2019-20 Chicago Blackhawks Rookies Review

Chicago Blackhawks rookies
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 16: Chicago Blackhawks left wing Dominik Kubalik (8) and right wing Kirby Dach (77) celebrate a Chicago goal during the NHL game between the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks, held on November 16, 2019, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Chicago Blackhawks rookies have been brought in this season due to many veteran injuries. Several of these Chicago Blackhawks rookies have been promoted to the big club before they were due. Despite this, they have been holding their own in the NHL. In fact, there is one rookie pushing his name into the NHL Calder Trophy discussion.

2019-20 Chicago Blackhawks Rookies

The promising 2019-20 NHL season has found the Blackhawks struggling to stay above .500 on the year. After Saturday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, they find themselves at 20-20-6. Their record is a disappointment and finds them six points out of the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. The team’s inconsistency was evident from the opening faceoff but has not been helped due to the many injuries they have suffered.

Chicago Blackhawks Rookies Up Front

The Chicago Blackhawks rookies have been involved from the first game of the 2019-20 NHL season as Alexander Nylander and Dominik Kubalik were on the opening night roster. After starting the season on injured reserve, 2019 first-round draft pick Kirby Dach would be called up October 19th. He was with the Ice Hogs for a conditioning stint after recovering from a concussion suffered in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament.

The third overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft was a surprise to stick with the Blackhawks after being called up. It was assumed Dach would get nine games to get his feet wet in the NHL then be sent to Rockford for more experience. The choice to keep the 18-year-old center with the team has been an experiment with mixed results. His skating ability has been evident, but his 6’4″ frame needs to fill out. Once that happens, he has great potential to be a true power forward.

Blackhawk Forwards’ Injuries

Matthew Highmore is another of the Blackhawks’ youth contributing this season. He had a brief call up at the end of November then was returned to the Ice Hogs. He was later called up again on December 9th when Andrew Shaw was placed on long-term injured reserve.

Highmore is in the final year of his entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent after the season. After being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017, he has played in 29 NHL games. His productivity this season will go a long way towards him getting a contract offer from the Blackhawks after the season.

Two big injuries this season are Brandon Saad and Dylan Strome. Saad was placed on injured reserve on December 21st while Strome was recently injured on January 7th. Two of their top-six forwards being out has left a huge gap upfront. Strome is fourth on the team in points with 30 and Saad is third in goals with 11.

Another injury upfront to mention is Drake Caggiula. The feisty forward was out due to a concussion from November 10th to January 9th. His recent return to the team has also helped in the physical side of the game. In the two games since returning, Caggiula has seven hits and has been his usual agitating self. He has been a welcome addition back to the lineup.

Chicago Blackhawks Rookies On Defence

On defence, Adam Boqvist would be brought up at the end of October then sent back to Rockford after playing nine games. The plan was for him to hone his skills in the AHL in order to improve on the defensive side of the puck. Unfortunately, the injury bug hit Calvin de Haan in mid-December and Boqvist was recalled December 9th. In addition to Boqvist, Dennis Gilbert would be recalled in early December.

The next veteran D-man to be injured was Brent Seabrook in late December. Both Calvin de Haan and Brent Seabrook are currently on long-term injured reserve and done for the season. Losing these two vets has left a gaping hole on the back end for the Blackhawks.

Boqvist’s play has been a work in progress. His ability to defend against bigger forwards has been tough to watch on some nights but he is improving. He was originally paired with Erik Gustafsson which was a complete disaster. His current partner is Duncan Keith and that has been a more solid pairing. Boqvist still needs to fill out a bit and it would also help if he could absorb some of Keith’s tenacity and grit.

Chicago Blackhawks Rookies Stepping Up Physically

The most pleasant surprise on the Blackhawks defence has been Dennis Gilbert. He brings size at 6’2″ 216 pounds and also a very physical game. In only 20 games this season he is fourth on the team in hits with 72. He has also responded when called on to drop the gloves. He leads all rookies in penalty minutes with 38. The Blackhawks have not had this kind of defenceman playing for them since Dustin Byfuglien patroled the backend. While Gilbert has a long way to go to compare with Byfuglien, it is refreshing to see someone step up when needed. That aspect of the game has been sorely lacking for many years with the Blackhawks.

The Rookies Statistics

Here are the statistics for the Chicago Blackhawks rookies.

  • Dominik Kubalik: 44 Games – 1st in NHL Rookie goals scored with 16 – 26pts
  • Alexander Nylander: 42 Games – 7th (tie) in NHL Rookie goals scored with 5 – 14pts
  • Kirby Dach: 40 Games – 6th (tie) in NHL Rookie goals scored with 6 – 11pts
  • Adam Boqvist: 21 Games – 2 goals 6pts – 16 blocked shots
  • Dennis Gilbert: 20 Games – 1 goal 3pts – 72 hits & 33 blocked shots

The best offensive results so far this season have been from Dominik Kubalik. He has ridden a recent surge in scoring to become tied in NHL Rookie goal scoring with 16. He was red hot during the just concluded four-game homestand. For more on this check out what Ben Pope of the chicagosuntimes.com had to say:

“The Blackhawks’ four-game homestand was a mixed bag of results, and the Hawks will wish they came out of it with more wins than they actually did.”

“But for Dominik Kubalik, it was fantastic.”

“The Czech rookie, seemingly magnetized with the net, scored in all four games — including twice in Saturday’s finale as the Hawks won 4-2 against the Ducks, finishing 2-2-0 on the homestand.” 

The best part about Kubalik’s scoring is where he is getting his goals. He has been focused on net-front presence and it has paid off. His recent goal spurt was fueled by tip-ins and rebounds. This is something that all of the forwards should be working on too. Especially on the powerplay which is now near the bottom in the NHL at 15.4%.

Another factor in his production has been playing on a line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. They have spent several shifts a game together and it has paid off for the team.

Rookies Future

It will be interesting to see what the Blackhawks do prior to the NHL Trade Deadline of February 24th. With Seabrook and de Haan out for the year the team has plenty of salary cap room if they want to swing a deal. Will they trade for a veteran rental in order to seal a trip to the playoffs? Or will they stand pat like last season? After two playoff-less seasons, the Blackhawk faithful are definitely hungry and getting loud on social media.

If they do add a player or two it may affect the playing time of one or more of the Chicago Blackhawks rookies. Kubalik recently being in the Calder Trophy discussion should not see less time. Dach being the prized 2019 draft pick will also probably play all season in the NHL. Nylander and Highmore are potentials to return to the Ice Hogs if any trades happen. It will all depend on how the team performs over the next six weeks. So stay tuned because no matter what happens Last Word On Hockey has you covered!

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