The Blackhawks have finalized their roster for the regular season. As we prepare to enter the season tomorrow night when the Blackhawks raise the banner, it’s time to look at the roster for this year’s team.
There weren’t too many surprises for the Blackhawks in the forwards they kept. The first line will be Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell. How could it not after their performance in the final two rounds of the playoffs? Bickell should provide protection for the two starts of the Blackhawks. The second line does bring a little bit of intrigue. Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa will be the wings. That should be no surprise as Sharp and Hossa make up a dangerous duo. The surprise here is that Michal Handzus will start out as the number two center. Handzus was Mr. Steady for the Blackhawks in the playoffs and was the number two center for the majority of the playoff run. There are some health concerns for the second line with Hossa and Handzus recovering from injuries which kept them out for the entire preseason. It will be crucial to watch how the Hawks handle the health of Hossa and Handzus during the year. The third line will feature Brandon Saad and Jimmy Hayes on the wing with Andrew Shaw at center. Shaw fits in well on the third line and this is an intriguing line because it has the combination of skill (Saad), agitator (Shaw) and size (Hayes). This is a very young line that has the potential to be lethal for the Blackhawks. The fourth line will feature Markus Kruger in the middle with Brandon Bollig and Ben Smith on the wings. Smith is known for providing some goals in the clutch and Kruger is on for his penalty killing. The extra forward is Joakim Nordstrom who should see plenty of action as he made the team for his penalty killing ability.
Not much surprise here in terms of the defense. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will be the top pairing and both could find their way on the Olympic team for Canada. Keith should be in line for another Norris Trophy type season. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya are the second pairing and could find themselves on the Olympic team for Sweden. The duo frequently saw plenty of the top line for opposing teams and should see the same responsibilities again this year. Nick Leddy and Michal Rozsival return as the third pairing. This could be the year that Leddy is the breakout player for the Blackhawks. He has been encouraged to shoot more by Joel Quenneville and should see time on the power play. Rozsival was the rock for the Blackhawks during the playoffs as he elevated his game when Leddy struggled. Sheldon Brookbank returns as the seventh defenseman and Mike Kostka beat out Ryan Stanton for the eighth defenseman job. Expect to see Brookbank and Kostka often as Quenneville tries to manage the minutes of his defensemen after the short summer.
No surprise on the goalies. The Blackhawks will ride Corey Crawford this year as he is coming off of a brilliant postseason. Crawford will most likely play 55-60 games for the Blackhawks this year with Nikolai Khabibulin playing around 25.