High hopes for Borgstrom filling a center slot for Hawks next season

  • Henrik Borgstrom, shown here with the Florida Panthers, will be looking to earn a spot at center for the Blackhawks next season.

    Henrik Borgstrom, shown here with the Florida Panthers, will be looking to earn a spot at center for the Blackhawks next season. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/13/2021 6:43 PM

Depth down the middle.

It's such a key ingredient to every successful NHL team.

 

This year's Blackhawks are a great example of that. Without Jonathan Toews, the Hawks struggled to find consistency at center while mostly using Dylan Strome, David Kampf, Carl Soderberg, Pius Suter and Philipp Kurashev. (Kirby Dach played just 18 games).

Next season the Hawks are hoping that Henrik Borgstrom, who signed a two-year deal Wednesday, can step in and really upgrade the position.

"Excited to bring him in," said general manager and president of hockey operations Stan Bowman.

In addition to Brett Connolly and Riley Stillman, the Hawks acquired Borgstrom's rights from Florida on April 8 in exchange for Lucas Wallmark and Lucas Carlsson.

Borgstrom just wrapped up his season in Finland, scoring 11 goals in 30 games for HIFK Helsinki. He opted to go overseas this season after a disappointing 2019-2020 campaign in which he started with the Panthers but was then demoted to the AHL's Springfield Thunderbirds.

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"You know what, it was a tough start," Borgstrom said Thursday via Zoom. "I thought there were games there that I could have been better. Of course it's always coaches and management's decision. ...

"Obviously I was hoping to get a little more time, but I don't like to think about it now. There's going to be a new opportunity for me next season and I'm going to be focused on that."

Assuming Toews returns and Dach is 100 percent, that opportunity could come as the third-line center. Depending on what happens in free agency and with trades, Borgstrom might be battling for that spot with Strome and Suter.

"Obviously that depends on me, how I play and how I show up at the training camp," Borgstrom said. "I've got to be ready to take a spot and what's given to me."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The 6-foot-3, 198-pound Borgstrom scored 45 goals in 77 games from 2016-2018 at the University of Denver. He was teammates with Ian Mitchell, whom the Hawks drafted in the second round in 2017. Borgstrom went 23rd overall in 2016 to the Panthers.

"Henrik was a dominant college player -- one of the best college players I've seen in the last 10 years," Bowman said in April. "Really high-end skill. ... When you look at his best game it's pretty impressive.

"We've been watching him play in Finland. His skillset's very noticeable. Big, tall kid. Good reach. Athletic body, skater, hands. He can do a lot of different things with the puck. There's tremendous upside."

Borgstrom isn't sure where his summer training will take place, saying he'll be in contact with the Hawks about it. All he knows for sure is he can't wait for next season to arrive so he can try to live up to his first-round draft status.

"Yeah, of course that gives me energy," Borgstrom said when asked if the trade gives him fresh motivation. "For sure. (Because) just having the thought that the team wanted me is really, really nice. Try to work toward the beginning of the season. It's gonna be fun."

• The Blackhawks announced they have agreed to terms with goaltender Arvid Söderblom on a two-year, entry-level contract that runs through the 2022-23 season ($883,750 salary-cap hit).

Söderblom, 21, was second in the Swedish Hockey League with a .922 save percentage, shared second with a 2.03 goals-against average and 4 shutouts in 22 regular-season appearances during the 2020-21 campaign for Skellefteå AIK.

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