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Blackhawks 2021 player evaluations: Who met expectations? Who fell short?

The Blackhawks slightly exceeded their very low external expectations this season. On a player-by-player basis, the results varied more.

Alex DeBrincat was one of a few Blackhawks who exceeded expectations in 2021.
AP Photos

Expectations for the Blackhawks entering the 2021 season were extremely low.

Four months later — despite a surprisingly entertaining ride through their 56-game season — the Hawks ended up right around, or perhaps slightly above, where they were expected to be.

But how did each individual player fare this season, compared to expectation? Those results varied more.

Patrick Kane

Stat line: 66 points (15 goals, 51 assists) in 56 games

Expectations: Exceeded

Kane scored 40 of his 66 points in the first half of the season, trailing off like the rest of the Hawks as spring arrived, but still finished top-10 in the NHL in scoring — and did so despite a nagging injury. He remains the Hawks’ best player at age 32.

Alex DeBrincat

Stat line: 56 points (32 goals, 24 assists) in 52 games

Expectations: Exceeded

DeBrincat recovered from a disastrous 2019-20 with a fantastic 2021. His scoring touch returned to elite levels — he ranks third in the league in goals — and he became an important player defensively and on the penalty kill, too.

Dominik Kubalik

Stat line: 38 points (17 goals, 21 assists) in 56 games

Expectations: Met

Kubalik was never going to match his 19.1% rookie shooting percentage, but his 10.9% rate (and generally solid production) this season proved he’s going to be reliable scorer in this league for a while.

Dylan Strome

Stat line: 17 points (9 goals, 8 assists) in 40 games

Expectations: Not met

Strome endured a disastrous year, falling into healthy scratch territory even when healthy late in the season. His future in Chicago is in jeopardy.

Ryan Carpenter

Stat line: 5 points (4 goals, 1 assist) in 40 games

Expectations: Met

It would be nice if Carpenter produced any semblance of offense, but he performs his defensive duties well: opponents’ shot-attempt and scoring-chance rates against Carpenter were the lowest of any Hawks forward.

David Kampf

Stat line: 12 points (1 goal, 11 assists) in 56 games

Expectations: Met

Much like Carpenter, Kampf is entirely a defensive forward; he nearly went the whole season without a goal. Coach Jeremy Colliton’s odd tendency to play him above the fourth line risks setting expectations too high.

Pius Suter

Stat line: 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 55 games

Expectations: Exceeded

Suter was an unknown commodity coming over from Switzerland but became a pleasant surprise, ranking fourth on the Hawks in points. His efficiency and magnetism toward “dirty goals” are much-needed on this roster.

Kirby Dach

Stat line: 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) in 18 games

Expectations: Met

Dach playing 18 games this season exceeded expectations, even if his play in those games merely met them. He’ll be expected to take a major leap forward next season, though.

Brandon Hagel

Stat line: 24 points (9 goals, 15 assists) in 52 games

Expectations: Exceeded

Hagel’s speed, work ethic and consistency cemented his role early on, and his scoring eventually caught up. The fact he’ll be protected in the expansion draft says a lot.

Philipp Kurashev

Stat line: 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists) in 54 games

Expectations: Exceeded

Nine of Kurashev’s 16 points were recorded before Feb. 18, but staying in the lineup all season still exceeded expectations. He’s still only 21, and his dynamic skills with the puck offer a lofty ceiling.

Connor Murphy

Stat line: 15 points, 22:09 average TOI in 50 games

Expectations: Met

Murphy handles the unenviable task of shouldering the toughest situations for this leaky Hawks defense as well as he possibly could. He has quietly turned into a very good player and one of Stan Bowman’s better recent acquisitions.

Duncan Keith

Stat line: 15 points, 23:25 average TOI in 54 games

Expectations: Met

Keith is clearly slowing down with age and would be better served playing fewer minutes. But as a soon-to-be 38-year-old still managing a massive role (and still beloved in Chicago), he’s living up to any reasonable expectations.

Nikita Zadorov

Stat line: 8 points, 19:12 average TOI in 55 games

Expectations: Not met

Zadorov indeed fell short of the lofty expectations set by the Brandon Saad trade. He was huge, physical and good at stopping the puck, but often inconsistent, error-prone or out of position.

Calvin de Haan

Stat line: 10 points, 18:37 average TOI in 44 games

Expectations: Met

De Haan, who turned 30 last weekend, continues to struggle with injuries. Otherwise, he was actually the second-best defenseman on the Hawks in even-strength scoring chance ratio.

Adam Boqvist

Stat line: 16 points, 16:59 average TOI in 35 games

Expectations: Met

Boqvist led Hawks defensemen in even-strength scoring chance ratio. He took a big step forward this season, adding more offense while learning how to use his skills to defend at the NHL level.

Ian Mitchell

Stat line: 7 points, 15:02 average TOI in 39 games

Expectations: Not met

Mitchell, previously the Hawks’ consensus No. 1 prospect, unexpectedly struggled in his rookie year and didn’t see much NHL ice time in the second half. The Hawks will try to rehabilitate his confidence this offseason.

Wyatt Kalynuk

Stat line: 9 points, 16:16 average TOI in 21 games

Expectations: Exceeded

Kalynuk was one of the Hawks’ few April bright spots, emerging as an NHL regular and scoring at an impressive clip. His excellent skating and puck-moving abilities offer intriguing upside, but he is already 24.

Nicolas Beaudin

Stat line: 6 points, 13:47 average TOI in 19 games

Expectations: Met

Beaudin, like Mitchell, didn’t see much NHL ice time in the second half. He finished with the worst scoring chance ratio on the team (40.1%). But after a few years of developmental stagnation, even becoming NHL-relevant this season represented some progress.

Kevin Lankinen

Stat line: 17-14-5, .909 save percentage in 37 starts

Expectations: Exceeded

Lankinen singlehandedly changed the preseason narrative about the Hawks’ goaltending for the better. His massive workload wore him down late, but his long-term everyday starter potential remains one of the Hawks’ biggest sources of optimism.

Malcolm Subban

Stat line: 6-8-1, .900 save percentage in 14 starts

Expectations: Met

Subban has been a backup with an .899 career save percentage during his NHL career; he was a backup with an .900 save percentage this season. He was exactly what he figured to be, with great athleticism but poor rebound control.

Others

Many of the forwards the Hawks traded were not meeting expectations.

Mattias Janmark scored an eye-opening 19 points in his 41 games but struggled in every other regard. Carl Soderberg and Lucas Wallmark never found their niches. Matthew Highmore dropped off the map. Andrew Shaw did exactly what he was supposed to do, but lasted only 14 games.

As for midseason additions, Vinnie Hinostroza was a late-season revelation, scoring 10 points in his 15 Hawks games, but is an unrestricted free agent. Riley Stillman was less noticeable but earned an extension. Brett Connolly, Adam Gaudette and Mike Hardman need bigger sample sizes to be appropriately judged.

Goalie Collin Delia fell far short of expectations, with a .902 save percentage while making only five starts, but that was only slightly his fault.