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Season Preview and Analysis

Sep 24 at 12:53
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Drafting Summary:
The past 3 years for Hawks fans have surely been difficult. From winning 3 Stanley Cups to missing the playoffs the past 2 seasons. However some good has come from the Hawks lackluster play as it has allowed for the opportunity to draft some very talented players. The Hawks have had little success drafting in the first round since taking Kane back in 2007. Every first round drafted player has been traded by the Hawks (since Kane) and have either become busts or have become top nine players (with the exception of Teuvo Teravainen). However, the Hawks are one of the best teams to find hidden gems late in the draft. For example, Andrew Shaw 5th round, Brandon Saad 2nd round, Vinny Hinostroza 6th round, Dylan Sikura 6th round, Chad Krys 2nd round, Alex DeBrincat 2nd round, Evan Barratt 3rd round, Ian Mitchell 2nd round, and Alex Vlasic 2nd round. All of these players currently are or projected to be top 4 defenseman or a top 6 forward. While the Hawks certainly have more drafted players with some NHL potential these names are the most noticeable right now.

Preseason Analysis:
Hawks actually look like a decent team during the preseason. Offensively, Hawks might have one of the deepest teams in the league. However scoring goals was never a problem for the hawks last season. The problem was and still is defense. The preseason showed that the defense is still a mess.

Line Grades:
(Obviously there will be moves and scratches but based on the practice lines, these seem to be the common line pairings)

Defense:
Projected first pairing of Keith and Gustafsson
Keith is still a reliable 2-way defender who is able to play top four minutes shutting down opposing teams top players, but obviously his age is catching up to him. His partner (Erik Gustafsson) has been absolutely dominant offensively but still leaves much to be desired defensively.
Offensive ability grade: A-
Defensive ability grade: B

Projected Second Pairing of Maatta and Seabrook
Yikes! It is safe to say that Seabs is very much past his prime and is hurting the Hawks more than helping both in terms of performance and salary. His lack of speed is the number 1 concern. He can’t keep up with these young speedsters going forwards or backwards. It’s time for Seabs to become the 7th defenseman and allow for the younger talent to take over. Why he is paired with another very slow defender is beside me.

Maatta is a mess of a player. Yes he is young and yes he had some success with Pittsburgh but being he is one of the slowest defenders in the league Maatta needs to find the type of defender he wants to be. His first season he looked like a 2-way defender with good offensive skills. Then he was a stay at home type player. Maatta is not a good skater and has zero speed. Positionally he is responsible but getting into position is the bigger problem.
Offensive ability grade: C+
Defensive ability grade: B-

While being overpaid, the best true defenseman on the hawks may be De Haan. He is a shutdown defenseman who can keep up with the high pace of the NHL.

Murphy was supposed to take over Hjalmarsson’s role as the stay at home/shutdown defender who can be put out on the ice in any situation without concern. Due to some injury setbacks, his development hasn’t gone as smoothly as expected but is defiantly trending in the right direction. Not to mention the super team friendly cap hit.
Offensive ability grade: C-
Defensive ability grade: B+

Offense:
First Line
Nylander-Toews-Kane
You can never go wrong putting Kane and Toews together. The question is who would fit best as a complementary winger. Nylander has defiantly not developed into the player he was projected be when Buffalo took him with the 8th overall pick. Hopefully playing alongside two franchise players will help the young prospect build some confidence and eventually find his groove. Nylander plays similar to a young Kane in the sense that he lacks urgency without the puck and that defensively he is just not helpful. Putting him on a line with one of the best two-way centers in the league will hopefully allow Nylander to play his game.
Offensive ability grade: A+
Defensive ability grade: B-

Second Line:
DeBrincat-Strome-Shaw
The other dynamic duo for the hawks defiantly showed some amazing chemistry last season and the hope is that it continues into this year. With Strome being a big playmaking center, DeBrincat being a pure sniper, and Shaw being an all around good player, this line could be the best pure offensive line for the hawks. Shaw can play center or wing and fears no one. While being under 6 foot, Shaw plays like he is 6’5’’, planting himself in front of the net and disrupting play at both ends of the ice. Strome struggled at the face-off dot last season so don’t be surprise if you see Shaw taking face-offs yet moving to a wing position once the puck is dropped.
Offensive ability grade: A
Defensive ability grade: C

Third Line:
Saad-Kampf-Kubalik
The do it all line. Saad is obviously a great two-way player who can be put out in any situation without concern. Offensively he can put up 20+ goals and defensively he can do it all. The Swiss army knife of a player has defiantly has his fair share of struggles since returning to the Hawks but looks to have cemented himself as a high end top nine player. In my opinion, Kampf is simply centering Dach’s future line. Kampf is the new and improved Kruger. Winning face-offs and killing penalties. Offensively anything more than 20 points would be surprising. Kubalik looked very comfortable during the preseason as a natural goal scorer. He has a blazing one-timer. The offensive player of the line, look for him to lead the line in points.
Offensive ability grade: B
Defensive ability grade: B


Fourth Line:
Caggiula-Carpenter-Smith
Obviously you don’t look for your fourth line to produce points however this trio could easily be a third line. Caggiula has the potential to be a 30 point producer but will defiantly be used more in a shutdown role. Carpenter is a great and inexpensive addition to the hawks lineup. Able to play a very good transitional game excelling in the defensive zone. Smith will lead the team in penalty minutes. He is a scrappy enforcer type player who can put up some points but will defiantly be more focused on putting a player through the boards than putting a puck through the net.
Offensive ability grade: C
Defensive ability grade: C


Top 10 Prospects:
1. Adam Boqvist- Elite number 1 offensive defenseman

2. Kirby Dach- Top six power/playmaking center

3. Alexander Nylander- Top six playmaking wing

4. Nicolas Beaudin- Top four 2-way defenseman

5. Chad Krys- Top four 2-way defenseman

6. Ian Mitchell- Top four offensive defenseman

7. Evan Barratt- Top six/top nine 2-way center

8. Alex Vlasic- Top four defensive defenseman

9. Antti Saarela- Top nine 2-way forward

10. Philipp Kurashev- top nine/bottom six 2-way forward
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