Chicago Blackhawks: Will they stay or will they go?

I know, I know a bad reference to a song, but which UFA’s and RFA’s will be back?

This is the biggest offseason in a while for the Chicago Blackhawks and they have money to spend in free agency but first they have to bring a few players back. Let’s starts off with the UFA’s.

UFA’s:

Marcus Kruger

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Marcus Kruger is known as penalty killer, faceoff master and a great defensive center. Last year, Kruger couldn’t find a role under Jeremy Colliton. He recorded four goals and eight assists in 74 games. Despite being a defensive forward, Kruger recorded his lowest Corsi for percentage (47.6) and a disastrous 35.2 xGF% (expected goals for percentage). If you want to learn more about advanced analytics I have an article on that. Not to mention he struggled at the faceoff dot (48.1%). Kruger had a down year by his standards and he is going to be turning 30 years old. I think that makes the Blackhawks decision easy and they don’t re-sign him.

Chris Kunitz

Chris Kunitz was brought in last year as a bottom six forward and as a mentor. While he was a great mentor to the younger guys (Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Henri Jokiharju and etc.) he wasn’t a very effective on the ice. He only recorded five goals and five assists in 56 games. In the season prior, Kunitz produced 13 goals and 16 assists in 82 games and was probably expected to put up similar numbers. With Kunitz turning 40 years old in a months I don’t see the Blackhawks re-signing him.

Cam Ward

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Cam Ward did his job last season. He was brought in to be a backup and to fill in for Corey Crawford if he got injured. In 29 games last season, Ward had a 16-12-4 record. He also had a .897 save percentage, 3.67 goals against average and a -14.68 goals saved above average. While those stats don’t look great the Blackhawks defense was bad last year. He kept them in games multiple times. He also helped Blackhawks goaltending prospect Collin Delia throughout the year. With, Ward, turning 35 years old this year and Collin Delia taking over the backup spot, I don’t see Ward coming back.

Andreas Martinsen

Andreas Martinsen is a forward who has something most ‘Hawks forwards don’t possess. Size and physicality. He is 6’3″ and 230 pounds. Martinsen was sixth on the Blackhawks in hits last year with 83 hits and only played in 24 games. He is a black hole offensively, only recording a goal and three assists this year. I could see Martinsen coming back for cheap because he provides that physicality that the Blackhawks lack.

RFA’s:

Victor Ejdsell

Victor Ejdsell is a 24 year old center/winger. He was supposed to be a part of the Blackhawks future but elected to return to Sweden after a disappointing 2018-2019 campaign with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. He recorded 12 goals and 17 assists in 61 AHL games last year. By many, he was projected to be in the NHL this year. Ejdsell is expected be qualified in case he ever comes back.

Brendan Perlini

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Brendan Perlini is a 23 year old winger. According to Scott Powers of The Athletic the Blackhawks have already sent a qualifying offer to Perlini. Perlini is a former 12th overall pick from 2014. He’s inconsistent but when his scoring is on it is on. He has a great shot, decent offensive skill and good size at 6’3″. He struggles with his consistency, work ethic and speed. After scoring 12 goals for the Blackhawks I see him coming back.

John Quenneville

John Quenneville is also a 23 year old winger taken in the first round of the 2014 draft. He is also expected to receive a qualifying offer. And yes (John) Quenneville is a cousin to former Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. Quenneville, has shown extreme offense skill and has produced in both the AHL and WHL, but has struggled to score at the NHL level. With Bowman, saying he is going to re-sign (John) Quenneville I fully expect him to come to Chicago.

David Kämpf

David Kämpf is a 24 year old Czech center. He posted 4 goals and 15 assists in 63 games with Chicago last year. Kämpf had 31 takeaways and six giveaways last year as well. He played a lot on the penalty kill and was a great two-way forward in the bottom six. He has arbitration rights, but I expect him to be back as Jeremy Colliton played him on the second line before.

