Blackhawks’ Sam Lafferty, Jason Dickinson find instant chemistry: ‘I see what he sees’
The Hawks acquired Dickinson hoping he’d complement Lafferty well, and that has proven exactly correct. The two speedy, defensive-minded forwards say they often intuitively know where the other will be.
Long before he actually acquired Jason Dickinson, Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson had identified the 27-year-old defensive forward as a potential good fit in Chicago.
So when the Canucks began shopping Dickinson at the end of training camp, Davidson jumped at the opportunity. Converting salary-cap space into a second-round pick perfectly matched his long-term strategy, but Dickinson also matched his short-term vision for the Hawks’ roster.
“Dickinson was a guy we thought actually fit what we were trying to do, and would fit with Sam [Lafferty],” Davidson said. “They’re both bigger bodies. Both can really move. Both fill the checking line. They’re scoring lately and producing offensively, which is not necessarily what you’re looking at them to do. But [Dickinson] fit an aspect we wanted to bring.”
Davidson’s assessment of Dickinson as an undervalued asset has looked accurate so far. He has been one of the Hawks’ best players so far. Statistically, his seven points in 10 games trail only Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the team’s scoring leaderboard, and his 10 blocked shots lead the team’s forwards.
But Davidson’s intuition that Dickinson and Lafferty specifically would complement each other well appears even more astute in retrospect, because the two forwards — who’d never met each other before October — indeed have clicked immediately.
“ ‘Laffer’ is a little bit faster than me, I would say, but definitely [we have] some similarities,” Dickinson said. “That’s why we’ve been able to create chemistry right away: I see what he sees, almost instantaneously.
“So it doesn’t take that time to figure out, ‘OK, what’s he going to do? What does he want?’ We play very similarly, so I can just assume that, ‘I would make this decision.’ And sure enough, he typically makes the same one.”
Added Lafferty: “It’s funny you say that, [because he makes] little plays where you know, ‘That’s a nuance that I definitely would do.’ We seem to have a lot of those in common.”
Currently on the third line with MacKenzie Entwistle — as well as on the Hawks’ top penalty-kill unit — Dickinson and Lafferty both offer comparable mixes of speed, grit and defensive reliability. They memorably teamed up for two short-handed goals in Dickinson’s debut against the Sharks and have remained together since.
They did struggle Saturday, along with most of the Hawks, and their five-on-five scoring-chance ratio together dropped to 39.0% as a result. Part of that stems from the fact Hawks coach Luke Richardson often sends them out to defend opponents’ top lines, though.
“They’re starting to read and feel off each other a little better,” Richardson said. “When they stop having any kind of hesitation in the game and they just freely read off each other, that’s pretty lethal for us to have on the penalty kill. [With] their size, their reach, their speed and them both willing to be physical, that’ll be something . . . that can determine the score when the other team is playing sloppy.”
Richardson likes how they complement each other on faceoffs, too. With Dickinson being a left-handed shot and Lafferty right-handed, one will be on his strong side in any draw circle. They also can be more aggressive in the circle, knowing they have a capable substitute if they’re thrown out.
Dickinson is especially impressed that Davidson figured he would fit well with Lafferty because he has been fooled by such assumptions before. Chemistry can’t be determined on paper, he insisted.
But he and Lafferty know they’ve found plenty of it here.
“I see him finish checks in areas where I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s definitely a check I would finish,’ ” Lafferty said, grinning. “He flies around; he likes to carry the puck wide. Yeah, [we have] a lot of similarities, and we have a lot to build on.”