Blackhawks News & Rumours: Plante, Luypen, Kurashev, Jones

As the offseason proceeds, the Chicago Blackhawks continue to find ways to rearrange. Although not all of their related headlines can involve the most prominent names in today’s game, that doesn’t mean that those being written into their story won’t be necessary pieces to Chicago’s puzzle.

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In this edition of Blackhawks News & Rumours, some new additions are welcomed while the franchise awaits a reply from those they hope will return.

Plante Rounds Out Richardson’s Staff

After spending 2015-2020 in a player development role with the Blackhawks and then taking a short hiatus to coach in the NCAA, Derek Plante has returned to the organization. This time, as an assistant coach to Luke Richardson.

For the past couple of years, Plante was behind the bench with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Similar to his background with the Blackhawks, that wasn’t Plante’s only stint with his alma mater.

Plante was part of the Bulldogs’ coaching staff between 2010-2015, during which he helped the school capture an NCAA Championship in 2011. He didn’t achieve in the same manner throughout his return, but he was able to help the team reach the 2021 Frozen Four.

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While this will be Plante’s first time in an assistant role at this level, he’s been behind an NHL bench before — as a player. Plante was drafted in 1989 and participated in 450 contests with four different teams. Including playing 17 games as a Blackhawk. He also spent five seasons overseas.

Like his head coach, Plante brings a wealth of experience when it comes to working with players striving to reach the next tier. It would seem as though a theme has formed for Chicago’s current approach to coaching. One that should certainly help the Blackhawks and their prospect pool benefit from a more fixated focus on development.

Luypen Signs With Blackhawks

Following being selected by the Blackhawks in the seventh round at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, Jalen Luypen went on to enjoy his most productive season with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in 2021-22. After collecting 64 points through 66 contests last year, Luypen added four goals and five assists in the postseason en route to helping the Oil Kings hoist the 2022 WHL Championship.

Having achieved such noticeable year-over-year progress throughout his four seasons in the WHL, it made perfect sense for the Blackhawks to sign Luypen to an entry-level contract.

“Jalen’s overall game has made big strides over the past year, as shown by his and his team’s success last season,” said Blackhawks General Manager Kyle Davidson. “His strong work ethic is what we’re looking for in our prospects and that attitude is what will make a huge difference in the future.”

Being part of a rebuilding Blackhawks squad could work to Luypen’s advantage in ways that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible, had the 20-year-old signed with a team more poised to contend.

Simply stated, despite likely spending most of the year with the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League (AHL), Luypen will be entering a situation in which he may be called up quicker and more often by a lacklustre Chicago lineup.

Rebuilding rosters have expectations that align, but being able to witness a more aggressive approach to prospect development offers a silver lining that both a franchise and its fans should be willing to embrace. Hopefully, the timing of this signing helps Luypen blossom in a way that makes Chicago’s outlook that much brighter.

Kurashev & Jones Remain Unsigned

Speaking of the Blackhawks’ future, Philipp Kurashev and Caleb Jones have still yet to decide if they want to remain part of it.

Philipp Kurashev, Chicago Blackhawks
Philipp Kurashev, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

From a group that included Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik, and Kirby Dach, Kurashev and Jones were the only two restricted free agents (RFA) that Kyle Davidson chose to qualify. Clearly, they fit into Chicago’s current equation in a way the others weren’t able to.

“Any time a player is due for a raise or a new contract, you have to be looking not just for the next season but for the seasons moving forward,” Davidson said at the time. “That definitely goes into the decision-making process when it comes to any RFA or UFA or player you’re going to bring in or contract you’re going to sign.

Kurashev is coming off a mediocre sophomore campaign, in which he earned 21 points through 67 contests. However, the offensive forward has shown a type of skill set throughout his first two seasons in the NHL that suggest he’s due to break out in a much more impactful fashion. Especially if the 22-year-old is assigned a pivotal role, logging more than the 12:51 per night he managed in 2021-22.

Jones, on the other hand, achieved career highs in several categories last season. Including goals, assists, points, shots, blocks, hits, and takeaways. In his first season with the Blackhawks, Jones found a way to elevate beyond anything he was able to accomplish through the three years he spent with the Edmonton Oilers.

Whether or not they end up re-signing in Chicago is yet to be seen, but both are surely expecting expanded roles through 2022-23 if they return.

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Although it’s fair to presume that neither would be the sole reason for any immediate progress Chicago achieves, seeing Kurashev and Jones stick around would at least offer supporters a much-needed break from having to accept additional departures. For now, anyway.