Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Chicago Blackhawks
For the last 16 years (12 with The Hockey News) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
The 17th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – Still handcuffed by the salary cap, the Blackhawks continue to tweak the outer parts of the roster, in this case resulting in real nice upgrades. The arrival of William Jennings and Bill Masterton winner Lehner certainly changes the goaltending dynamic. Instead of having their starting goalie with questionable reliability in terms of health with Corey Crawford and a promising but unproven youngster in Collin Delia, the Blackhawks will now go with a Lehner – Crawford tandem. And if Crawford’s concussion problems resurface, then Lehner can shoulder the role as full-time starter.
The Hawks upgraded their grit with Shaw and Smith, and have a very good fourth-line forward in Carpenter. But the main thing in terms of offense that GM Stan Bowman did is that he insulated his fading veteran defenseman Duncan Keith and his rising star offensive defenseman Erik Gustafsson. Bringing in Maatta and de Haan is huge and has intangible fantasy implications. Keith can continue to be sheltered in terms of his zone starts and quality of competition (as he was last year) with even less pressure to step up as the defensive veteran, likely giving him another 35-plus-points season. Gustafsson was in line for what would probably be a pretty big decline on last year’s impressive production. Maatta and de Haan really shore up things in terms of handling all non-offensive roles, and covering off Gustafsson when he takes one too many risks. The result may be Gustafsson matching or perhaps even improving on last season’s 60 points (53 in the last 58 games).
Ready for full-time – The Blackhawks gave up a fifth-round pick in 2018 to get Dominik Kubalik from the Kings. And then he went out and had a dynamite season in the NLA (Switzerland), earning the MVP. The 23-year-old will likely replace all the offense lost in trading Kahun, and possibly more. His upside for the long term is that of a Tomas Tatar.
Nylander was probably going to make Buffalo’s roster – and now that he’s with Chicago he’s probably not going to make that one. But patience is a virtue and giving Nylander more time in the AHL will only help. He finally made strides as a pro over the final couple of months last season and most definitely has top-six upside. Look for him to play a couple dozen NHL games, mostly in the second half.
Wedin is also a candidate to replace Kahun and produce similar to what Kahun did last season. He is a clutch player who really hustles, and while that doesn’t translate into high upside it does give him a shot at making the club relatively quickly, if not in the fall. He’s 26 years old so he won’t marinate in the AHL for very long. There is just a lot of competition for spots.
Dylin Sikura is a bit of a long shot thanks to the latter three wingers vying for what may only be one roster spot. He struggled in the NHL last season over 33 games, but really found his confidence in the AHL when he posted 17 goals and 35 points in 46 games. I have him as a midseason call-up, and he could surprise if given the right opportunity.
Quenneville’s development has been slow and unfortunately for the Devils, they may have traded him at the wrong time. But unfortunately for Quenneville, he has been traded to a team flush with great prospects on the cusp and hungry for a spot. In the AHL he finally turned the corner, posting over a point per game for the first time in three years there. He has to clear waivers this time, so at least he has that edge over the above four forwards. He’ll get a long look, but he needs to translate his offensive prowess to the NHL level.
Adam Boqvist is going to be a star and he’s such a good player that he could probably do just fine in the NHL right now. But Chicago went and added Maatta and de Haan, thereby pretty much ruling Boqvist out for this year. But adding another year of development for a 19-year-old (just turned!) can never be a bad thing. A must own in keeper leagues.
Chicago Blackhawks prospect depth chart and fantasy upsides can be found here (not yet ready for mobile viewing, desktop only right now)
Fantasy Outlook – What a difference a year, plus one busy and impressive summer, makes. Last year in this space I said “this is a team in decline”, pointing to the aging vets and not-yet-star youngsters. Today, Alex DeBrincat the “not-yet-star” is a star, Gustafsson seemingly emerged from nowhere to become the sixth-highest scoring defenseman, and they acquired Dylan Strome who had 37 points in his last 38 games. This was the eighth-highest offensive team in the league last year, goaltending has been upgraded and the prospects pool is flush with talent led by 2019 third-overall draft pick Kirby Dach. The Hawks will still be fighting their way through cap issues for another couple of years yet, unless they can somehow shed themselves of the Brent Seabrook contract. But they seem to have already retooled the roster enough to surprise. At the very least it will be fun to watch – and to own some of these guys in fantasy leagues.
Fantasy Grade: B (last year was C+)
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2019 Offseason Fantasy Hockey Grades
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