The Chicago Blackhawks are in full rebuild mode, which means they won’t be icing a particularly good team this coming season. As we know, they said good-bye to some very good players such as Brandon Hagel, Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach in an effort to gain more picks and prospects for the future. But they did add a few new faces to their rag-tag bunch for this coming season.
Related – Meet the New Blackhawks: Petr Mrazek
As we continue with our offseason summer series, today let’s get to know new Blackhawks’ forward Colin Blackwell.
Blackhawks Sign Another Veteran Depth Forward
On July 13th, along with the more high-profile signings of Andreas Athansiou and Max Domi, the organization also inked Blackwell to a two-year contract with an average annual cap hit of $1.2 million. The other two forwards were signed to just one-year deals, with the expectation they will be traded for assets at the trade deadline.
But Blackwell’s multi-year contract leads one to believe the Blackhawks think of him as a bigger part of the picture in Chicago. However, this is still a relatively low risk signing for the organization. Here’s what general manager Kyle Davidson had to say on Blackwell, along with his final comment on all three forwards.
…Blackwell is heart and soul, motor never stops, really happy to get him and drive that work rate up a bit higher. In terms of the short-term nature of it, that’s just how it went. It keeps flexibility open for us, but really excited to add the speed and compete level…that the three guys bring up top.(from ‘Everything Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson said about Kane, Toews, free agency and more’, The AthleticCHI – 7/14/22)
Blackwell appears to have the kind of compete level Davidson is looking for as part of the new identity of the team. The 29-year-old will arguably hold down a roster spot while some of the younger forwards find their way with the team’s AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.
Blackwell was drafted in the seventh round (194th overall) by the San Jose Sharks in the 2011 NHL Draft. He then went on to play four years with Harvard University before signing a contract with the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda in the 2016-17 season. He spent the 2017-18 season with the Rochester Americans, the Buffalo Sabres’ AHL affiliate, and then the 2018-19 season with the Milwaukee Admirals, the Nashville Predators affiliate.
The 5-foot-9 forward finally signed his first NHL contract with the Predators in July of 2018 and made his NHL debut with them on Jan. 19, 2019. But like his AHL career, Blackwell was never able to find much stability in his NHL career. After spending one more season with the Predators, he played for the New York Rangers in the 2020-21 season. He was then selected by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 Expansion Draft. At the 2022 trade deadline, Blackwell was acquired by the Toronto Maple Leafs. In this 2022-23 season, the Blackhawks will be his fifth team in as many years.
Blackwell’s best NHL season production-wise was in 2020-21, when he delivered 12 goals and 22 points in 47 games for the Rangers. His 2021-22 season was serviceable as well, with 10 goals and 20 points in 58 games with the Kraken and the Maple Leafs, combined. He also added a goal and an assist in seven postseason games with the Leafs.
But as a depth forward, it’s not exactly Blackwell’s job to score goals. He’ll likely line up among the bottom-six forwards, as well as contribute on the penalty kill. Last season 54.6% of his starts were in the defensive zone. His main job for the Blackhawks will largely be on the defensive side, being hard to play against. Incidentally, he recorded 91 hits and 24 blocked shots in the 2021-22 season.
Also, Blackwell is introduced as a center, but he didn’t take a substantial amount of faceoffs last season. His total was 169 draws, winning them at a 49.1% clip. It will be interesting to see if the Blackhawks end up utilizing him at center or on the wing.
What Blackwell Brings to the Blackhawks
I reached out to our very own fellow Blackhawks’ writer, Shaun Filippelli, to get some further insight on Blackwell. Many of you may know Shaun hails from the Toronto area, and he makes no secret that the Maple Leafs are another one of his favorite teams.
Here are Shaun’s thoughts on what Blackwell might provide for the Blackhawks.
That it slipped my mind Blackwell was a Blackhawk is pretty fitting, when it comes to my take on what his presence will add to the club throughout the upcoming season. It’s not that he’s incapable of being a serviceable bottom-six forward, it’s just that his impact isn’t really that noticeable either way.
With the moves Davidson has made this offseason, it’s really felt more so like he’s just fixated on filling out a roster than actually focusing on what he’s adding to Chicago’s equation. Simply stated, Blackwell is a body.
That all said, it’s not that he can’t be a positive influence. The 29-year-old is entering his fifth year in the league and can be counted on to manage a modest workload without being too much of a liability. Throughout his career, he’s a plus-8. However, that he takes away a lineup spot from a prospect who could do more with the opportunity alongside the rest of Chicago’s rebuild is a little confusing.
Ultimately, while Blackwell infuses a decent amount of veteran experience into a developing lineup that might find it beneficial from time to time, what he brings isn’t overly unique. Don’t expect much production out of Blackwell. But rest assured he doesn’t make this team any worse either.
Hmm, that’s not exactly a raving review for this new Blackhawk. Yet it isn’t a terrible review either. “He’s a body” pretty much sums it up. Shaun expresses frustration that Blackwell will take ice time away from a prospect. But I wonder if that’s kind of the point. As mentioned above, the Massachusetts native will likely be a placeholder while some younger players ripen in the minors. Shucks, the IceHogs might be more entertaining to watch than the Blackhawks this coming season.
But I digress.
As you can see, the consensus is there’s not much to be excited about with the addition of Blackwell to the Blackhawks. But hockey is a fickle sport, and the beauty of it is you just never know what it may bring. Which means Blackwell will probably light it up and be the next Marcus Kruger out there! We’ll just have to wait and find out.
Is it October yet?!