Dylan Sikura

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The Canadian center, just turned 24 years old. He posted eight assists in 33 games. Despite, not being the offensive dynamo Dylan Sikura was expected to be, he has been an excellent two-way forward. In those 33 games, Sikura, posted a 54.55 xGF% and added 23 takeaways to seven giveaways. Sikura has gotten very unlucky and I expect him to be back.

Luke Johnson

The 24 year old American center put up an assist with the Blackhawks through 15 games last season. Luke Johnson is more of a defensive forward. He had 31 hits last season, but also posted an atrocious 35.71 xGF%. I do expect him to be back as he produced offensively in Rockford.

Anthony Louis

Anthony Louis is 24 year old American center. He is an Illinois native and is also listed at 5’7″. This past season he scored 12 goals and assisted on 22 more in 74 games. He was not tendered and isn’t expected to get an offer from the Blackhawks.

Spencer Watson

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The 23 year old Canadian winger didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Chicago Blackhawks. After a disappointing season in Rockford recording one goal and two assists in 10 games it isn’t surprising to see Spencer Watson not get a qualifying offer. I wouldn’t expect him to re-sign

Blake Hillman

Blake Hillman, a 23 year old American left-handed defenseman, spent his season with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. While Hillman has been known as a defensive defenseman he struggled to put up points. He only scored one goal and had three assists in 54 AHL games. He didn’t get a qualifying offer and isn’t expected to return to Chicago.

stats from: Elite Prospects, Hockey-Reference, Natural Stattrick and Corsica

cap info from: CapFriendly

Feature Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons and Hendrik Seis

2019 NHL Draft: Winners and Losers from Round 1

There are always teams that are perceived winners and losers on day one of the draft. No one will know who is truly and winner or loser for five years but we take a shot at picking out who made good choices and bad choices during day one.

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Winners

Colorado Avalanche (Winner of the Day)

The big winners of the day were the Colorado Avalanche. The team who absolutely robbed the Ottawa Senators in the Matt Duchene trade in November of 2017. In that trade they received a first round pick in either 2018 or 2019. When the Senators selected Brady Tkachuk last year, their 2019 first round pick went to the Avalanche. Despite finishing last in the league, the Senators lucked out and didn’t give up a top-three pick but ended up sending the fourth overall pick to Colorado.

With that pick, the Avalanche selected the clear-cut top defender in the draft, Bowen Byram. Clearly going for best player available, they continue to stack their blue line prospect pipeline. Adding the dynamic, potential number-one defender to the group that already includes Cale Makar, Sam Girard and Conor Timmins. The Avalanche blue line has the potential to be akin to the peak years of the Nashville Predators group.

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The moment that they truly jumped into winner category was when they selected high-skill center Alex Newhook. The speedy pivot was an absolute beast in the BCHL. Ranked as a top-ten prospect by many outlets and talent evaluators, Newhook’s fall to 16 in the draft was a minor shock. Colorado took advantage and solidified both their defensive core and added a future star in Newhook who slots in perfectly behind Nathan MacKinnon.

Montréal Canadiens

If it weren’t for the Avalanche arguably nabbing two top-seven prospects, the Montréal Canadiens would be the big winners. Cole Caufield‘s diminutive stature led to his fall from the top-10 down to Montréal at 15. This is a kid who can score goals. He may be just 5’7″ but he scored 72 goals last year in just 64 games, he possesses the best shot in the draft. After a year or two at the University of Wisconsin, Caufield is likely to light then league on fire with legitimate 40+ goal potential. The Canadiens stole the best goal scorer in the draft with the 15th pick.

Philadelphia Flyers

The team that couldn’t seem to make a good move in the week leading up to the draft, they made the only move at the draft. Trading back with the Arizona Coyotes, the Flyers gave up the 11th pick to move down to 14 and also acquire the 45th overall pick as well. This allowed the Philadelphia Flyers to select the defender that that wanted, USNTDP left-handed defenceman Cam York, as well as recouping an asset. The Coyotes selected the ultra-safe Victor Söderström with the 11th pick. The difference between York and Söderström isn’t so vast that trading up was necessary but the Flyers are the benefactors of the Coyotes eagerness to move up.

