Blackhawks Roundtable: 2022-23 Season Preview

The Chicago Blackhawks officially begin their 2022-23 campaign on Oct. 12 against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche. Expectations are low this season as the Blackhawks are in full rebuilding mode. During the offseason, they said goodbye to their top goal scorer Alex DeBrincat, one of their feistiest forwards Brandon Hagel, late season’s breakout star Dylan Strome, their 2019 third overall draft pick Kirby Dach and even former Calder Trophy candidate Dominik Kubalik. It’s safe to say the plan is for the Blackhawks to be bad before they can eventually get better. So is there really much to look forward to this season?

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Of course there is!  Numerous prospects and young players are excited to prove their worth. There are new additions to the team who will be trying to find their fit. This could be the last season Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane suit up for the Blackhawks. It might not be a winning season, but it will be an interesting season nonetheless.

Related – Blackhawks Roundtable: DeBrincat, Dach, Toews, Kane & More

Our Blackhawks’ crew at The Hockey Writers recently put their heads together to discuss the upcoming campaign and highlight what may be in store during this difficult rebuild. Brooke LoFurno, Connor Smith, Shaun Filippelli and Gail Kauchak debate expectations about the forward group, the defensive corps, goaltending and more.

Blackhawks New Forwards

We begin on the offensive end. While the Blackhawks lost a plethora of forwards this offseason, they added some new players as well. Let’s each take a look at the three newest forwards, as well as Chicago’s top forward prospect. Talk about what they can offer to the team.

Brooke: Max Domi

Domi can offer elite skill, plain and simple. The Blackhawks lost a lot of talent this offseason and he is someone who is known for elite playmaking capabilities. He also has the ability to be a Blackhawks’ leader in goals behind Kane. He could be someone that fits in like a glove on the top-six for the time being, and should be entertaining to watch with his skill and competitiveness.

Shaun: Andreas Athanasiou

It feels somewhat surprising to reflect on the fact that Athanasiou is entering his eighth year in the league, nearing 400 games played, and his name hasn’t hit the headlines as many times as would align with that lengthy of a career. However, that speaks more so to the scenarios he’s played within rather than the talent he’s brought to each of his former teams.

Andreas Athanasiou LA Kings
Andreas Athanasiou, here with the Los Angeles Kings, will be one of the newest players for the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images),

A former fourth-round pick, Athanasiou has been surpassing that standard ever since with his speed, creativity, and highlight-reel capabilities. That his numbers don’t quite add up in the same manner doesn’t tell his whole story. Although 105 goals and 91 assists through 378 contests is certainly modest production, digging deeper helps to illustrate where he’ll be of the greatest benefit to the Blackhawks.

Athanasiou has averaged a shooting percentage (S%) of over 12.0 throughout his career. What’s more, his 15.5 S% would have placed him second on the Blackhawks by season’s end — ahead of DeBrincat’s 15.2. The point being, he can score when given the opportunity to do so. All signs pointing to the fact that he’ll own a top-six role in Chicago with hefty minutes to manage on a nightly basis, it will be interesting — and entertaining — to see how his conversation rate carries over into his new city.

Connor: Colin Blackwell

A late bloomer who made his NHL debut in 2018 with the Nashville Predators — seven years after his draft — Blackwell is no more than a bottom-six depth forward. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a productive contributor, though. Blackwell’s a versatile player, as he’s able to play both center and wing and should get some good minutes on Chicago’s penalty kill.

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if head coach Luke Richardson alternates him between both positions, especially if finding some early season chemistry is a challenge.

Gail: Lukas Reichel

There’s some debate over whether the Blackhawks will utilize Reichel with the big club this season, or keep him in the AHL for further seasoning. I personally think he’s more than ready for the NHL. Reichel dominated with the Rockford IceHogs last season with a point per game pace, including 21 goals.

The 2020 17th overall draft pick played in 11 games with the Blackhawks last season. His biggest weakness was getting knocked off the puck too easily with his smaller frame. But he’s been focusing on gaining weight and strength the entire offseason in preparation for taking that next step.

Lukas Reichel Chicago Blackhawks
Top prospect Lukas Reichel will be gunning for a regular spot with Chicago Blackhawks this season. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Plus, we all know how Kane LOVES taking young players under his wing, especially those that think the game the same as him. We’ve seen the two develop some chemistry last season. And this might be the last year to expose the young Reichel to what Kane has to offer. Take advantage of letting Reichel learn from the best! I believe that will help his game more than playing with the IceHogs.

Now, I could see if Reichel struggles, he could take a few breaks to go down to the AHL and work on whatever he might need to work on. But for the most part, I see him primarily playing with the Blackhawks this coming season.

Blackhawks Forward You’re Excited to Watch

With the newer players covered, pick a forward outside of the above group that you’re excited to watch is season, and tell us why.

