2. Who will play center for the Hawks?
Before last week, the Blackhawks looked to have this position pretty solidified. But with the injury to Kirby Dach and the unfortunate circumstances looming around Jonathan Toews, the center position has now become somewhat of a question mark.
The team finally was able to re-sign Dylan Strome (two years, $3 million) to a contract extension on the eve of Training Camp, so he will presumably be centering the 1st line. Strome looks to return to the level of play he displayed in his debut season in a Hawks sweater since this past season he had regressed slightly.
An interesting candidate has been playing the position on the second line in training camp so far. Rookie Pius Suter has stepped into the role for the time being, which is surprising considering the line features Andrew Shaw on the right-wing. Shaw has played center in the past and is more than capable of playing the position. This must mean that the Blackhawks are very confident in Suter’s ability to adapt to North American ice.
Suter will be a rookie this season, having spent the past few seasons playing in Switzerland’s National League. He averaged right around a point per game in 2019-20 and took home the league’s MVP honors. The Hawks are hoping that he can replicate the success of Calder Trophy nominee Dominik Kubalik, who also was named the NL’s MVP back in the 2018-19′ season prior to joining Chicago last year.
The Hawks also signed veteran Carl Soderberg to a one-year contract in the past few weeks. Even at 35 years old, Soderberg has a ton of experience in the league and still tallied over 40 points last season with the Colorado Avalanche.
He has not yet been able to join the team in Training Camp, however, as he has been struggling with immigration issues. Once this situation gets resolved, he too will be a candidate for the second-line center role.
As for the third-line role, the Chicago Blackhawks have some options that they can plug in and play. They signed Mattias Janmark and Lucas Wallmark this offseason, and both have played the position in the past. Right now, Wallmark is centering the third line in camp, while Janmark is on the left-wing of the same line. Both have a similar mold, playing a very efficient two-way game.
The Hawks also reacquired Brandon Pirri in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights this offseason, so he is another name to throw in the mix.
Lastly, Chicago also still has some guys that played center last season. Ryan Carpenter, David Kampf, and Matthew Highmore all look to be still on the Hawks Opening Night roster, as the trio is currently making up the entire fourth line in training camp. All three have played center at some point for the Blackhawks last season, as they all are useful on the penalty kill as well.
As you can see, the Blackhawks do have some options at the position, however, it should be interesting to see who can step up and try to fill the void left by Dach and Toews.