Early Projection for Chicago Blackhawks' 2013-14 Depth Chart
The Chicago Blackhawks didn't rid the team of key players as they did in 2010. With a great prospect system, however, there's no doubt changes will be made to the Blackhawks lineup.
The most noticeable absentees from the 2013-14 squad are Michael Frolik, Dave Bolland, Viktor Stalberg and Ray Emery. But there's no better time for a few adjustments in the lines than after a Stanley Cup win.
The following slides are my prediction for the Blackhawks' lines for this upcoming season.
Left Wing: Brandon Bollig
Center: Marcus Kruger
Right Wing: Ben Smith
Marcus Kruger is the only fourth-line regular left from the 2013 Stanley Cup team.
Brandon Bollig and Ben Smith seem likely to get a chance at the two open spots on the line. Bollig offers the physical game Chicago would like to play against the St. Louis Blues. The St. Louis native could help.
On the other hand, Smith has the offensive skill to give the line chemistry.
Perhaps Bollig and Smith will help Kruger get on the scoresheet more this coming season.
Left Wing: Andrew Shaw
Center: Michal Handzus
Right Wing: Jimmy Hayes
If Andrew Shaw doesn't earn the spot at second-line center, he'd fit well playing on the third line with veteran Michael Handzus and big-man Jimmy Hayes.
Handzus showed he still has some youth in him, racking up eleven points in 23 games played in the playoffs. With the speed and toughness of Shaw and the size of Hayes, this line strikes a balance of strength and skill.
3rd Defensive Pairing: Nick Leddy and Michal Rozsival
Nick Leddy and Michal Rozsival were two players that stepped up their games during the 2013 season.
Roszival led all defensemen on the Blackhawks in plus/minus rating with a plus-18 during the regular season. Who can forget about Rozsival's stretch passes?
Leddy was an offensive threat this season and used his speed to take the puck to the net. These two defensemen are a very underrated pair in the league.
Left Wing: Patrick Sharp
Center: Brandon Saad
Right Wing: Marian Hossa
Michal Handzus was a great second-line center during the playoffs, but with the trade of center Dave Bolland, the Blackhawks need to change this line up.
The two players who seem most likely to compete for the center spot are Brandon Saad and Brandon Pirri. Coach Joel Quenneville seems eager to give Saad a chance after the rookie showed he could play alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.
Still, Pirri, the AHL's leading scorer last season, should provide some good competition for Saad.
Whoever is playing center should have no trouble playing with Sharp and Hossa.
2nd Defensive Pairing: Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya
It's hard to replace Swedish chemistry. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya were great in the defensive zone.
With Hjalmarsson blocking 94 shots in the regular season and Oduya using his strength to push players out of the goal crease, the two Swedes complement each other's play well.
Backup Goaltender: Nikolai Khabibulin
After Corey Crawford posted stellar numbers in the regular season and postseason, there should be no question about Chicago's starting goaltender.
Left Wing: Bryan Bickell
Center: Jonathan Toews
Right Wing: Patrick Kane
The top line shouldn't change from the end of the Stanley Cup Final for the Blackhawks. Now that Bryan Bickell has been re-signed for just over seven times his previous cap hit, the Blackhawks have made it clear that they value Bickell as a first liner.
When you consider that Bickell, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane tallied 13 points in total in Games 4, 5 and 6 against the Boston Bruins when the three of them played together, there's little reason to think about separating the trio.
1st Defensive Pairing: Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook make each other better when they're on the ice together. The two have played for the Blackhawks since their rookie seasons in 2005. It's their ability to read plays and be offensive threats from the point that make Keith and Seabrook two of the top defensemen in the league.
Starting Goaltender: Corey Crawford (enough said)