Brooke: Philipp Kurashev

I’m excited to watch Kurashev play because he has a lot to prove after re-signing a one-year, $750,000. He has been very inconsistent thus far, but he and former head coach Derek King believe he has top-six forward potential for this team. (From ‘Blackhawks still waiting for Philipp Kurashev to show what he could be’ – Chicago Sun-Times- 04/11/2022)

Related – Blackhawks Have High Expectations for Kurashev & Jones

I think Kurashev will get ample opportunities to prove he can play on the top-six, so it will be interesting to watch his development play out in what should be a big year for him.

Shaun: Taylor Raddysh

Given the type of production and presence Raddysh was able to have prior to his draft year, both in junior and internationally, it appeared to be a slam dunk for the Tampa Bay Lightning when they drafted him 57th overall in 2016. Unfortunately for Raddysh, entering an already deep system meant it might take some time before they called upon his services.

Following a successful few years in the American Hockey League (AHL), amassing 110 points through 159 games and enjoying an All-Star Game experience, Raddysh was finally given a shot in the NHL through 2021-22.

Taylor Raddysh Chicago Blackhawks
Taylor Raddysh looks to have a breakout season with Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

That said, his role was a limited one. Barely logging 11:00 per night and playing in Tampa’s bottom-six didn’t allow Raddysh to showcase what he’s actually capable of. He was only able to tally seven points through 57 games with the Lightning. Chicago acquiring him at this point in their plan appeared to be the best thing for his career. Not only was he granted over 4:00 more of ice time per night, but he stepped into a top-six role that he should be able to keep moving forward. His production aligned, accumulating 10 points through his final 21 games of the campaign.

Expect to see more of the same, as the freedom to play a more impactful role for the rebuild will allow Raddysh to bring forth the creativity and talent that was bottled up in Tampa.

Connor: Sam Lafferty

I’ll go with an under-the-radar choice in Lafferty. The Blackhawks acquired the 27-year-old last January from the Pittsburgh Penguins, which was one of Kyle Davidson’s first moves before becoming permanent GM. Though he wasn’t the team’s flashiest player, Lafferty thrived with his new teammates and effectively played up and down the lineup. Like Blackwell, I’d expect Lafferty to spend much of this season in the bottom-six, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets some top-six time later this year should injuries or trades occur. Plus, you can’t deny his speed, which is something Davidson has said he’s prioritizing during the rebuild.

Gail: Patrick Kane

Will this be Kane’s last season with the Blackhawks? It’s highly probable. He’s entering the last season of his eight-year contract with a $10.5 million cap hit. While the 33-year-old superstar arguably won’t secure that kind of money with his next contract, he still could demand a lot more than the rebuilding Blackhawks are wanting to pay. Plus, he’s probably itching for a final shot at another Stanley Cup.  

Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane will be a dynamic player to watch this season, regardless of the rebuild. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That said, I’m looking forward to watching the show that Mr. Showtime will likely put on. Kaner has never needed much assistance to still be the natural playmaker he is. I expect him to lead the team in scoring (like he has for almost every season he’s been with the Blackhawks) and also elevate the play of those around him.

Let’s enjoy it while we can.

Blackhawks Defensive Prospects

Moving on to defense, the Blackhawks let Calvin de Haan and Erik Gustafsson walk in free agency and then added veteran Jack Johnson to their group. Besides that, the blue line will look pretty similar this season. Although there are numerous defensive prospects who will be gunning to make the big club. Let’s look at four of them. Discuss this prospect, and whether you feel they may, or may not, make the team out of training camp.

Brooke: Alec Regula

Regula impressed me the most last season as he makes the right plays. He seemed to have a positive influence in all the 15 games he played, and he seamlessly fit in wherever he was placed; whether it was special teams, or throughout the different defensive pairings.

Alec Regula Chicago Blackhawks
Will Alec Regula make the team out of training camp? (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 22-year-old also has the potential to be a reliable point producer, although he only had one point (a goal) with Chicago last season. I believe he will start the season with the Icehogs and get some call-ups during the season.

Shaun: Ian Mitchell

Mitchell was a highly touted prospect for a reason. Despite the offensive defenseman’s inability to hit a level of production that would support that claim to this point in his career, that doesn’t mean there isn’t enough laneway ahead of him to develop into exactly what we all hoped he would be for the Blackhawks.

The fact is, Mitchell has proven to be good at what he does at all levels of play below this one. The dynamic defenseman hasn’t just had a flukey season here or there, he’s scored at will and made an impact on every roster he’s been part of. From dominating in the NCAA, he more recently found his groove in the AHL, where he topped all defensemen on the IceHogs with his 35-point campaign in 2021-22. That was also third on the entire team.

