Chicago Blackhawks’ 2022-23 Player Grades: Defensemen

We’ve reached the final installment of player grades from the 2022-23 campaign for the Chicago Blackhawks. Our THW crew has already handed out report cards for the veteran forwards, the newcomer/call-up forwards, and the goaltenders. I’ve linked these articles throughout this piece for your easy perusal. Today, we’ll cover the plethora of defensemen (12 in all) that made contributions throughout the season. There was a strong veteran presence, but also plenty of young talent mixed in on the blue line. The rebuild is in full force in Chicago! Let’s dive in.

Andreas Englund

0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, minus-2 in 11 games played. Average time on ice (ATOI) of 14:53 minutes

42.2 Corsi For Percentage (CF%), 13 blocked shots, 29 hits, 1 takeaway, 3 giveaways, 9 penalty minutes

Cap Status: Unrestricted Free Agent, previous cap hit of $750,000

It’s difficult to grade Englund because he only played in 11 games, in a brand new system and on the tail end of a bad season. The Stockholm, Sweden native was part of a trade between the Blackhawks and the Colorado Avalanche involving an even player swap between Englund and fellow defenseman Jack Johnson.

Related – Chicago Blackhawks’ 2022-23 Player Grades: Veteran Forwards

While Englund suited up for 36 contests with the Avalanche, he also played 15 games with the AHL Colorado Eagles. He was something of a tweener, and the Avs were obviously much more interested in the veteran Johnson’s playoff experience and previous familiarity with their system.

Andreas Englund Chicago Blackhawks
Andreas Englund came to the Chicago Blackhawks via a trade with the Colorado Avalanche. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Englund is known for his physical play, and he did dish out a healthy 29 hits with the Blackhawks while playing on the third defensive pairing. At 6-foot-3 and 189 pounds, the 27-year-old fits the Blackhawks’ persona of big and physical defenseman. But the organization has plenty of younger, more talented prospects in their system they are more invested in. Englund didn’t do much to stand out in the crowd, and I wouldn’t expect the Blackhawks to re-sign him.

Englund’s Final Grade: D

Caleb Jones

4 goals, 12 assists, 16 points, minus-19 in 73 games played. ATOI of 19:13 minutes

47.5 CF%, 118 blocked shots, 116 hits, 29 takeaways, 49 giveaways, 40 penalty minutes

Cap Status: Restricted Free Agent, previous cap hit of $1.35 million

The fact that Jones was not part of a defensive rotation at the end of the season bodes well for his favor with the Blackhawks, and to be re-signed in the offseason. The 25-year-old proved himself a reliable third pairing defenseman. As a matter of fact, he even held his own on the top pairing with his brother Seth. This sibling pairing developed after the Blackhawks lost some key defensemen at the trade deadline. Caleb is versatile in that he can play on both the right and the left side, and he’s not afraid to chip in offensively when he sees an opportunity.

Latest News & Highlights

Statistics wise, Jones’ 12 assists, 16 points and 73 games were all career highs. His 118 blocked shots was third on the team behind Connor Murphy and brother Seth. Some might think re-signing Jones would take a spot from one of the deserving young defensive prospects. But one could argue he warrants a position in his own right. Or he certainly would be a good placeholder while the youngsters get up to speed.

C. Jones’ Final Grade: B-

Seth Jones

12 goals, 25 assists, 37 points, minus-38 in 72 games played. ATOI of 24:27 minutes

47.6 CF%, 125 blocked shots, 106 hits, 46 takeaways, 66 giveaways, 30 penalty minutes

Cap Status: Signed through the 2028-29 season, cap hit of $9.5 million

The eldest Jones brother was definitely a workhorse for the Blackhawks this season. His average time on the ice of 24:27 minutes was by far the most on the team; Patrick Kane came in second with 19:57 average minutes. Jones led the entire team with his 25 assists and amassed the most goals and points of all defensemen.

Sign up for our free ‘Blackhawks Substack Newsletter‘ for all the latest.

He also ranked third in short-handed ice time (137:43 minutes), and second to forward Taylor Raddysh in power play time (237:01 minutes) quarterbacking the first unit throughout the season. The 28-year-old was second on the team in blocked shots behind Murphy, and registered the second-most shots on the team at 178 (Kane had 182). Jones took on that shoot-first mentality, especially as the season progressed.

