3 Blackhawks Looking to Bounce Back in 2023

The New Year can not come fast enough for the Chicago Blackhawks. They have two wins in their last 12 games and have lost 18 of their previous 20 games. With all the losses, no one on the team is having a season to remember. But a new year brings a fresh slate, and although the team won’t be fighting for a playoff spot after the clock strikes midnight, redemption and pride in the Blackhawks’ game is still important to help bring some positives in a lost season. It’s obvious to say superstars Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Seth Jones all need to be better in 2023, so here are some “dark horse” players also looking to change their fortunes in 2023.

Boris Katchouk

Boris Katchouk was packaged with Taylor Raddysh as part of the trade return from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Brandon Hagel, and both had untapped potential. While Raddysh has been the fourth-best forward on the Blackhawks this season, Katchouk has taken a step back. After Katchouk was acquired in the trade, he was described as a bottom-six forward who wouldn’t be an offensive force but could provide good depth, defense and get under the opposition’s skin. But his predicament with Chicago is odd because the team has a surplus of bottom-six forwards that play a similar game to him, such as Colin Blackwell, Reese Johnson, and Jujhar Khaira. So, playing time has been hard to come by for him as he has been healthy scratched eight times, and has played in 19 games this season. The lack of games also stems from missing the first seven games with an ankle sprain. He has three points to show for it.

Boris Katchouk Chicago Blackhawks
Boris Katchouk, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Moreover, he hasn’t made a convincing case for more playing time this past week. When the Blackhawks faced the Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 23, he took three penalties in the third period: one for boarding, roughing, and fighting. Granted, the roughing penalty was him standing up for Toews after he took a big hit from Blue Jackets’ forward Sean Kuraly, but the reckless penalties could have cost his team. At the time, they were winning 4-2, but giving any team extra opportunities to get back in the game, especially for a team like Chicago who came into the game on an eight-game losing streak, can quickly turn into a disaster. Luckily, the penalties didn’t come back to hurt the Blackhawks, as they won the game, 5-2, but the point is that he should not have put the team in that position.

Related: Blackhawks Benefiting From Hagel Trade Despite Lightning’s Success

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In the following game against the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 29, the Blackhawks were playing a tight 1-1 game until Katchouk turned the puck over to Calle Rosen, who scored down the middle to make it 2-1 in the second period. Chicago has had a hard time overcoming mistakes and couldn’t make up for it, and the Blues won 3-1. Those are two big blunders in back-to-back games that can’t happen. Of course, the 24-year-old knows that and will want a blank slate in 2023, to string together strong performances to make up for those instances, and prove he can be the valuable depth forward they traded for because he certainly can still be. Head coach Luke Richardson and his teammates mentioned they have his back, which is always great to see when a player has a string of bad games.

Jason Dickinson

When Jason Dickinson was acquired before the season started from the Vancouver Canucks, it seemed one of the smartest moves general manager Kyle Davidson made in his short tenure thus far. Dickinson struggled mightily in Vancouver, only posting 11 points in 62 games last season. However, when he made his Blackhawks debut, he had six points in his first 10 games. His game style is a defense-first forward who isn’t known for offense. During his eight-year career, nine goals and 22 points are his career bests. So, the fact that he got off to such a hot start was a pleasant surprise, but with defensive-minded forwards, hot streaks usually aren’t sustainable long-term, so maybe it shouldn’t have been too surprising when he came back down to earth.

Jason Dickinson Chicago Blackhawks
Jason Dickinson, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Dickinson has not scored a goal since Nov. 3, and he is currently on an 11-game scoreless drought, as his last point was an assist against the New York Rangers on Dec. 3. He has 10 points in 30 games this season, which is respectable, but it could be better.

Related: Meet the New Blackhawks: Jason Dickinson

The encouraging news is that Dickinson has been very noticeable by leading the team with six shots in the last two games, so he is on the right track. He is also doing well at the faceoff dot, with a 51.44 percent success rate this season. He has been the anchor of some of the best lines on the team, with the third line of Philipp Kurashev-Dickinson-Sam Lafferty, and, lately, Andreas Athanasiou-Dickinson-Lafferty. It makes his contributions significant to the team, especially on special teams, as two of his four goals this season have been short-handed goals. So, going into 2023, he will look to find the scoresheet as he did at the beginning of the season and improve his minus-10 rating.

Caleb Jones

Someone who needs to have a successful start to 2023 is defenseman Caleb Jones. He signed a one-year, $1.35 million “prove it” deal over the summer, but the last two months have not gone as planned. He started the season with six points in 10 games but then struggled. He has been a healthy scratch for five games this season, including twice in the last four games, and he has not recorded a point in his last eight games while posting a minus-8 rating during that frame. He has been battling with Ian Mitchell for playing time, and currently, the coaching staff has been rotating Jones and Mitchell in and out of the lineup.

Jones was a steady presence to start the season and was putting up stretches of two, three-game point streaks. However, November was not kind to him as he endured a six-game point drought and a game against St. Louis where he was a minus-5 in the Blackhawks’ 5-2 loss on Nov. 16, which was a career first for him.

December has not been much better for Jones, as he has also suffered a hip injury, but he maintains a healthy mindset through it all, stating, “I’ve felt pretty good. I’ve been trying to really get up the ice and push the issue — sometimes maybe even a little too much and sacrificing a little bit [of defense], and that can’t happen for sure. But I look at last year as a total, and I’m on pace to maybe have a career year and break some old numbers. All in all, it has been positive.” The Chicago Sun-Times references his career-high is 15 points in 51 games, and this season he has nine points in 26 games. His point total is tied with Jake McCabe for second-best on defense.

Caleb Jones Chicago Blackhawks
Caleb Jones, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

At Jones’ best, coach Richardson raves about his skating ability and contributions on offense. Therefore, in 2023, he needs to regain his October form if he is to stay in the lineup consistently because of the crowded defense core.

Everyone on the Blackhawks has something to play for going into 2023 for their collective futures, but these three have faced a lot of individual adversity that makes them ones to watch out for. It will make for a more exciting season if any of them can get back on track.

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