Related – Blackhawks News & Rumors: Seabrook, Toews, Kane, Dach, More

That all said, letting his initial sample size of games in Chicago be the only basis for judgement won’t do anyone any favours — especially Mitchell. Given his growth last season alone, it’s clear that he’s capable of more. Allowing him the opportunity to finally own a consistent spot on the Blackhawks will also offer an opportunity more conducive to permitting cohesion and owning the role. From there, he’ll be able to do what he did with the same type of situation presented to him in Rockford last season and prove that he’s an invaluable member of this franchise. A perfect fit when it comes to developing alongside the rest of the rebuild, too.

Connor: Isaak Phillips

Phillips got a small taste of the NHL last year, suiting up in four games with Chicago while spending most of his time with the IceHogs. At 6-foot-3, he has decent size and should use that to his advantage. Though he’s looked promising in the AHL, I doubt Phillips makes this year’s team as he’s only two years removed from his draft. As is, Chicago’s defense is crowded, and I think there’s a better chance Mitchell or Vlasic earns a spot as they have a little more NHL experience.

Gail: Alex Vlasic

I don’t know for sure if he’ll make the team out of camp, but I wouldn’t bet against him. The 21-year-old, Wilmette, IL native suited up the last dozen or so of the Blackhawks games last season, and he looked good. He played a lot on the top pairing with Seth Jones, as a matter of fact, and the two complemented each other well. I think that experience will benefit him as he competes for a spot in training camp.

Alex Vlasic Chicago Blackhawks Draft
Alex Vlasic gained some valuable experience playing with the Chicago Blackhawks at the end of last season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Vlasic has some good size at 6-foot-6, and he skates well for his size. He was already touted by the Blackhawks coaching staff as being one of the best performers in their recent prospect camp. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see defenseman Vlasic taking the next step this season.

Blackhawks Goaltending & Coaching

Let’s continue our roundtable with some discussion about goaltending and coaching. The Blackhawks decided NOT to re-sign their free agent goaltenders Kevin Lankinen and Collin Delia. Instead, they traded for veteran netminder Petr Mrazek, and signed 35-year-old Alex Stalock. The organization also welcomed Richardson as their 40th head coach in franchise history. Richardson in turn extended an assistant coaching offer to former interim head coach King.

Tell us what your expectations are for these netminders and coaches.

Shaun: Petr Mrazek

As a Toronto Maple Leafs fan as well, I’ve been exposed to my share of Mrázek headlines throughout the last calendar year. He was acquired in Toronto to help solidify their goaltending duo, owning a 1A/1B type of role with the club. All seemed to align on paper, as his career numbers indicated that he was due for a bounce back after missing most of the season prior, and his strong stats suggested he’d be an upgrade for Toronto.

Unfortunately, none of that took into account that he would be equally as prone to being sidelined through most of the year, yet again. As such, he barely got into any action with the Maple Leafs and their plan in that respect fell apart. Mrázek also reached career lows in a number of regards, which is even more concerning when you consider how powerful of a team the Maple Leafs were all season. Their whole roster should have benefited.

Petr Mrazek, Toronto Maple Leafs
Petr Mrazek with theToronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

When it comes to what he’ll bring to the Blackhawks, I truly don’t know. While I have optimism that he can perform better than he did as a Maple Leaf, in terms of being more reliable than he was when he’s in the net, the issue for me is whether or not he’ll actually be able to remain active and available. Add in that he’ll see an increased workload day in and day out, given their rebuilding state, and it almost seems like a recipe for re-injury. While I hope that’s not the case, I’ll need to witness a season of health and reliability out of him before I can gauge much further into his future.

If Mrázek does remain injury-free, he’ll obviously be their go-to starter for much of the year. He’s proven he can perform, even on subpar teams, so that will at least give the Blackhawks the comfort of knowing they can shift their focus to development in front of him. Again, however, these are all hypotheticals for now.

Connor: Alex Stalock

My expectations for Stalock are low. While I’d expect him to be on the NHL roster entering the year as Chicago’s backup, he’s only played in one NHL game over the last two seasons. Stalock missed all of 2020-21 due to myocarditis and complications from COVID-19 before spending most of last year in the AHL. There’s certainly room for concern, with what will be a bad Blackhawks’ defense in front of him.

Related – Blackhawks’ 3 Best Contracts Entering the 2022-23 Season

That said, Stalock will still be one to watch as he’s battled adversity over the last few years. Any glimmer of success could be a nice feel-good story. However, at 35 years old, a poor start from Stalock could pave the way for Arvid Söderblom to come up and play with Mrázek. For now, however, I’d expect the Blackhawks to roll with Stalock as their primary backup despite possible health concerns.

Brooke: Luke Richardson

I am cautiously optimistic with Richardson being head coach. He seems to have an excellent grasp on what will be experienced during the Blackhawks rebuild, and he seems like someone that can get the most of players. Chicago is not expected to be good, but if Richardson has the team ready and playing hard every night, I think that will be a “success.” I believe the Hawks are in good hands with him, but that can’t truly be determined until the season plays out.