Seth Jones, Chicago Blackhawks
Seth Jones was a workhorse this season for the Chicago Blackhawks as their top defenseman. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that minus-38 plus/minus looks pretty ugly. But when you’re out there as much as Jones, and in the toughest situations as the top-pairing defenseman, you’re inevitably gonna be on the ice for lots of goals against. Especially on this rebuilding team that’s short on all-around talent. Having Jack Johnson as his partner at the beginning of the season didn’t work out so well; things got much better after he was paired with Jake McCabe. Then the team lost McCabe to the Maple Leafs at the deadline. Jones worked with his brother Caleb after that, and even ushered in top prospect Alex Vlasic at the very end of the campaign.

Jones would certainly benefit from some more consistency, and he’ll be the first to tell you there’s room for improvement to his game. But considering the circumstances, he had a solid season.

S. Jones Final Grade: A-

Wyatt Kaiser

0 goals, 3 assists, 3 points, minus-4 in 9 games played. ATOI of 18:36 minutes

47.5 CF%, 10 blocked shots, 5 hits, 0 takeaways, 13 giveaways, 4 penalty minutes

Cap Status: Signed on a two-way contract through the 2024-25 season, cap hit of $916,667

Kaiser was signed in March of 2023 after his junior year in college with Minnesota Duluth. He joined the Blackhawks for nine games at the end of the season to assess how he’d fare at the NHL level. He was one of only two defensemen (Filip Roos being the other) who made their NHL debut with the team this season. At 20 years old, Kaiser was also the youngest. He had some growing pains, but all in all he did quite well for himself.

The 6-foot, 173-pound defenseman got better as he went along, being promoted to the second pairing with Murphy for the last three games of the season. Among his overall development, the Blackhawks hope Kaiser can continue to develop his offensive game. Said head coach Luke Richardson,

He’s not afraid to take charge and go with the puck. He’s an excellent skater, so it’s going to be part of his game moving forward. It’s kind of like Seth [Jones] this year: [He’s] just finding the right times to join offensively.

Look for Kaiser to start the season with the Blackhawk’s AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, next season. But his trajectory might be faster than others.

Kaiser’s Final Grade: B+

Ian Mitchell

1 goal, 7 assists, 8 points, minus-8 in 35 games played. ATOI of 15:50 minutes

40.8 CF%, 37 blocked shots, 16 hits, 8 takeaways, 14 giveaways, 8 penalty minutes

Cap Status: Restricted Free Agent, previous cap hit of $925,000

It’s pretty obvious Mitchell fell out of favor with the Blackhawks. They did their due diligence to give him a fair shake, but it almost seemed forced. It didn’t help that Mitchell started the season injured. After that, he never really established himself in the lineup. When he did play, it was always with limited minutes on the third defensive pairing.

As mentioned above, the organization is leaning towards bigger, more physical defensemen, of which they have a plethora of in their system. At 5-foot-11, 193 pounds, Mitchell is at a disadvantage to his larger counterparts. Even without that, the 24-year-old didn’t do a whole lot to sell himself. It appears he’s the odd man out. Perhaps Mitchell will fare better with a different team, but I don’t see it happening with Chicago.

Mitchell’s Final Grade: D

Connor Murphy

7 goals, 6 assists, 13 points, minus-10 in 80 games played. ATOI of 19:23 minutes

42.1 CF%, 160 blocked shots, 165 hits, 26 takeaways, 37 giveaways, 69 penalty minutes

Cap Status: Signed through the 2025-26 season, cap hit of $4.4 million

Murphy was asked to drive a shutdown second pairing this season, starting over 70% of the time in the defensive zone. Considering that, his -10 plus/minus rating is rather impressive. His 160 blocked shots led the team by a mile (Seth Jones was second with 125 blocked shots), and Murphs was credited with the second-most hits behind forward Reese Johnson (who had 178 hits). Murphy was also the team leader in short-handed ice time (168:35 minutes).

This next stat probably isn’t so good for the Dublin, Ohio native. He had the most penalty minutes with the Hawks behind noted hothead Max Domi. Wouldn’t ya know it; Murphy seems like such a nice guy off the ice, but perhaps not so much on the ice. Regardless, the blueliner played hard and gave it his all.