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Vegas Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights we’re gifted a potential number one center at 17 with the selection of Peyton Krebs. The Winnipeg ICE center is a competitor and a high skilled guy. He led a talent-poor ICE team last season and was ranked all over the top-10. Falling out of that grouping because he partially tore his Achilles’ tendon, the young center wasn’t expected to play in the NHL next season so allowing their medical staff to help through the recovery will help the 17th overall pick.

Losers

Chicago Blackhawks (Loser of the Day)

The draft started at pick number three. The Chicago Blackhawks has the choice between a future number one defender in Bowen Byram and a potential stud In the mold of Patrice Bergeron by selecting Alex Turcotte. Their selection of Kirby Dach was a head scratcher. Although he has a high ceiling, Dach has a few warts in his game. The primary wart is the fact that he plays the game at a very slow pace. He’s methodical with his pace of the game and tends to slow things down. The way Dach does this may not translate to the NHL game of speed.

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Dach has the tools to be a top-line player, whether it’s at center or possibly on the wing, and he possesses good size. His dynamic offensive upside may be equal or slighter greater than Turcotte but the floor is vastly lower. Turcotte could have been a number one pick in a different draft and passing on that could be a cause for concern for the Blackhawks.

Ottawa Senators

Lassi Thomson has a bomb from the point. You don’t take a defender this high because his shot is elite. The rest of his game, particularly in the defensive zone, needs a ton of work. His offensive skill set is good and he is able to make a good first pass but at the 19th pick they had numerous blue liners with much more well rounded and transferable games. Another factor that goes into the Ottawa Senators being a loser here is the fact that they gave up the 4th overall pick (Bowen Byram) in the Duchene trade. It was almost a certainty that they’d land here in the loser column.

Detroit Red Wings

As the president of the Moritz Seider Fan club, this hurts. Seider is an excellent defender who showed offensive skill prior to his draft year. This year he played with Mannhiem in the DEL (top German men’s league) and was asked to focus on his defensive game. He did that and excelled. He grew throughout the year, going from playing 6-9 minutes a night at the beginning of the year to playing top-pair minutes in the playoffs where Mannheim won the league title. Seider could be an outstanding defenceman in the future and the selection of him is a win for the Detroit Red Wings but taking him at 6 was a bit of a reach. Rumour has it that they almost traded down but were tipped off that other teams in the top-10 were considering Seider as well so Steve Yzerman just went and got the player he wanted.

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Tampa Bay Lightning

Calling the Tampa Bay Lightning losers is basically setting myself up for failure, I’m not the Columbus Blue Jackets after all. Their selection of Nolan Foote caused a bit of an uproar amongst Lightning fans. They wanted a goal scorer and they chose a guy who wasn’t even among the top-three available. With Arthur Kaliyev, Bobby Brink and Raphael Lavoie both still sitting on the board, Foote was a player that felt like a reach. He has a few flaws outside of his goal scoring but so does Kaliyev. Kaliyev was just a better goal scorer. It’s a shock that the Lightning took an extremely flawed goal scorer with Kaliyev available and not make the choice to select the young Hamilton Bulldog winger. Foote has the capability of being a good goal scorer but it could end up much like the OHL scoring race where he is behind Kaliyev for years to come.

Day Two, Lets Go!

While there are many winners and losers when we instantly react on day one, day two should have a boat load of talent available.

The fact that day two of the draft will feature some round one talent isn’t new. It happens every year. This year feels like there is more than normal. The forward group above is outstanding and any of them could have gone in the first round without batting an eye. The teams at the top of the second round will get some excellent talent and be the beneficiaries of some of the questionable choices of the teams in the later half of the first round. You can go back and look at the reactions of some of the team at Puck77 here on our day one live blog. Day two is upon us and we are bound to have some fun! Follow along on the day two live blog and enjoy the draft!

