This past season, the Blackhawks had a baker's dozen of rookies suit up for at least a game. One of them (Lucas Carlsson) is no longer with the Hawks while a few others like Reese Johnson and Collin Delia may not be with the big club or even within the organization by the fall.
The 2021 roster ended with a roster that could form a starting lineup looking something like this (rookies are in bold):
DeBrincat - Dach - Kane
Hagel - Strome - Kubalik
Suter - Gaudette - Hinostroza
Hardman - Kampf - Entwistle
Extras: Carpenter, Connolly, Kurashev
Keith - Boqvist
Kalynuk - Murphy
Stillman - Mitchell
Extras: Beaudin, de Haan, Zadorov
Extras: Delia, Subban
As expected once the IIHF World Championships concluded, 2020 1st round pick Lukas Reichel signed an ELC to start his pro career in North America less than a year after being drafted. He's ready for the next test after solid 3-zone/top-6 play in the German elite league.
Now with not only Reichel in the fold but also high-end youngster Henrik Borgstrom who signed a new contract a month ago, the Hawks are poised to get another injection of youth into the roster to boost the rebuild and elevate the team to the next level of development.
Once training camp arrives in September, Reichel and Borgstrom may state strong cases to earn roles on the varsity roster or at least be amongst the last cuts then head to Rockford for some seasoning. AHL marination may not be long before being some of the first recalls.
A few other forward prospects who could be in the mix are Evan Barratt and Josiah Slavin. Barratt could be a more rough-and-tumble version of Brandon Hagel while Slavin could round out an imposing, powerful, and well-rounded 4th line with MacKenzie Entwistle and Mike Hardman.
However, veterans stand in their way whether those experienced players are fixtures like Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat or expendables like Ryan Carpenter and Brett Connolly. Thus, a sheer numbers game may be at hand with a high demand for spots but a low supply being available.
The supply-and-demand issue intensifies when considering the pending returns of captain Jonathan Toews and much-maligned Alex Nylander. There is also the expansion draft that should open up a spot but it remains to be seen whether that's at forward, on defense, or in net.
On the blueline, Chad Krys could get a look as his ELC has one year left so Hawks management could be curious to see what they have in him before deciding whether to retain him for longer or cut bait. Jakub Galvas is a dark horse given his 5 years of pro experience in Europe.
Again, though, the D corps may not have enough space if Calvin de Haan and Nikita Zadorov are still around. Even if both are gone, there still wouldn't be any vacancies given who is ahead on the depth chart, i.e. Adam Boqvist, Wyatt Kalynuk, Ian Mitchell, and Nicolas Beaudin.
Then goalie Arvid Soderblom has some hype around him due to his maturity as a 21 year old. Similar to Kevin Lankinen, he's even keel mentally between the pipes while also being explosive yet economical in his movements to rely on technical saves, not highlight-reel ones.
But just like the forwards and blueliners, there may not be room at the inn for goalies either. Lankinen is the starter but both Malcolm Subban and Delia would have to be demoted or gone for a spot to open up. Assuming there's no taxi squad, the team wouldn't carry more than two goalies.
In addition to the expansion draft, other factors are possible free agent signings and trades. General manager Stan Bowman is also on record stating he wants more "experienced or accomplished" players added to the roster. Those adjectives indicate veterans, not rookies.
The IceHogs re-signed rookie winger Chris Wilkie to a one-year AHL contract after he posted 13 points (8 goals, 5 assists) in 22 games to end up 4th in team scoring. Wilkie was also tied for first in the AHL with 3 shorthanded goals and had an unreal 22.2% shooting percentage.
Next to Dylan McLaughlin, Wilkie was deserving of a renewal. Wilkie is a key player at even strength as well as on both special teams. Although not as silky smooth as McLaughlin, Wilkie is fundamentally sound, is dependable in all zones, and quietly registers points.
While McLaughlin may have sufficient skill to be an effective 3rd liner as far as NHL potential, Wilkie would likely top out as a 13th forward relied upon in case of injuries. They may be a dime a dozen but all teams need depth players like McLaughlin and Wilkie in their system.
See you on the boards!