Patrice Bergeron, Connor Murphy
Connor Murphy was given a lot of responsibility this year for the Chicago Blackhawks, both on and off the ice. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

With Jonathan Toews and Kane now gone, Murphy’s six seasons in Chicago makes him the most tenured member of the team. Character points for being the voice of the Blackhawks and representative of the organization, even when that wasn’t an easy thing to do at times. Oh, and by the way, Murphy’s seven goals was a career high. My original mark was a B+, but that last piece knocks him up in my book.

Murphy’s Final Grade: A-

Isaak Phillips

1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points, minus-10 in 16 games played. ATOI of 15:28 minutes

43.4 CF%, 6 blocked shots, 27 hits, 11 takeaways, 8 giveaways, 5 penalty minutes

Cap Status: Signed to a two-way contract through the 2023-24 season, cap hit of $859,167

All signs point toward Phillips having a bright future with the Blackhawks. At just 21 years old, the Barrie, Ontario native was brought into the IceHogs’ organization earlier than usual because of the pandemic and limited college play. He received a four-game stint with the Blackhawks in the 2021-22 season, and then 16 games this past season.

Phillips notched his first NHL goal this season, along with four assists. His deployment was mostly on the second pairing with Murphy, in the absence of Jarred Tinordi to injury. He was deployed on the third pairing in his second stint up with the big club.

Related – Chicago Blackhawks’ 2022-23 Player Grades: Newcomers/Call-Ups

Phillips possesses strong skating ability despite his size (6-foot-3, 194 pounds). He boasts excellent puck control, and he’s been working hard on improving the physical aspect of his game. Here’s a quote from a recent interview of Phillips from Tab Bamford of Bleacher Nation:

…for next year, my goal is to be a full-time NHL player. I think I’m ready. And going into camp [this fall], there’s nowhere else where I want to be other than in that starting lineup come the end of camp.

I believe this is a definite possibility.

Phillip’s Final Grade: A-

Alec Regula

0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, minus-3 in 4 games played. ATOI of 16:36 minutes

39.2 CF%, 8 blocked shots, 4 hits, 1 takeaway, 7 giveaways, 4 penalty minutes

Cap Status: Restricted Free Agent, previous cap hit of $866,667

Regula was utilized at the beginning of the Blackhawks’ campaign, but then spent the rest of the season with the IceHogs. He only played in four games, which was the least of all the defensemen this season. It’s possible he wouldn’t have played at all if it wasn’t for some untimely injuries to other blueliners. While Regula endured numerous healthy scratches, he did enjoy some valuable exposure with the big club before he was permanently re-assigned on Nov. 17.  

Alec Regula Chicago Blackhawks
Alec Regula only played in four games with the Chicago Blackhawks this season. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 22-year-old didn’t make any big waves, but he also was in a tough spot with little consistency. I could see him being re-signed and eventually making his way back into the NHL next season. But he’ll likely start with the IceHogs.

It would be easy to give Regula an Incomplete grade. Instead, we’ll go with the middle-of-the road mark.

Regula’s Final Grade: C

Filip Roos

1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, minus-5 in 17 games played. ATOI of 16:13 minutes

43.5 CF%, 20 blocked shots, 14 hits, 4 takeaways, 10 giveaways, 4 penalty minutes

Cap Status: Signed to a two-way contract through the 2023-24 season, cap hit of $925,000

Roos was the one other blueliner besides Kaiser that made his NHL debut this season. Like Regula, the 24-year-old spent most of his time with the Blackhawks at the beginning of the campaign. He did come back up for two contests in March.

The undrafted defenseman went mostly under the radar in the Swedish league before signing a two-year entry level contract with the Blackhawks in May of 2022. Roos earned his first NHL goal on Nov. 12 against the Anaheim Ducks, right in the middle of his stint with the team. But like his pre-NHL career, he flew under the radar compared to some of the other prospects.

