Blackhawks training camp 2021-22: 5 storylines to follow

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Five storylines to follow at Blackhawks training camp originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Here are five storylines to follow at Blackhawks training camp, which begins Thursday at Fifth Third Arena:

1. How does Jonathan Toews look?

After missing the entire 2020-21 season with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, the Blackhawks captain is back and poised to return to top form. It's unclear whether or not he'll be ready to go by Opening Night, but you can bet he'll do everything he can to take the opening draw in Colorado on Oct. 13.

"With what he's gone through, we don't know where it's going to be," Blackhawks President/GM Stan Bowman said of Toews' status in early August. "So here we are today, things are looking good and that's our thought moving forward."

2. What will the defense pairings look like?

The Blackhawks reshaped their blue line over the offseason by adding Caleb and Seth Jones via separate trades and Jake McCabe via free agency. Adam Boqvist and Duncan Keith are also no longer part of the mix after the former was dealt to Columbus in the Seth Jones trade and the latter, respectfully, shipped to Edmonton, where he could be closer to his son. 

Seth Jones and Connor Murphy will anchor the right side while Calvin de Haan and McCabe are likely to secure the left side on the first and second pairing, although expect some experimentation throughout camp. The third pairing is up for grabs. Caleb Jones, Wyatt Kalynuk, Riley Stillman are all expected to compete for full-time roles, along with Nicolas Beaudin, Ian Mitchell and others.

3. How will the forward group shake out?

It's been a while since the Blackhawks went into training camp with a crowded forward group. And there are multiple storylines to follow here alone. Where does Dylan Strome fit in? Will Alex Nylander take the next step and become a consistent piece after missing last season with a knee injury? Is Henrik Borgstrom going to have a full-time role? Is Tyler Johnson the third-line center or will he bounce around the lineup? These are all questions that will slowly be answered as training camp rolls on and throughout the season.

4. Which goaltender is the odd man out?

The Blackhawks made several significant splashes in the offseason, one of which was the acquisition of Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury in exchange for, essentially, nothing. Kevin Lankinen is likely to serve as the backup, which is no surprise. But what happens with Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban? There are rumors about a potential taxi squad for goaltenders this season that would allow the Blackhawks to stash one of them there, but that still leaves one left over if they don't carry three goaltenders on the actual roster and neither of them is waiver exempt. 

5. Can Lukas Reichel compete for a full-time roster spot?

As mentioned above, it’s going to be a battle for the 12 forward spots out of camp. One intriguing name to watch is Reichel, who sure looks to be ahead of his development curve. He spent last season competing against men in Germany and shined playing at the center position despite being drafted as a winger. Reichel could make things interesting if he turns in a strong camp, but the Blackhawks should be in no rush to push him to the NHL level given the surplus of forwards on the roster. They can afford to be patient.

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