The Chicago Blackhawks are beginning a new era in their franchise this upcoming season. Gone are the days of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane leading the Blackhawks to success. Now, the team turns to generational prospect Connor Bedard to bring glory to the Windy City over the next several years.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are nothing more than a fever dream for Chicago and their fans, at least right now. However, the team is hoping this will be a vital season for player development. The team plays their first preseason game on September 28 against the St. Louis Blues. The first regular season game comes on October 10 when Bedard and Chicago face Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Before the puck officially drops, let's take a look at this team. Here is a complete season preview for the Chicago Blackhawks ahead of Connor Bedard's first season in the NHL.
Expectations for Bedard
The obvious storyline for the upcoming season revolves around Bedard. There are very few players in recent NHL history to generate the amount of buzz the former Regina Pats star has. Crosby and Connor McDavid are the only comparable players to come to mind.
And all this hype inherently begs a question: how well will Bedard perform in his rookie season? On one hand, anything less than a good performance would come as a disappointment. On the other, you can't expect an 18-year-old to immediately become a superstar no matter how much potential he has.
It's a delicate balancing act for the Blackhawks and their fans alike. Bedard is going to play a major role for the team this season. He may even begin as Chicago's top-line center. Furthermore, he will have valuable veteran options such as Taylor Hall and Corey Perry to rely on this upcoming season. But there is only so much they can do at this point. And one still has to wonder just what the Blackhawks forward can do this upcoming season.
A true youth movement
Bedard is far from the only prospect with a shot to make the NHL roster. Chicago boasts one of the league's best prospect pipelines. And some of their more exciting talents could make the jump to the Blackhawks beginning this season.
Chicago's best, non-Connor Bedard prospect is defenseman Kevin Korchinski. The 19-year-old dominated the WHL last season with the Seattle Thunderbirds. He led the Thunderbirds to the Memorial Cup Final, though they came up just short. Alex Vlasic and Wyatt Kaiser are other promising defensemen waiting in the wings to make the NHL full-time.
The Blackhawks could enter the upcoming season with four rookies on their team. All four have the potential to be legitimate NHL contributors and play major roles in Chicago for years to come. It all comes down to whether the Blackhawks are ready to go full force with their youth movement.
Potential odd men out
The Blackhawks have a few players in each area that could be on the outside looking in. Forwards Boris Katchouk and Colin Blackwell are among those who may not make the roster. Katchouk came over from the Tampa Bay Lightning via trade in 2022. However, he hasn't provided much in the way of production. He is 25 and a restricted free agent after this season. Time could be running out there.
Blackwell, meanwhile, is more of a veteran. The 30-year-old has spent five seasons in the league but has not emerged as a key contributor. There are younger, more promising options on the Blackhawks roster and that could spend the end of Blackwell's time in the Windy City.
On the blueline, Jarrod Tinordi stands out as a cut candidate. The 31-year-old is an unrestricted free agent next season. He came to Chicago as a waiver claim this past season. However, the veteran has not shown enough to warrant a major role on the team this upcoming season. Especially given how deep the Blackhawks' pool of defensive prospects is.
Another potential odd man out is Filip Roos. The 24-year-old defenseman does have more upside than Tinordi. And he is a restricted free agent after this year, giving Chicago a bit more control over his development. But again, the Blackhawks have more promising options ready for a full-time role. And it might just be too much of an uphill battle for Roos this fall.
Final roster projection
Forwards: Taylor Hall, Connor Bedard, Taylor Raddysh, Lukas Reichel, Philipp Kurashev, Andreas Athanasiou, Ryan Donato, Jason Dickinson, Tyler Johnson, Nick Foligno, Cole Guttman, Corey Perry
Defenseman: Kevin Korchinski, Seth Jones, Alex Vlasic, Connor Murphy, Wyatt Kaiser, Nikita Zaitsev
Goalies: Petr Mrazek, Arvid Soderblom