Here are five storylines to follow at Blackhawks training camp, which begins Monday at Fifth Third Arena:
1. How will the Blackhawks fill the shoes of Kirby Dach, Jonathan Toews?
The Blackhawks were dealt with three big blows going into training camp and will be without their No. 1 and 2 centers in Dach and Toews. Dylan Strome, who signed a two-year extension on Sunday, is expected to serve as the first-line center. Carl Soderberg was brought in on a one-year deal to provide some depth, but he's better suited as a bottom-six center at this point in his career. How the depth chart gets sorted out at the center position has quickly emerged as one of the main storylines to follow.
2. Who will be the starting goaltender?
The Blackhawks went into the 2019-20 season with arguably the top goaltending tandem in Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner. They're going into this season with three unproven goaltenders in Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban, all three of whom have combined for only 76 starts. Who will step up and take the reins?
3. Will Ian Mitchell making the Opening Night roster?
The Blackhawks, selfishly, wished Mitchell was with the team last season. They felt he was ready to be a pro a year ago, but Mitchell respectfully returned to Denver for his junior year and was named team captain. The Blackhawks have high hopes for Mitchell and are hoping he can become a full-time NHL player this season. And so does he.
“I'm definitely confident in myself and what I can do, but there's also a lot of good players here that can make the Blackhawks better,” Mitchell told NBC Sports Chicago. “So hopefully I can be one of those guys.”
Stay tuned for a full Q&A with Mitchell on Monday morning.
4. How will Andrew Shaw and Brent Seabrook look after long-term injuries?
The Blackhawks are getting two players back in Shaw and Seabrook, both of whom haven't played a hockey game in more than a calendar year. Shaw (concussion) has been out since Nov. 30 but has been cleared to return while Seabrook (hips/shoulder) hasn't played since Dec. 15. It’s certainly going to take time for them to get back up to speed, but it will be interesting to see how quickly they can.
5. Can Pius Suter be another hidden gem?
The Blackhawks acquired Dominik Kubalik for a fifth-round pick and signed him to an entry-level contract last offseason after coming off a season in which he was named Swiss league MVP. He then scored 30 goals in his first NHL season and was named a Calder Trophy finalist. Suter is a different style of player than Kubalik but was named league MVP after recording 30 goals and 53 points in 50 games. Can he be another hidden gem for the Blackhawks?
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