Breaking down what Hawks' roster will likely look like
The dress rehearsals are over.
Now it's up to coach Jeremy Colliton, GM Stan Bowman and the rest of the staff to decide which players will be on the Blackhawks' roster for the season opener at Colorado on Wednesday.
The final chance to impress came during a 5-1 victory over Minnesota at the United Center on Saturday. Jonathan Toews (2 goals), Alex DeBrincat (goal, 2 assists), Ryan Carpenter (goal), Henrik Borgstrom (goal), Dylan Strome (assist), Seth Jones (2 assists) and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (25 saves) all stood out.
"There are a lot of guys who are fighting for positions and they're trying to make a good impression," Colliton said after practice Friday. "That's helped our team. We've gotten better as camp's gone on as far as our performance and a lot of that is due to guys being hungry. We're going to try to keep that all year, where nothing's guaranteed. You have to fight for what you get."
Here's the best guess on what's coming:
Jonathan Toews told us Saturday he's ready to go, so assuming the Hawks keep 14 forwards there are five spots up for grabs. Let's handicap each player's chances:
• Ryan Carpenter -- a lock. Veteran has been a staple on the penalty kill and is solid defensively. He's also had one of his best camps and scored twice in the preseason. Still, with so many up-and-comers Carpenter knows there can't be any let up.
• Adam Gaudette -- extremely likely. Offensively-minded newcomer has impressed and can add some depth scoring. Scored 12 goals in 59 games in 2019-20, then had to overcome dietary issue. Is on the right path and has chance to surprise.
• Henrik Borgstrom -- very likely. Hawks traded for Borgstrom's rights at the deadline, so you have to figure he'll get every chance. He must show a willingness to get tough inside the dots if he wants to succeed long term, however.
• MacKenzie Entwhistle -- likely. It's time to give the tough, physical 22-year-old a shot. He's impressed all camp and might be the Hawks' bottom-six breakout player. Roommate Brandon Hagel certainly believes so, saying: "I know his work ethic and what he does. ... The way he talks, the way he portrays himself, I know he really wants to get to that next level and I think he has the ability to do so."
• Dylan Strome -- toughest call. My gut says he's on the roster, but will be a healthy scratch early on. Strome, who has looked pretty good in the preseason, has nonetheless fallen out of favor with the staff and could be traded.
• Alex Nylander -- serious waiver-wire candidate. Nylander possesses incredible offensive skill, but his motor and hockey IQ remain at issue.
• Lukas Reichel -- AHL bound. The 17th overall pick in 2020, watch for Reichel to be recalled at some point. My guess is he plays 20-30 games with the Hawks.
• Mike Hardman, Reese Johnson and Jakub Pour -- AHL bound. These three have shown flashes, but could use seasoning. I've really been impressed with Pour, who skates very well for his size (6-3, 198). He's been all over the ice and plays the physical game the Hawks need.
Injuries to Wyatt Kalynuk (out 2-4 weeks) and Caleb Jones (6 weeks) opened the door for Jakub Galvas, Ian Mitchell, Riley Stillman and Nicolas Beaudin. After Saturday's game, the Hawks decided to assign Galvas and Beaudin to Rockford. That means that Mitchell and Stillman will more than likely be on the roster when the Hawks open the season against Colorado.
Mitchell, despite having an uneven camp, will be given a chance to prove himself early on.
Stillman, who signed a three-year deal in April and plays a heavy game, needs to show consistency and reliability if he wants to be a mainstay in the lineup.
Also, watch Calvin de Haan early on. If he doesn't have a strong start, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the veteran scratched at times.
Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban must clear waivers in order to be sent to Rockford. There's a decent chance that one, or both, could be claimed so don't be surprised if GM Stan Bowman attempts to make a trade. While not likely, the Hawks could also keep three goalies on the active roster.