For more the draft, prospects and the NHL in general you can follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari

All statistics and information courtesy of Hockey Reference, the NHL, Elite Prospects and Prospect Stats.

Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks: Players They Could Target In The Second Round

We have talked about who the Chicago Blackhawks might select at third overall in the National Hockey League Entry Draft for quite some time now. With the draft set to go in Vancouver this coming weekend, who are some players that they can target in the second round?  

 

There will obviously be a ton of players available at 43rd overall, where the Blackhawks’ second round pick is slated, and I think the player they pick might depend on who they pick third overall.

Robert Mastrosimone, LW (USHL)

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Mastrosimone is a player that I have been high on for quite some time now. His role can change almost instantly between a playmaker and a goal-scorer. Most people know him as a goal-scorer, but he is a very underrated playmaker. His skating, mainly his stride, and first step were two things that he did need work on at the start of the season, and he improved it throughout the year. He displays leadership through his work ethic and he is also a very good communicator as well, so I think that teams will really like those two things out of him in the future.

Albin Grewe, RW (SuperElit)

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Think Brad Marchand when it comes to Grewe. You would love him as a teammate and hate him as an opponent, but he oozes skill. Grewe averaged four penalty minutes a game in the SuperElit this past season, which is pretty nuts in only 25 games played. He will definitely need to work on his discipline, but again, the skill he has offensively is there. He is not afraid to do basically anything anywhere on the ice, from a power move to the net to going to the hard areas in the corners.

Domenick Fensore, D (USNTDP U18)

Fensore is on the smaller side, standing at 5’7″, but I do think he does play like he is a few inches taller. He is an incredible skater with great agility, so that obviously brings a tremendous amount of mobility from the blue line when he is on the ice. He will have to work on his defensive play a bit at the higher levels he plays at, but he has very good upside. I personally think that he does have the right to be considered a top-five skater in this draft class.

Egor Afanasyev, LW (USHL)

Afanasyev plays a modern day style of hockey. He is that typical power forward who has a hard shot, is a very good forechecker, and is very difficult to knock off the puck. He was linemates with current Blackhawks prospect Mikael Hakkarainen all year long in Muskegon, so there is already a ton of chemistry there.

Muskegon had a number of centers on their team both last year and this year, so that forced Afanasyev to make a move to the wing. He probably would have been a center on most other teams in the USHL. Defensively, he might be caught positionally by acting like a center (covering the slot) instead of covering the half-wall and the point, but that should be an easy fix in the future.

Artemi Knyazev, D (QMJHL)

Knyazev is one of my favorite Russian players in this year’s draft class. He is a very mobile, two-way puck-moving defender that can quarterback a power play. Like Fensore, he brings a ton of mobility from the blue line in all three zones. It was his first season in North America after coming over from Russia, and he totaled 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) in 55 games this season. He is extremely agile and thrives under pressure since he is so poised.

Jamieson Rees, C (OHL)

Rees is actually a pretty underrated player in this year’s draft. His stock rose after the U18 World Championship, partly because of how dominant he was in a big role for Canada. He is an extremely smart two-way center that can play on the power play and penalty kill. He does have a bit of grit in his game, but he has a ton of offensive skill. His vision is very solid and he can make some high-end plays at a decent high speed. Unfortunately, he dealt with a lot of injuries this season, so that limited him to only 37 games.

John Beecher, C (USNTDP U18)

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Beecher is another player that improved his stock after the U18 World Championship, just like Rees. He is a two-way, power forward type of center. The offensive upside is very questionable, but there is a good chance that he can be a middle-six or bottom-six center at the NHL level. He did in fact thrive in more of a defensive role at the U18 World Championship, so I think that is a thing that could translate to the NHL level.

