Evaluating The Trade Between The Arizona Coyotes And Philadelphia Flyers

On the draft floor Friday night, the Arizona Coyotes chose to move up for their first round selection. The Philadelphia Flyers traded the 11th overall selection to the Arizona Coyotes for the 14th overall selection and the 45th overall selection.

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes moved up to 11th overall to select Swedish defensemen Victor Söderström. Considered to be a mobile two-way defender, Söderström will help compliment a defence core that includes Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jakob Chychrun, with young prospects such as Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Filip Westerlund that are already knocking at the door. Having been compared to stars like Duncan Keith and Jaccob Slavin, Söderström could prove to be a steal and that seems to be what the Coyotes are thinking. Puck77’s own Niels Nielsen had Söderström ranked 8th overall as recently as April. Many hockey insiders such as Bob McKenzie and Cam Robinson had him around 14th overall in their final rankings. It is possible Söderström would have slipped to the Coyotes with the 14th overall pick, but that appears to be a risk that John Chayka and the Coyotes were unwilling to take.

Philadelphia Flyers

With the 14th selection, the Philadelphia Flyers opted to select defensemen Cameron York. From Anaheim, California, York is a smaller defensemen that plays a steady game. Compared to Mark Giordano and Zach Werenski, York adds to a young defence core in Philadelphia that already includes the likes of Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Travis Sanheim. This pick seems to be roughly where York was expected to go. York was the 12th ranked North American skater coming in. York ranked 18th in Bob McKenzie’s final rankings, and Sportsnet’s Sam Costentino had him going 18th in his mock draft.

Smart Idea To Trade Up?

Ultimately, these two teams perhaps jumped on these players a few picks earlier than they were expected to go, but that is what allowed this trade to happen. Both Coyotes’ general manager John Chayka and Flyers’ general manager Chuck Fletcher knew they had their guys, and it was probably a smart idea for both guys to ensure they got the players they wanted.

Of course, the full ramifications of the trade won’t be apparent for years to come. We won’t even know for sure who the Flyers select with the other pick they acquired until Saturday afternoon.

But, there have been plenty of deals over the years of teams trading up to acquire a player that work out in interesting ways. In 2011, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded up to 22nd overall (selected Tyler Biggs). In exchange, the Anaheim Ducks acquired the 30th overall pick (selected Rickard Rakell) and 39th overall (selected John Gibson). Clearly a fortuitous move for the Anaheim Ducks in hindsight. In 2014, the Chicago Blackhawks acquired the 20th overall pick (selected Nick Schmaltz) and the 179th overall pick (selected Ivan Nalimov) from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for the 27th overall pick (selected Nikolay Goldobin) and the 62nd overall pick which was later traded to Nashville.

These draft floor trades seem like small decisions at the time, but ultimately can provide a big impact for these teams moving forward.

player profiles – hockey-reference.com

Arizona Coyotes

Arizona Coyotes: What Caused Clayton Keller’s Sophomore Slump?

Arizona Coyotes winger Clayton Keller had an awful season. But, what caused his abysmal display?

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Keller had an awful sophomore campaign. In 82 games played, he recorded 14 goals, 33 assists, a shooting percentage (S%) of 7%, 19 power-play points, a corsi-for percentage (CF%) of 49.6 and an offensive zone start percentage (oZS%) of 66.8%. If you compare his totals to the previous season, you’ll see that his point totals were down and that he was less effective at 5v5 offensive production. In addition, Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet tried to increase Keller’s oZS% as a way to help beef up Keller’s production, but unfortunately that didn’t work.

The main reason why Keller had a disappointing sophomore season is a simple one. He doesn’t have a number one centre.

His Centreman

Over the course of the last two seasons, Keller has been paired with a quite a few centremen including Derek Stepan, Nick Schmaltz, Alex Galchenyuk, Nick Cousins and Christian Dvorak.

It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever that Keller played with four different centremen in the last two years. Chemistry is a vital component to success in the NHL. Tocchet needs to do a better job managing his lines. He needs to stop fiddling around with his lines if he expects his Arizona Coyotes to make the playoffs next season. But, that’s a small problem compared to the elephant in the room.

