The 2017-18 NHL season is winding down for the Chicago Blackhawks. There are many questions facing the Blackhawks with regards to their goalie situation for next season. Number one is the status of Corey Crawford and his return from injury. The forwards are another area in question. With six games left, it appears that two of the Blackhawks prospects will get a chance to show their stuff.
Blackhawks Goalie Prospects
Questions in Goal
There haven’t been many bright spots for the Chicago Blackhawks since the middle of the season. Losing Corey Crawford for the year back in December started the Blackhawks downhill slide out of playoff contention. Crawford was having a great season at the time and had All-Star and Vezina aspirations until getting injured. His high level of play also provided cover for a defence corps that was struggling.
With Crawford out, the Blackhawks defence was then exposed due to the play of the team’s backup goaltenders. The backups were unable to play at the level Crawford provided every game. The defence continued to fail with D zone coverage, breakouts, and moving the puck up the ice. This led to way too many easy tap-ins or one-timers against the Blackhawks backup goalies.
The backup goalies also had struggles of their own. They were giving up the occasional soft goal that can ruin the momentum of a game and deflate their team. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, there were many games with more than one soft goal by Anton Forsberg and Jean-Francois Berube they had to overcome. Combine that with the team’s defensive struggles, and the Blackhawks never had a chance to make the playoffs.
Here are the Chicago Blackhawks goaltending stats including Corey Crawford when he got hurt:
- Corey Crawford 16-9-2 2.27 goals against average and .929 save percentage
- Anton Forsberg 10-16-3 2.98 goals against and .907 save percentage
- Jean-Francois Berube 2-5-1 3.93 goals against and .891 save percentage
With Corey Crawford still out with a mystery injury/illness, the future 2018-19 NHL season is quickly causing questions. Can Crawford return next season and play at an elite level again? Will Crawford be able to play a full season? Will general manager Stan Bowman be able to secure a starting goalie if Crawford is unable to recover by training camp? Who deserves to be the backup to Crawford or whoever is the #1?
One of the Chicago Blackhawks prospects may provide an answer to these questions. Collin Delia is currently playing for the Rockford Ice Hogs. His level of play has given the Ice Hogs a boost as they battle to make the Calder Cup playoffs. Delia hails from Rancho Cucamonga, CA. and may be the Blackhawks future starter.
Here’s this from Peter Dewar who writes for the Rockford Ice Hog News:
“Fast forward to March 5 – Delia is named CCM/AHL Player of the Week following a pair of performances in which he stopped 72 of 73 total shots and earned his first professional shutout with 34 saves. He now boasts an impressive record of 11-6-3-1 on the year. “
“Suffice it to say, Delia’s development has been on a steep upward curve this season. With injuries in net affecting the Chicago Blackhawks goaltending depth, he has quickly warmed to the IceHogs’ starting role. He has lost just twice in regulation across his last 15 starts – picking up wins in 10 of those – and has posted save percentages above .935 in each of his last three outings.”
Ice Hogs On a Run
The Ice Hogs are currently in 5th place in their division chasing the Iowa Wild for fourth place in the division. Delia’s play has caught the eye of many people as Rockford has climbed back into contention. Now this from Nicole Capone of Sportsmockery.com:
“But, similar to the Blackhawks, Delia’s season didn’t get off to a good start either. Delia played 10 games with a 1-7-2 record, 4.12 goals-against average and .887 save percentage.”
“After his rough patch, Delia made 16 starts for Rockford with an 11-2-3 record since January 6. This past week, Delia played back-to-back games where he made a total of 71 saves allowing only one goal. After this performance, Delia earned AHL Player of the Week honors.”
More Blackhawks Prospects Making Moves
Long touted as one of the Blackhawks top prospects, Dylan Sikura finally signed his entry-level contract. His college team was just eliminated from the NCAA tournament last Saturday. The Blackhawks drafted Sikura in 2014 with a sixth-round pick. He had an outstanding senior year with Northeastern tallying 22 goals and 32 assists in 35 games. His signing brings another offensive weapon to the Chicago Blackhawks for the last six games of the season. Sikura will get an opportunity potentially Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets.
For more on Dylan Sikura check out this from Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times.
“Well, Northeastern’s season went a bit longer than expected, and the Hawks’ season is going to end a lot earlier than expected. But Sikura still will get a chance to wear a Hawks sweater this season.”
“Sikura, the Hawks’ top prospect, is expected to be in the lineup as soon as Thursday against the Jets now that Northeastern has lost in the NCAA hockey tournament, a league source said.”
Another one of the Chicago Blackhawks prospects was involved in a recent move. Victor Ejdsell was recalled on an emergency basis by the team. Ejdsell was involved in the recent trade sending Ryan Hartman to the Nashville Predators. Ejdsell had been assigned to the Rockford Ice Hogs after playing for the Swedish Hockey League’s HV71 squad where he had 34 points in 50 games. In his two games with Rockford, he had one assist. Standing at 6-foot-5-inches, Ejdsell will bring some size to the Blackhawks forwards while he’s up from Rockford.
Enjoy this from Colin Likas of Blackhawks Up:
“In late February, the Chicago Blackhawks traded Ryan Hartman to the Nashville Predators for a pair of draft picks and prospect forward Victor Ejdsell. Surprisingly, we’ll get to see this Swedish youngster before the 2017-18 season is out.”
“Ejdsell was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday on an emergency basis. What exactly this emergency is, I’m not quite sure. But we get to see a young guy who was just acquired in a trade, so let’s roll with it.”
Ending On A High Note
With six games left in the season, Ejdsell and Sikura will get a chance to show what they’ve got as Blackhawks prospects. If they shine, it would brighten the end of a season that many Blackhawks fans would like to forget. Now if only Collin Delia could get a game or two in before the end, that may ease the minds of many wondering about goaltending next season.