Patrik Puistola, LW (Mestis)

Puistola is a player that quietly rose on most people’s rankings throughout the year. He is mostly known as a goal-scorer, but also can be a good playmaker with the vision he has. He is a good skater on his edges, but I think his stride is a bit more choppy. Considering he has a power forward type of frame, he is a tough player to knock off the puck, so the skating problems do not matter as much, to be fair. He owns a fantastic set of hands, and that allows him to maneuver in tight spaces. I think he definitely has top-six upside. Look out for him in the future, by the way.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Stats via eliteprospects.com

Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks: Joe Pavelski, Anders Lee and Artemi Panarin

According to Sportsnet, the Chicago Blackhawks are in on three top six forwards. These forwards could help the Blackhawks in all types of ways.

The Chicago Blackhawks need help in their top six after trading away Dominik Kahun for Olli Määtta. They arguably have five top six forward in Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad and Dylan Strome. They need at least one or two more guys to help bolster their top six, and Sportsnet has reported the Blackhawks have interest in three guys in particular.

Artemi Panarin

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Stan Bowman loves to bring the gang back together and there is no reason to believe that he won’t try to bring Panarin back. Panarin was brought over from Russia in 2015 as an undrafted free agent. He instantly found chemistry with (Patrick) Kane, scoring 61 goals and 90 assists for 151 points in 162 games.

But, following the disappointing 2017 playoffs, being swept by the wildcard Nashville Predators in round one, Panarin was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets. In hindsight that deal was one Stan Bowman wishes he could have back. The reason why Panarin was traded was for cap certainty and we can see that now as he is a pending free agent.

For those who don’t know, Panarin, is a flashy scoring winger. He is an extremely creative forward who has excellent puck skills. Artemi Panarin does struggle physically and isn’t a spectacular defensive forward, but that isn’t his role. He’s a super star winger who is a power play specialist. These past two years he proved, he doesn’t need a superstar (Patrick Kane) to help him, that by scoring 55 goals and adding 114 assists for 169 points in 160 games.

As you can see, Panarin, is an amazing forward and plays great in both ends. He also doesn’t let opportunities pass him up.

visual and data from EvolvingHockey

I would expect him to demand close to $9 million for around five to seven years. Not to be forgotten Panarin is only 27 years old. He could be in the ‘Hawks range, but next season Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat become restricted free agents. It is fair to mention Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin have a great relationship which could be a factor. I do see the Blackhawks being interested in him, but I still think he will go to the New York Rangers or Florida Panthers.

Chance of signing: 6/10

Anders Lee

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What is one thing the Blackhawks lack? Well there could be multiple answers to that question. Top four defensemen, forward depth and good penalty killers. I have a different answer, big and physical players. They had one of the smallest teams in the NHL this year (6’1″, smallest and 198 pounds, 3rd smallest). Anders Lee solves that problem as he’s 6’3″ and 230 pounds.

Anders Lee, has spent his whole career on the island with the New York Islanders. He was drafted in the sixth round in 2009. Since then, Lee, has posted 20 goals four times, (five full seasons) three straight 50 point seasons, and in 2017-2018 he scored 40 goals and assisted on 22 others in 82 games.

Lee, is a great possession forward and he is good in both ends. While he might not be great in some categories it’s still above average.

visual and data from EvolvingHockey

nLee, is a top six power forward. He cycles the puck, possesses it very well and plays along the boards. His shot is also very strong and he does well getting in front of the net. He does make mistakes defensively, but by no means is he bad in the defensive zone. Lee, is a good winger to have in your top six and he’s also a leader. He would be excellent on the wing or as a center.

I expect Lee to demand around $6 million for six years. Lee, turns 29 on July 3rd as well. Anders Lee, is a more reasonable option as he fits many of the ‘Hawks needs as well as he’s cheaper, so the Blackhawks have more money for Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome next summer. I believe that the Islanders are still number one on Lee’s list, but the Blackhawks are contenders for him as well.