The Arizona Coyotes don’t have a number one centre. General Manager John Chayka has yet to deliver a number one centre. Instead, he’s seemed confident in rolling out Stepan, Galchenyuk, Cousins and Dvorak and hoping that one of them rises to the top.

The Arizona Coyotes Number One Centre

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Stepan had five 50+ point seasons (out of 7 seasons) with the New York Rangers before being dealt to the Arizona Coyotes in the off-season prior to the 2017-2018 season. In Stepan’s first season in Phoenix, he posted a similar campaign to his last few in Manhattan. In 82 games played, he had 14 goals, 42 assists, 6.7 S%, 18 power-play points, a 49.7 CF% and a 50.8 oZS%.

Last season, Stepan lost a step. His performance was awful. In 72 games played, he had registered 15 goals, 20 assists, 7.7 S%, 3 power-play points, a 50.3 CF% and an 48.0 oZS%. His point totals dropped and his special teams production took a hit.

In the visual below from CJ Turtoro (data from Corey Sznajder), you’ll see that Stepan’s entry and exit percentages took a big drop last season. Stepan failed to get the puck into the offensive zone and couldn’t manage to get the puck out of his own zone. Yet, Tocchet still played Stepan as if he was a number one centre. That’s not a wise decision. Your number one centre has to do more than just tally points. He drives the puck up the ice. You can’t just rely on your puck moving defensemen to move the puck. Your number one centre has to create zone exits and zone entries.

visual by CJ Turtoro, data from Corey Sznajder

The Other Centremen

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The number two centre is Nick Schmaltz. Schmaltz was acquired mid-season in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. Schmaltz was brought to town while Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome packed their bags and headed to the Windy City.

After the trade, Schmaltz looked solid in his Kachina jersey. In 17 games played in Phoenix, he had registered 5 goals, 9 assists and 7 power-play points. Unfortunately, his season ended prematurely. He got hurt and missed the remainder of the season.

In his absence, Galchenyuk, Cousins and Dvorak all failed to light up the lamp in Arizona. Out of all of them, Galchenyuk was the most effective. He managed to produce 19 goals, 22 assists and 21 power-play points in 72 games. But, those still aren’t number one centreman numbers. He played extremely well in his first season away from the Montreal Canadiens. But, he can’t be dependable in a number one or two role. At this point, Galchenyuk is a number three centre, who can be a temporary fix in a number two role when there is an injury.

Pray For Hayton

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If I’m a Coyotes fan, I’m praying for Barrett Hayton to show up at training camp and blow away Tocchet and his coaching staff. The Coyotes took Hayton fifth overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He had an incredible season with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. In 39 games, he managed to tally 26 goals and 40 assists.

If Hayton’s offensive dominance in the OHL translates to the NHL, the Coyotes could potentially have their number one centre. They could potentially have the centre that they need to help elevate Keller’s offensive production.

So, if you are a Coyotes fan, pray that Hayton shows up to training camp and shows that he’s ready for the NHL.

stats from eliteprospects.com, hockey-reference.com, NHL.com and Corey Sznajder

visual from CJ Turtoro

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks: Has Stan Bowman Redeemed Himself?

Many Chicago Blackhawks fans wanted General Manager Stan Bowman gone after the Joel Quenneville firing. Has he redeemed himself?

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Many fans questioned if Bowman should remain as the Blackhawks general manager after the dreadful 2017-2018 NHL season where the Blackhawks finished 25th overall in the NHL standings.

The Problem

Many fans blamed Bowman for his offseason moves. He traded superstar winger Artemi Panarin for the former Blackhawk Brandon Saad. Saad ended up only putting up 18 goals and 17 assists while Artemi Panarin put up 25 goals and 57 assists.

He also traded defensive stalwart Niklas Hjalmarsson for the unproven defenseman Connor Murphy. Murphy was not Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks gravely missed his defensive play.

Many players had down seasons. This included Jonathan Toews (20 goals and 32 assists), Patrick Kane (27 goals and 49 assists), Brandon Saad (18 goals and 17 assists) and Duncan Keith (2 goals and 30 assists).

This team looked like a good team with Corey Crawford who was great in goal, until he suffered a concussion and was out for season.

During the season, Bowman, made many moves. He traded Michal Kempny for a third round pick in 2018. Kempny ended up winning the cup with the Washington Capitals, so this trade was a loss.

He dealt Richard Panik for Anthony Duclair which was a decent deal with the Arizona Coyotes.

On the trade deadline, Bowman, traded young power forward, Ryan Hartman, and a 2018 fifth round pick for Victor Ejdsell, a 2018 first round pick and a 2018 fourth round pick. This was considered a win for the Blackhawks and a loss for the Nashville Predators.

2018 NHL Draft

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Boqvist & Beaudin

“And with our choice, eighth overall, the Blackhawks are proud to select from, Brynäs, in Sweden, Adam Boqvist.”

The Blackhawks selected skilled offensive defenseman, Boqvist. Boqvist, is amazing offensively. His skating is superb, his shot is great and he can make great passes. The problem comes with his defense. He is a bit of a project, but I liked the pick.

“Blackhawks are proud to select from Drummondville, Nicolas Beaudin.”

I was surprised to hear, Nicolas Beaudin’s name at 27th overall. This pick was acquired in the Ryan Hartman trade. I thought for sure it was going to be center man Joe Veleno, but I am happy with Beaudin. Beaudin has excellent passing, a quick stick and great speed.

Wise & Nordgren

With their next two picks, both in the third round, the Blackhawks selected two skilled forwards in Jake Wise (69th overall) and Niklas Nordgren (74th overall).

Wise is a skilled two way forward. He has great skating, superb passer, decent shot and has an amazing defensive game. His main concern is his lack of staying healthy.

Nordgren is an efficient sniper. He has an excellent shot, is a great playmaker and is defensively dependable. His real drawback is his skating and his size.

Late Round Picks

In rounds four through seven the Blackhawks took Philipp Kurashev (120th overall), Mikael Hakkarainen (139th overall), Alexis Gravel (162nd overall) and Josiah Slavin (193rd overall).

Kurashev is an excellent two way forward. He can play center and wing. He played amazing in the U20 World Juniors, recording six goals and an assist in seven games. This pick was acquired in the Hartman deal.

Hakkarainen is a playmaking center. He is an over ager, but he is still considered a project. He has great passing and a decent shot.

Gravel is a goaltender. He has great size at 6’3″ and 218 pounds. He is able to make great saves because of that size. He needs to work on his poise and his five hole.

Slavin is a goal scoring winger. This pick was probably made more on, Josiah, being related to defenseman Jaccob Slavin. Josiah was an over ager and is committed to Colorado College next year. He is also considered a project.

2018 Free Agency

While I knew the Blackhawks were not gonna get a player like John Tavares, I was expecting them to do a little more in free agency.

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They signed veteran goaltender, Cam Ward, physical defenseman, Brandon Manning, and veteran Chris Kunitz.

Ward was given a one year deal for $3,000,000. Manning was given a two year deal for $2,250,000. Kunitz was given a one year deal for $1,000,000.

I was really disappointed with these signings because we finally had a little bit of cap space. I felt like we could have gotten better players, but alas there is nothing I could do about it.

The Blackhawks were able to free up cap space by trading Marian Hossa‘s contract along with NHL winger, Vinnie Hinostroza, NHL defenseman, Jordan Oesterle, and a 2019 third round pick for former Blackhawks center, Marcus Kruger, AHL players, Andrew Campbell and Jordan Maletta, talented prospect MacKenzie Entwistle and a 2019 fifth round pick.

2018-2019 Season

The Blackhawks started off with six wins, six losses and three overtime/shootout losses. Joel Quenneville was fired on November 6th 2018. Many including myself believed that none of this was Quenneville’s fault. Bowman gave him this team and it just was not a good team. A lot of fans wanted Bowman gone.

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The guy who the Chicago Blackhawks brought in as the new head coach is former IceHogs coach, Jeremy Colliton. Colliton has been great for the Blackhawks, but he had a rough start. He had three wins, 14 losses and three overtime/shootout losses in his first 20 games. After that slump, the Blackhawks, got 27 wins, 14 losses and six overtime/shootout losses in the next 47 games.

Colliton has turned the power play around. He has helped the offense score, and he is still implementing his defensive system. I believe if Colliton was hired during the summer the Blackhawks would’ve made the playoffs this year.

Fixing The Problem

After a horrible free agency and the Joel Quenneville firing, Bowman knew he had to correct his mistakes.

Manning was an absolute disaster on defense. He recorded a goal and two assists in 27 games while having a 44.7 Fenwick For % (-7.4% to team average).

Bowman traded Manning to the Edmonton Oilers for power forward, Drake Caggiula. After 12 games with the Oilers, Manning was sent to the AHL. Caggiula has found a spot on the first line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. He has recorded five goals and seven assists in 26 games.

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Bowman also moved, talented forward, Nick Schmaltz. Schmaltz has always been a pass first center. Schmaltz was never the best at face-offs and he struggled with the Blackhawks after his breakout 52 point season. The Blackhawks dealt Schmaltz for former third overall pick, Dylan Strome, and former 12th overall pick, Brendan Perlini.

Schmaltz recorded five goals and nine assists in 17 games before suffering a season ending injury. Strome has flourished with the Blackhawks. Strome, was considered by many as a bust. He showed that he wasn’t by totaling 17 goals and 34 assists in 58 games with the Blackhawks. He has also played important power play minutes for the ‘Hawks. Perlini has been a steady scoring presence in the bottom six recording 12 goals and three assists in 46 games.

Finally, Bowman, traded defenseman Jan Rutta and a 2019 seventh round pick for defenseman Slater Koekkoek and a 2019 fifth round pick. Rutta, was a talented defenseman for the Blackhawks, but seriously regressed this season, recording only two goals and four assists while having a 46.7 Fenwick For % in 23 games. Koekkoek, has recorded a goal and four assists while having a 51.9 Fenwick For % in 22 games. He has looked a lot better on the defensive zone and is a fast defenseman, something the ‘Hawks are lacking.

Looking Forward

With these moves by Bowman, he has shown that he is planning for the future, while also staying competitive now. With the Blackhawks securing the third overall pick on this year’s entry draft (more on that here) and having salary cap, we are in for a big offseason.

The team is heading in a positive direction. Toews, Kane, Alex DeBrincat and Strome all had career years. Players like Saad, Keith and Murphy all had bounce back years. Add in defensive prospects, Henri Jokiharju, Boqvist, Beaudin and Mitchell and you have a top four for the future.

This team will be exciting to watch next year. Hopefully Bowman continues this run of great trades, drafting and brings us to the playoffs.

Stats from: Elite Prospects and Hockey-Reference

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals

Arizona Coyotes

Arizona Coyotes: Tocchet Isn’t Coach of the Year Material

With the Arizona Coyotes finally scratching and clawing themselves out of the league’s basement, it’s only natural that there was going to be an overreaction from the Coyotes fan base.

It’s completely understandable if we’re being fair. The team hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2012 (seven years ago to emphasize the point). Plus, all of the drama surrounding the franchise such as the arena, ownership stability and possibility of relocation that’s almost cheered for by certain hockey loving markets. (Side note, this is NOT to bash on those fans, but it should be noted for proper context moving forward.) Being a Coyotes fan is hard, because of this there was going to be excitement among the fans for the chance to get playoffs back. We’d (Coyotes fans) would love to stop worrying about everything surrounding the team, and just enjoy success on the ice. What I never imagined however, was the rest of the league to take part in said overreaction. Case in point, the conversation about Rick Tocchet being a coach of the year candidate.

First and foremost, he’s not coach of the year because of a little unknown prospect who’s turned a struggling eastern conference team into a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. This coming after losing their franchise face to free agency.

Secondly, I’d like to break down the main points for why I don’t think Tocchet is a particularly good coach, let alone coach of the year material.

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His Offense

The biggest problem for the Coyotes all season long had been the offensive production, or lack there of. There have been streaks and moments of scoring dominance by the Coyotes, but they’re always met with long slumps of struggling. There are many games where the Yotes fail to score two goals in a game. Look at their most recent slump (which I totally called would happen after the Edmonton Oilers game for the record). Prior to the slump, they held the final wildcard slot. But, they went 1-3-3 to give up the playoff spot, and didn’t score more than two goals in any of those games.

That’s bad enough, but it goes even deeper if you look at the month of March as a whole.

3/2 DET W 3-1

3/5 ANA L 3-1

3/7 CGY W 2-0

3/9 LA W 4-2

3/11 @CHI L 7-1

3/12 @STL W 3-1

3/14 ANA W 6-1

3/16 EDM OTL 3-2

3/18 @TBL L 4-1

3/21 @FLA L 4-2

3/23 @NJD SOL 2-1

3/24 @NYI L 2-0

3/26 CHI W 1-0

3/29 @COL SOL 3-2

3/31 MIN W 4-0

(All finals taken from NHL.com)

Looking at the numbers, out of fifteen games in the month of March, the Arizona Coyotes only scored more than two goals in five games. Needless to say, scoring two or less goals in 66% of your games greatly reduces your chances of winning hockey games. This all coming during the month that the Coyotes had no one injured except for Nick Schmaltz. So the “we’re so injured ” excuse has no merit here. 

While watching Tocchet’s offense work, one thing immediately sticks out. They pass way too much. Obviously passing is a necessary part of the game, but when the team is constantly giving up wide open chances just to pass the puck that one more time, it becomes easy to tell why the team struggles to score. They would rather be the finesse team and make the pretty highlight plays than play fundamental hockey and just shoot. Their power play exemplifies this, being 25th in the league at 16.6% at time of writing. In addition, they are 28th in the league in goals for with 202 goals on the year. After looking at those numbers, it’s hard to suggest that Tocchet has been effective in the offensive zone as head coach.

On top of that, he has a problem with constantly changing the lines, even when certain players are playing well. For example, he chose to separate Brad Richardson and Michael Grabner recently and demoting Conor Garland and Alex Galchenyuk to the fourth line multiple times. Also, he sent Dylan Strome to the fourth line earlier this season. The writing is on the wall. He doesn’t know what he’s doing and his line changes aren’t helping his players maintain chemistry. 

Defense

Tocchet is a really good defensive coach. Not only did Arizona have the best penalty kill in the league for most of the year, but just recently they’ve regained first in the league with a penalty kill rate of 85.1%.

The fact that Arizona has been able to win games scoring less than three goals a game is also a testament to how well of a defensive operation Tocchet is running. However, that’s what a defensive coach is there for. Unfortunately, defense is the only area where Tocchet has been excelling as head coach this season. 

Being good defensively and poor to mediocre offensively shouldn’t in theory discredit him as a candidate. Even I could excuse the terrible offense because of how good the defense is, but he has one glaring flaw that I won’t excuse.

Goaltending

Being good defensively and poor to mediocre offensively shouldn’t in theory discredit him as a candidate. Even I could excuse the terrible offense because of how good the defense is, but he has one glaring flaw that I won’t excuse. Goaltending.

He has consistently rode one goalie alone unless they get injured or sick, barring a couple of exceptions throughout the year that came off of back to backs. After the injury to Antti Raanta in the beginning of the season, Tocchet played Darcy Kuemper until Kuemper got injured. Then when Adin Hill was called up, Tocchet played Hill into the ground until Kuemper came back and Hill’s flaws were exploited by the Calgary Flames in a road game. Even though Arizona now has Calvin Pickard, Tocchet has only played him twice since the waiver claim.

Kuemper has played in 20 consecutive games in the most important part of the season. Yes he’s played well, but that doesn’t excuse the completely idiotic mindset of “let’s play our new starter in every single game so that way he’s burned out come playoff time.” It’s not like the Coyotes didn’t shoot themselves in the foot back when Nikolai Khabibulin was their goaltender.

It’s just baffling that this is the mindset of a “coach of the year” candidate. It’s doesn’t make sense to assume that your goaltenders don’t need rest. 

Conclusion

Rick Tocchet is massively overrated, because when you look at his decision-making and the numbers that go along side them, he’s nothing special. He’s a mediocre coach that’s been handed an incredibly talented roster.

