On Monday, the Blackhawks’ opening roster for the 2021-22 season will be set.
So the preseason finale Saturday — a 5-1 victory against the Wild — served as a regular-season dress rehearsal.
The Hawks dressed a full NHL lineup that reflected the hierarchy that slowly has been established during training camp.
At forward, Tyler Johnson centered Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat on the first line, Jonathan Toews centered Dominik Kubalik and Philipp Kurashev on the second line, Kirby Dach centered Dylan Strome and Henrik Borgstrom on the third line and MacKenzie Entwistle centered Ryan Carpenter and Jujhar Khaira on the fourth line. Brandon Hagel and Adam Gaudette were the two notable forwards who didn’t play.
On defense, Connor Murphy and Jake McCabe were the first pair, Seth Jones and Calvin de Haan the second pair and Ian Mitchell and Riley Stillman the third pair. Marc-Andre Fleury was backed up by Kevin Lankinen in goal.
Coach Jeremy Colliton will make his final decisions based on the game, as the Hawks have a day off Sunday. But things will fluctuate throughout the regular season.
“There are a lot of guys who are fighting for positions, and they’re trying to make a good impression,” Colliton said. “That has helped our team. We’ve gotten better as camp’s gone on, as far as our performance, and a lot of that is due to guys being hungry. We’re going to try to keep that all year — where nothing’s guaranteed, [and] you have to fight for what you get.”
Entwistle, Galvas on bubble
Entwistle has drawn rave reviews throughout training camp and probably has done enough to make the NHL roster as the 12th, 13th or 14th forward.
But the Hawks will need to decide whether the 22-year-old prospect’s development would be aided more by playing big minutes in the AHL or rotating in and out of the NHL lineup.
“It’s a case-by-case basis,” Colliton said. “We wouldn’t want a young guy to be sitting out for large stretches and not playing, but just because you’re young doesn’t mean you can’t sit out sometimes. . . . With all our guys, we’re trying to weigh, ‘Can they help us now? Or could a little more time help them out?’ And part of that is where they fit in on the roster.”
Entwistle worked this summer to improve his skating and maneuvering in tight areas and along the boards, where his 6-3 frame gives him a natural edge. He looks to have improved from last season, when he had two points in five NHL games and 12 points in 22 AHL games.
“For me, it was learning how to use my size to my advantage, especially down low, protecting pucks and being more comfortable playing with guys on my hips,” he said. “[Like] feeling a guy on my right side [and] being able to turn left. . . . I feel a lot better and stronger on the ice.”
The Hawks surprisingly sent down 22-year-old defenseman Jakub Galvas after the game, likely to get him some AHL experience. Galvas was nonetheless quite impressive in camp.
“When I came here, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Galvas said. “I was hoping I was very well prepared physically and mentally, and I think I am. . . . [I’m] just really happy for the exhibition games — I got some experience in this league. It’s been really fast, but I like it a lot.”