with a plus-3 rating.
Although Caleb and Seth Jones have each accumulated experience in Team USA colours throughout their careers, they’ve never done so alongside one another. Despite both being selected this time around, that wouldn’t change after a pre-tournament wrist injury kept Caleb out of the lineup.
As for the brother that played, Seth was not only expected to set the tone for USA’s defensive efforts but also tasked with doing so for the entire team. Named captain for the first time at this tournament, Jones managing over 25:30 of ice time per night was the perfect way to lead by example. Adding five points was a bonus, too.
It matters to Chicago that Lafferty and Jones effectively managed their respective roles overseas, as the Blackhawks need to extract as much as they can out of the veteran presence on their roster if they hope to make any strides at all with regards to developing the rest of it through this rebuild.
Reichel Among Germany’s Top Performers
Despite joining Germany’s locker room late, since he was participating in the AHL playoffs as the competition got underway, Lukas Reichel took full advantage of the opportunity to showcase exactly why Chicago fans should ignore his lacklustre results at the NHL level to date.
Through 11 games with the Blackhawks in 2021-22, Reichel was only able to accumulate one point. But that’s far from indicative of what he’s capable of, as evidenced by the two goals and three assists he collected through three games played with Germany at the World Championship.
Having only lost one preliminary match, Germany continues to prove that its hockey program is trending in the right direction. Witnessing players like Reichel perform in such a manner helps fuel optimism, as well. A stance that Blackhawks fans hope to share when the 20-year-old becomes a regular in their lineup.
Kurashev & Switzerland Finish in First
Switzerland is undoubtedly a deserving regular when it comes to international competition, but it’s not as though they are often labelled a favourite. Yet, when their stars string together performances like the one Philipp Kurashev was able to, it improves their chances.
Kurashev accumulated four points through seven games at this year’s tournament. A respectable total and one that helped his nation finish at the top of Group A after going undefeated throughout the preliminary round. Unfortunately, their impressive run was cut short after Team USA shut them out early in the playoff round.
Nevertheless, Kurashev holding his own against some of the world’s best will work to the 22-year-old’s advantage when he returns to North America. Having shown blips of the top-end skill he’s capable of throughout his first two years in the NHL, Chicago certainly hopes that this type of additional experience helps to turn him into a more consistent producer.
Gustafsson Showed Up for Sweden
Sweden has become a hockey powerhouse. The level of talent that the country produces is matched by few and it’s never a surprise to see them do well at this type of tournament. What can be, though, is witnessing an otherwise underwhelming NHL veteran impact their nation in a drastically different way.
With Erik Gustafsson‘s 60-point campaign in 2017-18 as a Blackhawk having proven to be an outlier, it was perplexing to most when his former franchise decided to sign him again prior to the start of the 2021-22 campaign. Simply stated, adding him didn’t appear to improve Chicago’s confusing blue line strategy. So it was safe to assume the same of the impact he’d provide for Sweden.
Gustafsson was not being looked at as a top offensive option for Team Sweden. However, the 30-year-old found a way to land 19 shots and earn six assists through seven games. Will that be enough to earn the free agent another one-year deal in Chicago through 2022-23? A guarantee of that type of pace would make the decision a lot easier.
Blackhawks Hope for Better 2022-23
The fact that the Blackhawks have players hungry to prove their worth bodes well for the franchise’s future. These are athletes that could have decided to rejuvenate at home, and justifiably so, following such a discombobulated season in Chicago. Instead, they got right back to work.
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Jones, Lafferty, Reichel, Kurashev, and Gustafsson chose to put their passion on display for the world to see. Hopefully, especially for disengaged Blackhawks fans, that level of commitment pays dividends when the puck drops on Chicago’s 2022-23 campaign.
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.