Kyle Dubas pulled off a big move at the trade deadline, acquiring the 2019 Norris Trophy winner, Mark Giordano, along with forward Colin Blackwell from the Seattle Kraken in return for two second-round picks (2022 & 2023) and a third-round pick (2024).
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Of course, the main target was Mark Giordano. The veteran defenseman and former Norris Trophy winner promises to help bolster the Maple Leafs’ defense significantly. On the surface, it appears that Colin Blackwell might the kind of “throw-in” often sees in deals like these — more of a house cleaning move of an insignificant piece. However, if we look deeper into Blackwell’s recent past, it appears there might be more to this acquisition.
Blackwell Hasn’t Played a Lot of NHL Games – Yet
The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Blackwell has only played 119 games in his NHL career. After being drafted during the seventh round (194th overall0 of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks, the Lawrence, Massachusetts, native played the next four seasons for Harvard University where he scored 19 goals and 20 assists (for 39 points) in 94 NCAA games.
In 2016 Blackwell signed an AHL deal with the Sharks’ affiliate San Jose Barracuda. He played 57 regular-season games for the Barracuda that season, scoring four goals and adding seven assists (for eleven points). He followed that up with three goals in fifteen playoff games.
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He was not re-signed by San Jose following that season, but he was invited on a PTO to the Rochester Americans of the AHL. Blackwell not only made the Americans out of camp, but he went on to become their highest-scoring player that season with 17 goals and 28 assists (for 45 points) in 61 games. He followed that up with three points in three playoff games.
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Blackwell’s success caught the eye of the Nashville Predators, and they offered him a two-way NHL contract by them in 2018. He accepted. He played 43 games for the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals in the 2018-19 season scoring 14 goals and 12 assists (for 26 points).
After His First NHL Start, Blackwell Continued to Play Well
On January 19, 2019, he got his first NHL start. He played 11:29 in a 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers. He didn’t figure into the scoring, but he was credited with two hits and a blocked shot. Blackwell played the next six games in a row for the Predators. He didn’t have a point in those games, but he did register ten hits and three blocks in those games.
Blackwell started the 2019-20 season back in Milwaukee but was called up again on December 14, 2019, to the Predators. This time he would stay with the big club. He scored three goals and ten points in 27 games. More importantly, his physicality and his defensive game began to surface. He had 43 hits and blocked 23 shots in those 27 games.
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On October 9, 2020, Blackwell was signed as a UFA to a two-year, $725,000 per season contract with the New York Rangers. He went on to have a productive season with the Rangers in 2020-21, scoring 12 goals and adding 10 assists (for 22 points) in 47 games. He also had 45 hits and 19 blocked shots in those games. Worked out over an 82-game season, those numbers would turn into 21 goals, 17 assists, 38 points, 78 hits, and 33 blocks.
Blackwell Was the Kraken’s Choice from the New York Rangers
Blackwell’s play impressed the Seattle Kraken enough that they made him their selection from the Rangers in the 2021 expansion draft. This season Blackwell has scored eight goals and added nine assists (for seventeen points) in 39 games for the Kraken. He also totaled 57 hits and 16 blocked shots, while averaging 12:36 of ice time.
More important, the Maple Leafs seem to be getting Blackwell at a time when he’s playing his best hockey. Over the eight games before he came to the Maple Leafs, Blackwell has seen his ice time increase to 15:30 per game. In those eight games, he’s scored three goals and added four assists for seven points. He also has 15 hits in those eight games.
Blackwell has averaged over a minute a game on the penalty kill for the Kraken this season. Finally, he can play center or wing. In his career, he has taken 241 faceoffs, winning 119 and losing 122 for a 49.4% winning percentage.
Despite his size, Blackwell is solid and doesn’t shy away from the physical aspects of the game. He’s a strong forechecker and is responsible defensively. Not only can he play a solid fourth-line role and kill penalties, but he can also move up onto a third-line role if need be. Last, he could also be an excellent mentor for the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Nick Robertson.
Blackwell Might Be a Great Addition to the Maple Leafs Lineup
Colin Blackwell could be a good addition to the Maple Leafs. And, until Jake Muzzin comes off the LTIR, the team has the salary-cap space to keep Blackwell in the lineup to see if he’s the real deal.
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[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]