There couldn't be a more pivotal series on Chicago's schedule than the upcoming 3-game series pitting the Blackhawks against the Predators to dictate their playoff fate in what could be a playoff atmosphere during these regular season outings.
If the Hawks can overtake the Preds for the 4th seed, then they will be in a better state as the next set of series are against the top teams in the Central Division: Lightning (1 game), Panthers (2 games), and Hurricanes (3 games).
Yet, as John Dietz of the Daily Herald pointed out, the 6th place Stars are statistically the strongest team between the Hawks, Preds, and them and thus shouldn't be counted out of the race. The Hawks and Stars battle one more time in the season-ending series.
Game 46, April 19:
Blackhawks @ Predators
Blackhawks, 21-19-5, 47 Pts (5th)
Predators, 24-21-1, 49 Pts (4th)
Blackhawks, 2.78 (18th)
Predators, 2.52 (26th)
Blackhawks, 3.04 (20th)
Predators, 2.83 (16th)
Blackhawks, 33-139, 23.7% (7th)
Predators, 25-132, 18.9% (22nd)
Blackhawks, 92-123, 74.8% (29th)
Predators, 107-143, 74.8% (28th)
For Nashville, Mark Borowiecki, Alexandre Carrier, Filip Forsberg, Mathieu Olivier, Brad Richardson, and Luca Sbisa are on IR. Dante Fabbro and Eeli Tolvanen are day to day.
Also, neither the Hawks nor the Preds have any players on the NHL COVID-19 Protocol List.
The Predators projected lineup (per DailyFaceoff.com):
Grimaldi - Johansen - Arvidsson
Jarnkrok - Granlund - Kunin
Haula - Duchene - Cousins
Trenin - Sissons - Jeannot
Josi - Benning
Ekholm - Ellis
Harpur - Gudbranson
Also available: Michael McCarron (W), Rem Pitlick (C), Philip Tomasino (C), Jeremy Davies (D), David Farrance (D), Tyler Lewington (D), Kasimir Kaskisuo (G).
One player to watch for the Predators is rookie Tanner Jeannot. The undrafted Jeannot was recently called up from the AHL where he was the Wolves best player producing at a 1.62 PPG clip. He plays a heavy style and has a nasty streak as the IceHogs experienced.
2021 Future Watch
Each year the Hockey News publishes its Future Watch edition. The 2021 edition hit newsstands last week. With any rankings, it's suggested to take them with a grain of salt. Yet, it's still interesting to see where your favorite team's prospects stack up.
The annual edition has the Top 100 ranking of prospects across the NHL plus a Top 10 for each team. This year's top prospect is Trevor Zegras and his feature article focuses on how he idolizes the one and only Patrick Kane and patterns his game after #88.
Here is the Top 10 as well as a few other notable rankings:
1. Trevor Zegras (Ducks)
2. Quinton Byfield (Kings)
3. Jamie Dysdale (Ducks)
4. Lucas Raymond (Red Wings)
5. Moritz Seider (Red Wings)
6. Spencer Knight (Panthers)
7. Jake Sanderson (Senators)
8. Yaroslav Askarov (Predators)
9. Alexander Holtz (Devils)
10. Anton Lundell (Panthers)
13. Alex Turcotte (Kings)
15. Cole Caufield (Canadiens)
16. Seth Jarvis (Hurricanes)
17. Cole Perfetti (Jets)
23. Jack Quinn (Sabres)
26. Rodion Amirov (Maple Leafs)
29. Dylan Holloway (Oilers)
31. Lukas Reichel (Blackhawks)
34. Kaiden Guhle (Canadiens)
35. Braden Schneider (Rangers)
36. Dawson Mercer (Devils)
40. J.J. Peterka (Sabres)
42. Connor Zary (Flames)
47. Hendrix Lapierre (Capitals)
52. Jacob Perreault (Ducks)
56. Mavrik Bourque (Stars)
98. Henrik Borgstrom (Blackhawks)
Lukas Reichel and Henrik Borgstrom are the only Blackhawks prospects who cracked the Top 100. Although it doesn't make a difference, this list was developed before Borgstrom was acquired. So while Borgstrom is a Chicago prospect now, he was technically listed as a Panther.
Not in the Top 100 a year ago, Reichel debuted at 31st. Borgstrom, however, has been on the Future Watch list for the past 5 seasons and has dropped considerably since being as high as 10th in 2018. Here are his 5-year rankings (he was drafted 23rd overall in 2016):
In the Future Watch edition, THN also lists each team's Top 10 prospects. Here is how THN rated Chicago's Top 10:
1. Lukas Reichel (ETA to NHL: 2023-24)
2. Evan Barratt (2022-23)
3. Alec Regula (2023-24)
4. Drew Commesso (2025-26)
5. Wyatt Kalynuk (2022-23)
6. John Quenneville
7. Slava Demin
8. Chad Krys
9. Michal Teply
10. MacKenzie Entwistle
(ETA to NHL was stated for only the Top 5)
I would agree with some but not all of THN's rankings. A reason why these rankings need to be taken with a grain of salt is the fact that John Quenneville still makes the Top 10. Also, Slava Demin is ranked when he's hard-pressed to even be in Chicago's Top 20.
Furthermore, Wyatt Kalynuk is already in the NHL and not just for a cup of coffee. THN has him making it to the NHL in 2022-23. Even if he sits a few games to round out this season, Kalynuk is a virtual lock to crack the Hawks starting lineup in 2021-22.
As a compare and contrast to THN's Top 10 for Chicago, here is my Top 10 (not counting Kalynuk, Nicolas Beaudin, or Ian Mitchell given the considerable time they have served on the Blackhawks blueline):
1. Lukas Reichel
2. Henrik Borgstrom
3. MacKenzie Entwistle
4. Evan Barratt
5. Josiah Slavin
6. Alex Vlasic
7. Wyatt Kaiser
8. Drew Commesso
9. Chad Krys
10. Andrei Altybarmakian
Honorable mentions: Isaak Phillips, Alec Regula, Landon Slaggert, Michal Teply.
Lastly, THN ranks the Blackhawks prospects as 11th best in the league after being 12th a year ago. The 10 teams ahead of the Hawks are:
7. Red Wings
And for each team's section, there is also a 5-year trend of league rank. During that span, the Hawks were as low as 29th. Here is their 5-year trend:
See you on the boards!