Chance of signing: 7/10

Joe Pavelski

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As you may recall earlier in this article I stated “What is one thing the Blackhawks lack? Well there could be multiple answers to that question. Top four defensemen, forward depth and good penalty killers.” Well our penalty kill was at a league worst last year (72.7%). With a need for a good penalty killer and a top six forward, Joe Pavelski fits that role perfectly.

Joe Pavelski, was drafted in the seventh round in 2003. Pavelski, has since scored 20 goals seven times, 60 points six times and has received at least one vote for the Selke award (top defensive forward) 11 times (in a row). Five of those time he was in the top 20.

Pavelski, is an exceptional two-way forward. He plays hard in both ends and is constantly under hard minutes (19:03).

visual and data from EvolvingHockey

Just like the other two forwards, Joe Pavelski is a top six forward. He’s a shifty playmaker who can play any forward position, he’s good on faceoffs and has an outstanding shot. Pavelski, can play very well in the defensive zone taking away pucks, blocking shots and just having excellent positioning. Pavelski, helps in the top six, penalty kill and power play.

It has been rumored that Joe Pavelski wants $5 million with “some” term. So we can probably eliminate a one to two year deal. Not to mention he is 34 currently. Pavelski, is a pretty reasonable option except for the fact he wants term on his deal. While, Pavelski, has stated he wants to go back to San Jose, they only have $15.3 million in cap space to re-sign him, Kevin Labanc, Joonas Donskoi, Joe Thornton, Gustav Nyquist, Timo Meier, Dylan Gambrell, Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan. I don’t think a deal will get done. The Wisconsin native has been rumored to be interested in coming to Chicago as well.

Chance of signing: 8/10

Conclusion

When all is said and done the Blackhawks need to make moves this season. Whether that be for a top six forward, a top four defenseman and/or etc. Something needs to happen this offseason and we can’t sit pat like we did last offseason.

stats from: Elite Prospects, Hockey-Reference and Evolving-Hockey

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks: Where Might Adam Boqvist Play Next Season?

Adam Boqvist was selected 8th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in last year’s draft and is proving to be the best prospect in their farm system.

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After the draft, he committed to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League and tore up the league in his rookie season. But, now that his season in London is over, where should he play next season?

The Chicago Blackhawks

I do think that there is a chance that Boqvist could make the Blackhawks out of training camp next season. He came close to making the final roster last year, but eventually did get cut and played the rest of the season with the London Knights.

Also, it could be possible that Boqvist plays nine games in the NHL and then the Blackhawks decide to send him down. If the Blackhawks did play Boqvist ten games next season, a year on his entry-level contract will be used up. That is just something that they have to be aware of.

The Rockford IceHogs

Some people might be wondering how Boqvist is eligible for the AHL. Since Boqvist was drafted as a member of a European squad and chose after the NHL Draft to play for a CHL team, he would in fact be eligible to play in the AHL. In addition, he would have been eligible last season as well.

The AHL would be perfect fit for Boqvist for 1-2 seasons, mainly because he could develop defensively as well as physically. Certain situations like playing on the penalty kill and logging up a ton of minutes could help his game progress all-around. It will teach him to play more mature against the pro players in this league.

The London Knights

But, I would not be surprised at all if Boqvist ends up playing his sophomore season in the OHL. The thing that is very nice about the OHL is that it helps players adjust to a full 82-game season. It also helps players coming over straight over from Europe adjust to the smaller ice, which Boqvist did last season.

The one thing that would confuse me if he played there next season, however, is that he has already proven himself at that level. He has proven to dominate against kids his age like nothing, and I think giving him a bit of a challenge would be beneficial.

He was basically playing in the role of a fourth forward in the OHL last season. It’s partially because of how engaged he was offensively. With a few skill-sets in the defensive zone that still not to be ironed out, it might be a mistake having him play in the OHL yet again. If the Blackhawks want Boqvist to improve defensively, the OHL would be a poor choice. He’s better off in the AHL or at the NHL level.

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals