5 storylines to follow at Blackhawks 2022 training camp

·3 min read

5 storylines to follow at Hawks 2022 training camp originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Here are five storylines to follow at Blackhawks 2022 training camp, the on-ice portion of which begins on Thursday at Fifth Third Arena:

1. Will Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews finish the season in Chicago?

All the attention this season will be on the futures of franchise icons Kane and Toews, both of whom are entering the final year of their contracts. With the Blackhawks embarking on a full-scale rebuild, it's difficult to see the two of them finishing their careers in Chicago. Perhaps the more interesting question is, will they even finish the season with the Blackhawks? I think it's more likely than not both are playing on a different team past the trade deadline.

2. Will Lukas Reichel be a full-time NHL player this season?

This was one of our five storylines to follow last training camp and it's near the top of the list again, although the team expectations are much different this season compared to last. Reichel is the No. 1 prospect in the system and it's important the Blackhawks preach patience with his development, because he can be a potential foundational piece. I wouldn't be surprised if Reichel spends the majority of the season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs, not because he's not NHL ready, but because there's no point in subjecting him to the big club if the Blackhawks are losing 5-1 every night.

3. Who's healthy and who's not?

Connor Murphy missed the final 22 games of last season because of a concussion, which was his second one in a four-month span. He's been on the ice for recent captain skates, so all signs point to him being cleared for action. I imagine he's been ready for a while now but the Blackhawks held him back at the end of last season for precautionary reasons.

Jujhar Khaira underwent surgery on his lower back in February and was placed on a 10-12-week timeline. He finished the season on injured reserve, although he skated with the team during the final week last season. He has also been on the ice for the captain skates leading up to camp. Positive sign.

MacKenzie Entwistle (right shoulder) and Petr Mrazek (groin) also finished the season banged up. They have both been practicing with the team over the last week.

Jake McCabe isn't expected to return until late November after undoing cervical spine surgery in the offseason. Tough break for him, but the good news is, he's already on the ice and skating.

4. Where do the newcomers fit in?

The Blackhawks added forwards Andreas Athanasiou, Colin Blackwell and Max Domi, Stanley Cup champion defenseman Jack Johnson and goaltenders Petr Mrazek and Alex Stalock over the summer as they prepare for a rebuild.

Expect Athanasiou and Domi to play top-six roles while they're here — I doubt either of them will still be with the team past the trade deadline — and Blackwell is likely to slot into the bottom-six. Johnson is better suited on the third pair, but he could be thrust into a larger role while McCabe continues his rehab. Mrazek is the clear-cut starter in goal, but it'll be interesting to see how the splits will shake out with Stalock, who has started only one NHL game in the last two seasons.

5. Are the Blackhawks bad enough to finish dead-last?

This is the question everyone is asking themselves going into the season. If the Blackhawks finish last in the NHL, that would give them an 18.5 percent chance at landing the No. 1 overall pick and a franchise-changing talent in Connor Bedard. How the lottery balls bounce is beyond anyone's control, but the team that finishes in the basement will probably come down to Arizona and Chicago. The Blackhawks and Coyotes over/under point total is set at 67.5 for both, according to oddsmakers.

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