The 2022-23 NHL season starts Oct. 7. With training camps opening soon, NHL.com is taking a look at the three keys, the inside scoop on roster questions, and the projected lineup for each of the 32 teams. Today, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Coach: Luke Richardson (first season)
Last season: 28-42-12, seventh in Central Division; did not qualify for Stanley Cup Playoffs
1. Toews, Kane leadership needed more than ever
Center Jonathan Toews and forward Patrick Kane remain the lone Blackhawks from the teams that won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015 and the Blackhawks will need them to help a young group find their footing. How Toews and Kane approach the rebuild as it continues this season will be critical; each is in the final season of an eight-year contract signed July 9, 2014.
2. Richardson’s impact
Richardson has his work cut out for him rebuilding Chicago as he embarks on his first NHL coaching job. But Richardson, an assistant with the Montreal Canadiens the past four seasons, has earned respect from those who have played for him. That includes forward Max Domiwho said he was determined to sign with the Blackhawks as soon as he knew Richardson would be coach.
3. Mrazek’s health
Goalie Petr Mrazek is coming off his toughest season, when a groin injury cost him all but 20 games (12-6-0, 3.34 goals-against average, .888 save percentage) for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s determined to have a full, healthy season and take on the bulk of the workload. With backup Alex Stalock playing one game in the NHL last season (with the San Jose Sharks) the Blackhawks will need Mrazek at his best.
Making the cut
There are openings on all four forward lines after Alex DeBrincat (Ottawa Senators) and Kirby Dach (Canadiens) were traded and free agents Dylan Strome (Washington Capitals) and Dominik Kubalik (Detroit Red Wings) departed. This could be an opportunity for forwards such as Philipp Kurashev, MacKenzie Entwistle and Sam Lafferty to fill full-time spots in the lineup. Domi (one year), Andreas Athanasiou (one year) and Colin Blackwell (two years) each signed July 13 and likely will be part of the top nine. Defenseman Jack Johnsonwho won the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche before agreeing to a one-year contract with the Blackhawks on Aug. 17, could slot in among the top four.
Most intriguing addition
Though he signed a one-year contract, Domi said July 28 that he’d like to be in Chicago “for a long, long time.” It’s understandable, given the 27-year-old has played for four teams in seven NHL seasons. He played the past two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets before being acquired by the Carolina Hurricanes in a three-team trade involving the Florida Panthers on March 21. Domi will look to increase his production after finishing with 39 points (11 goals, 28 assists) in 72 games with Columbus and Carolina last season.
Biggest potential surprise
General manager Kyle Davidson pegged Mrazek and Stalock as his Nos. 1 and 2 goalies, but don’t rule out Arvid Soderblom getting some playing time. The 23-year-old was 21-15-2 with a 2.76 GAA, .919 save percentage and two shutouts in 38 regular-season games for Rockford of the American Hockey League, and 2-3-0 with a 2.99 GAA, .925 save percentage and one shutout during the Calder Cup Playoffs. He played in three games (two starts) for the Blackhawks last season, going 0-2-0 with a 5.01 GAA and .863 save percentage.
Ready to break through
Is it time for Lukas Reichel to get his big chance with the Blackhawks? The 20-year-old forward led Rockford with 57 points (21 goals, 36 assists) in 56 games and had one assist in 11 games with the Blackhawks last season. Sure, it would be tough throwing him onto a rebuilding team, but this will be Chicago’s situation for a few seasons. He should have confidence off his production in the AHL and could earn a bigger opportunity with a strong showing in training camp.
Taylor RaddyshLW/RW (undrafted on average in fantasy) — He had 10 points (six goals, four assists), including three power-play goals, in 21 games with the Blackhawks last season after the rookie was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 18. He is an under-the-radar player who should have a top-six role under Richardson following the trades of DeBrincat and Dach. — Pete Jensen
Lukas Reichel — Jonathan Toews — Patrick Kane
Andreas Athanasiou — Max Domi — Tyler Johnson
Philipp Kurashev — Mackenzie Entwistle — Colin Blackwell
Sam Lafferty — Jujhar Khaira — Taylor Raddysh
Jack Johnson — Seth Jones
Riley Stillman — Connor Murphy
Alex Vlasic — Caleb Jones