Roos’ Final Grade: C+

Jarred Tinordi

2 goals, 6 assists, 8 points, minus-17 in 44 games played. ATOI of 16:27 minutes

40 CF%, 68 blocked shots, 139 hits, 11 takeaways, 20 giveaways, 40 penalty minutes

Cap Status: Unrestricted Free Agent, previous cap hit of $900,000

Tinordi was Murphy’s shutdown partner on that second pairing for much of the season. His 73.3% defensive zone starts was the highest on the team. He’s dealt with a series of unfortunate injuries, including getting his chin cut by a skate blade, a facial fracture due to an errant puck, and a lingering hip injury. But when Tinordi did play, the 6-foot-6, 229-pound defenseman earned the respect of fans and players alike with his fearlessness.

Believe it or not, Tinordi’s 44 games with the Blackhawks are the most he’s played with any club in his eight year NHL career. He found a niche with the team by being that hard-working, physical player that doesn’t hesitate to defend his teammates when needed.

Jarred Tinordi Chicago Blackhawks
Jarred Tinordi has found his niche with the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

He’s also very well-liked in the locker room. The 31-year-old serves as a journeyman that can be a veteran mentor to his younger teammates. All these things combined earned Tinordi a one-year contract extension with a $1.25 million salary-cap hit. Job well done.

Tinordi’s Final Grade: B+

Alex Vlasic

0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, minus-1 in 6 games played. ATOI of 19:38 minutes

39.6 CF%, 9 blocked shots, 5 hits, 5 takeaways, 1 giveaway, 0 penalty minutes

Cap Status: Signed through the 2023-24 Season, cap hit of $916,667

His stats don’t show it, but the eye test told a different story for this 21-year-old who hails from Wilmette, IL. I was really impressed with this kid in his six-game stint at the end of the season. He possesses great skating ability speed, and he really used his 6-foot-6 frame and long reach to wreak havoc against opposing players.

Unlike most of his young counterparts who were given a look this season at the NHL level, Vlasic wasn’t protected on the third defensive pairing. He was deployed mostly on the second pairing with Murphy, and even got a few spins on the top pairing with Seth Jones. He took advantage of the opportunity and didn’t look at all out of place.

In an interview with Charlie Roumeliotis of NBC Sports Chicago, IceHog’s head coach Anders Sorensen believes both Vlasic and Phillips are the real deal. Not only have they both been among the top defensemen for the IceHogs this season, but for the entire AHL.

Alex Vlasic Chicago Blackhawks
Alex Vlasic impressed in many ways in his short stint with the Chicago Blackhawks this season. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

I’m going for the gusto with Vlasic’s grade, because he really hit the ground running and has such great potential for the future. I’m excited to watch him further grow and develop next season, most likely with the big club.

Vlasic’s Final Grade: A

Nikita Zaitsev

1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, minus-4 in 18 games played. ATOI of 15:17 minutes

34.3 CF%, 29 blocked shots, 34 hits, 4 takeaways, 10 giveaways, 12 penalty minutes

Cap Status: Signed through the 2023-24 season, cap hit of $4.5 million

The Blackhawks took Zaitsev’s $4.5 million cap hit off the Ottawa Senators hands in exchange for more draft picks this past February, as part of their trade deadline transactions. The 31-year-old performed fine for the Blackhawks in his 18 games. But the team already has veteran defensemen in Jones, Murphy and Tinordi. There just doesn’t seem to be enough room for another veteran presence, especially with all the prospects knocking at the door.

I believe the Blackhawks made this move for the draft capital much more than for the player. It’s rumored Zaitsev would be a good candidate for a buyout next season. But who knows? The organization has plenty of money to throw around, some of which they must use to reach the cap floor. Perhaps they’ll keep Zaitsev around for some extra insurance on the back end.

Zaitsev’s Final Grade: C

Related – Chicago Blackhawks 2022-23 Player Grades: Goalies

This concludes our player grades for the Blackhawks’ 2022-23 season. Be sure to catch our other report cards in the links provided above. What do you think, Blackhawks’ fans? Would you agree or disagree with our marks? Who do you believe will return next season? Please provide you thoughts in the comments section below, or where you see this article on Twitter or Facebook. We’d love to interact as the offseason unfolds! Keep it here at The Hocky Writers for coverage of the draft lottery outcome, the draft itself, and all the other offseason news and rumors.

Never a dull moment!