Gail: Derek King

First off, kudos to Richardson for putting his ego aside and taking into account what King has to offer. King took a team that was lost under the leadership of Jeremy Colliton and really turned things around. He provided a breath of fresh air, a new start and a new attitude after a very frustrating beginning to the 2021-22 campaign. True, many would argue King might not have what it takes to be a permanent NHL head coach. But the fact that management and Richardson saw him as an asset speaks volumes.

In a recent article with James Neveau of NBC 5 Chicago, King discussed what he feels he has to offer to the team.

This is a great fit. I want to be part of this rebuild, and I want to work with these kids, and I know a lot of them, so I can help.

We shall see where it takes them, but King will now have a chance to impact this team, and the rebuild, on a different level.

What You’re Most Excited for in the Blackhawks Season

Finally, let’s end on a positive note. We established at the beginning of this post it will be a difficult season for the rebuilding Blackhawks. But even so, there are reasons to be excited about the upcoming campaign. What are you most excited about for the Blackhawks 2022-23 season?

Brooke

I’m most excited to see how this team pans out. They’re projected to be second-worst in the Central Division, but it will be interesting to see if they can beat the projections. They could play better hockey than anticipated even if they are “bad.”

Shaun

The reality is, accepting that this team is entering a far more explicit rebuild than the confusion they put together in recent years, I’m excited to witness the growth potential of all the parts that make up the foundation of this new-look Blackhawks lineup. To me, it’s not so much about what their veterans can do to keep the ship afloat in the meantime, whether those that are already familiar faces or the ones they’ve recently acquired. I’m looking forward to watching names that are less known get increased opportunity to put on a show they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to be part of.

Ian Mitchell Chicago Blackhawks
Will prospects such as Ian Mitchell have more of a chance to make an impact with the rebuilding Blackhawks? (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Thinking back to 2020-21, which should have been part of when a more effective rebuild began in Chicago, goaltender Lankinen’s ability to perform the way he did to string together such a surprising rookie campaign was invigorating to witness as a fan. It kept things fun, entertaining, and relevant at a time when far less was expected. That’s what I want to see out of this team through 2022-23.

What can Reichel do alongside  Kane? How will Kurashev evolve with a greater spotlight? Can Mitchell become a top producing blueliner? How will Raddysh elevate with a more open opportunity to influence the game? When will Söderblom get into enough action to prove that he’s their next No. 1 netminder?

These are the questions I look forward to being answered. Not just because it will alleviate the curiosities, but because I’m optimistic that the outcomes will be of benefit to the Blackhawks rebuild and beyond.

Connor

Though a bottom-five finish seems inevitable for the Blackhawks this season, there’s a few things I’m keeping my eye on. First, I love the Richardson hire, and I think his players will respond well to him even if the on-ice product is flawed. Now, of course, time will tell whether Richardson becomes the next Jon Cooper or Jared Bednar given where the Blackhawks are at. Having said that, bringing in a new voice was a smart move for Chicago while still keeping King in the fold.

Second, as bad as this season will be, Chicago improved its prospect pipeline over the offseason even if it meant losing some solid young pieces (e.g.:DeBrincat, Dach) in the process. I’d be shocked if the Blackhawks’ three 2022 first-round picks get NHL time this season, but Chicago has some decent prospects waiting in the wings, most notably Reichel and Vlasic. I’m excited to watch both players develop this year should they make the club, especially Reichel, and my expectations for both are high.

Finally, don’t get me wrong. The Blackhawks are not — and will not — be a good team. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Toews and Kane have a chip on their shoulder, which could result in more success than expected. Neither have hinted at wanting to move on from Chicago, and since attendance and ratings will almost certainly be down, I think both players might have something to prove as they enter what could be their final year with the team.

Gail

Development, development, development! This is what rebuilding teams are supposed to do; develop their players for the future. There are numerous prospects that will likely spend most of their time with the IceHogs. But I see them also getting called up in stints for some time with the big club. There are clearly a number of placeholder players with the Blackhawks while the youngsters find their way. But that doesn’t mean they can’t develop and grow for the future; whether it be with the Blackhawks or another team.

Finally, the veterans are there to essentially help with the development of the next generation. How will they embrace their role and make this a better team in the long run?


The 2022-23 season will define the Blackhawks moving forward as they jump head-first into their rebuild. It might not always to pretty, but there are still lots of things to look forward to and evaluate along the way. What do you expect out of the forward group, the defensemen and the goaltending? Who will you be watching this season? What are you most excited about? Let’s all try to have the right perspective about this upcoming campaign and see it as a year of learning and growing.

Is it October yet?!