The Arizona Coyotes have been rebuilding for years now. They have a lot of core talent including Clayton Keller, Christian Dvorak, Jakob Chychrun and Lawson Crouse. Plus, they have Garland and Nicholas Merkley, who both have spent time with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners to develop into strong secondary forwards.

The Coyotes were ready to come out of the basement regardless of coach. In my personal opinion, Tocchet has hindered the potential of the team and the players have been succeeding despite Tocchet’s flaws.

I do not wish to hate Tocchet. I’m a huge Coyotes fan and only wish for them to succeed. However, much like Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo, I see so many flaws with his coaching that I feel the need to criticize his decision-making. Tocchet has only coached two seasons with the Coyotes and there has still been tangible progress in his tenure regardless if he is responsible or not. He will likely be back next year and I hope he learns from his mistakes and becomes a genuinely good coach. 

stats from NHL.com and Hockey-Reference.com

Featured Image Photo Credit – Josh Tessler

Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks: Brendan Perlini Finding His Stride

Since The Trade On November 25th 2018 Brendan Perlini, Unlike Dylan Strome, Has Struggled To Find His Stride … Until Now.

Brendan Perlini was born in the United Kingdom on April 27th 1996. At an early age his family moved to Canada where he started to pick up hockey, and he was good at it.

He was so good in fact he was drafted 12th overall by the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes. He’s a big bodied winger who plays a strong two-way game and has an excellent shot.

He struggled to find his place with the Arizona Coyotes, and was traded on November 25th 2018 along with Dylan Strome to the Blackhawks in exchange for Nick Schmaltz.

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Time With Blackhawks

Dylan Strome stepped in right away and has been a crucial part of the Blackhawks 2nd line and their power play. Brendan Perlini on the other hand, like in Arizona, struggled to find his spot in the lineup. They tried him on every line, but was not able to make the most of his opportunities.

In my eyes it always seemed like he was trying to do everything at once and was not very effective. Jeremy Colliton even stated in an article with Mark Lazerus, “It’s the play away from the puck, it’s the pressure on the puck, it’s the work ethic, it’s the 50/50s around the lines. That’s what allows you to have positive shifts. So if he does that, he’ll get his chances.”

On February 7th 2019 in Chicago, in a game against Vancouver, Perlini took a horrible penalty. Elias Pettersson was able to score on the power play which brought the game to over time. Luckily, the Blackhawks were able to score in over time and win.

After that game Brendan Perlini was scratched multiple times and rightfully so. This is usually hard on young players, but Perlini was able to stay strong and fight through it.

Brendan Perlini’s Resurgence

Before a game in Los Angeles, Perlini, decided he wanted to have more fun, thanks to a documentary called “Free Solo.” In an interview with Mark Lazerus from The Athletic, Perlini states, “This guy … climbing this massive mountain, no rope. It’s unbelievable. Literally, one mistake and he’s dead … Maybe I was looking at hockey (that way). And it’s … a game … So it’s having a little bit of an outlook like that — have fun, enjoy it.”

That outlook has started to really work for Perlini. He has had fun while also looking fast, strong and just being the most noticeable guy on the ice in a good way.

Since that game in Los Angeles, where he totaled two goals, Perlini has recorded eight goals and two assists for a total of ten points in the past six games. On the season he has 12 goals and seven assists for 19 points in 57 games.

He now is skating with Alex DeBrincat and his teammate in Arizona, Dylan Strome. He is now getting around 15 minutes of ice time instead of the ten minutes he averaged with the Blackhawks early on. That line has been on fire as of late with Perlini tallying four goals and two assists for a total of six points with the pair.

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Brendan Perlini’s Future

Last year, the Blackhawks brought in Anthony Duclair from the Coyotes and wanted to give him a change of scenery. It did not work out the way both sides had hoped it would and they ended up parting ways.

I do not foresee this happening with Perlini. I would expect Brendan Perlini to get a new contract. He has looked like an excellent player as of late, and I expect him to be a great player for the Blackhawks for years to come.

stats from: Hockey-Reference, Elite Prospects and NHL.com

quote from: The Athletic (Mark Lazerus)