As August drawing closer to a close, hockey season is right around the corner. Soon, NHL training camps will start as teams start to prepare for the 2021/22 season. There are now 32 teams with the addition of the Seattle Kraken. Although, for Chicago Blackhawks fans, the 2021 off-season has set a whole new tone going into the season. After the 2021 shortened season, there was a curiosity about what the team would do roster-wise. There were some big-name additions in Seth Jones, Jake McCabe, Marc-Andre Fleury, etc along with guys leaving in the process. It seems like the team hit the boost to speed up the rebuild process. Now, there seems to be a feeling that this Blackhawks team has a chance to make the playoffs. Here are five things to keep an eye on for the Blackhawks going into the 2021/22 season:

1. Can Marc-Andre Fleury & Kevin Lankinen be an Upstoppable Duo for the Blackhawks?

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Marc-Andre Fleury

One of the major additions for the Blackhawks this season was acquiring goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights. The 36-year old goaltender will enter his 18th season in the NHL, his first with the Blackhawks. Going after a guy like Fleury gives the indication that the team is looking to take the next step in the “rebuild”. Essentially, this sped up the rebuild to make the playoffs now instead of a year or two. The three-time Stanley Cup winner brings a veteran presence to a goalie room that is loaded with young talent that included breakout goalie in Kevin Lankinen. Furthermore, adding a guy like Fleury can bring experience to what it’s like to grind through multiple playoff appearances over the last few years with Vegas and even his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

For Lankinen, that could be a massive boost to learn from one of the nicest guys in the league and someone who has been there and done that like Fleury. It’s not every day where someone can learn the craft of being an elite goalie like a reigning Vezina winner. The combination of Fleury, and Lankinen could pay dividends for the Blackhawks moving forward. The team has been looking for the next goalie of the future after the departure of Corey Crawford. Plus, this could give Lankinen a boost to his confidence to become that 65+ game starter in the future. If both guys in Fleury and Lankinen play very well, there is a good chance they could help lead the Blackhawks into the playoffs.

2. Can a Revamped Defense Kickstart a more Lethal Blackhawks Offense?

Recently Acquired Chicago Blackhawks defenseman brothers Seth (4), and Caleb (82) Jones

The Chicago Blackhawks defense had a facelift during the off-season. Long time Blackhawks defenseman in Duncan Keith is now an Edmonton Oiler, Adam Boqvist is a Columbus Blue Jacket, and Nikita Zadorov is now with the Calgary Flames. Now with the additions of Seth and his brother Caleb Jones and Jake McCabe, the defense has gotten better compared to the 2021 edition that faltered down the stretch. This begs the question, does this new defense help ignite an offense to be an absolute force next season?

The Blackhawks gave Seth Jones a massive eight-year deal which means they have high hopes that Jones could be a Top 15 defenseman in the league. Plus adding a player like McCabe could help bolster a blue line that looks more formidable all things considered. If the defense can shut down opposing offenses while helping the rush on the offense, there could be more wins coming the Blackhawks way.

3. The Return of the Captain

Chicago Blackhawks Captain, Jonathan Toews

The 2021 Chicago Blackhawks were without their captain, Jonathan Toews, for the whole season while battling with Chronic Immune Response Syndrome. Although, back on June 30th Toews released a video on his Twitter account saying that he is back and is getting ready for the 2021/22 NHL season. The addition of getting their captain back is huge for the Blackhawks who played without him and Kirby Dach for most of the season. The 33-year old will play his 14th season (15 total due to missed season) this upcoming season for the Blackhawks. To have Toews back means the world to the Blackhawks who need that voice that has been there through three Stanley Cup-winning teams during the 2010s. Plus, a boost in the faceoff circle, and on the special teams will be a massive upgrade as well.

Although, it all depends on how healthy Toews is come training camp, and the season. Will he be 100% by the start of the season? Only Toews would know that but either way, it is good to see 19 back on the ice for the Blackhawks. If Toews can cash in on his 2018/19, and 2019/20 seasons that he had, the Blackhawks will be in good shape with a healthy Jonathan Toews in the Top-6 along with the special teams.

4. Will Brandon Hagel Bring the Bagels?

Chicago Blackhawks Forward Brandon Hagel

If the Blackhawks were smart, they should have a bagel shop in the United Center called “Hagel’s Bagels”. Why? Well, because of Brandon Hagel that’s why. In all seriousness bagels or no bagels, Brandon Hagel stepped up in a major way for the Blackhawks last season. The 22-year old left-winger got nine goals and 15 assists for 24 points in 52 games last year. Also, he did just sign a three-year, $4.5 million contract extension that will see him become a restricted free agent (RFA) before the 2024/25 season. He showed the team and the fans what made him so good in Rockford with the IceHogs.

The kid has a huge motor and will do the hard work necessary to keep plays going offensively. Plus, his defense makes him a solid two-way player. He even scored a couple of goals on the power play which made a case for him to play on the special teams. After signing a contract to stay in Chicago for three more years, there is a good indication that Hagel will show why he deserved that contract extension. He is already a fan favorite that will only get more popular as the next three years go by. All in all, there is something to be excited about for one Brandon Hagel. But seriously Blackhawks, open a Hagel’s Bagels at the UC.

5. Could Alex DeBrincat Score 50 Goals in 2021/22?

Chicago Blackhawks Forward Alex DeBrincat

The 2021 season saw Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat have a bounce-back year. He finished the season with 32 goals and 24 assists for 56 points in 52 games. Compare that to his 2019/20 season, that is what the team and the fans want to see out of the guy that was drafted 39th overall in 2016. That gave the Blackhawks a flashback to DeBrincat’s 2018/19 season that saw him score 41 goals and tally 76 points in 82 games played. That being said, is there a case for DeBrincat to possibly score 50 goals this upcoming season?

Last season DeBrincat was on pace to score 50 goals exactly so there is a good chance that he could actually accomplish the feat. If he can keep the pace he did last year there is no reason why he wouldn’t. From all indications, there could be a chance the Blackhawks could have a top line with DeBrincat-Dach-Kane on Opening Night against Colorado on October 13th. If that line can produce the way people think it could, there’s a solid chance DeBrincat could score 50, and Patrick Kane could have a solid chance for an MVP season along with a solid first full season for Dach. Furthermore, it would be huge for DeBrincat to be the first 50-goal scorer for the Blackhawks since Jeremy Roenick back in 1992/93 where he had 50 goals on the season.

My name is Zach Martin, the Chicago Blackhawks beat writer for Belly Up Sports and Belly Up Hockey. Also, a writer for the Cleveland Browns. Follow me on Twitter for the most up-to-date Blackhawks content and news. I’m a co-host on a hockey podcast, Cannons & Tomahawks, that talks about all things NHL.

About Author

Zach Martin

Originally from Ravenna, Ohio now currently residing in South Carolina. Currently covering the Carolina Hurricanes for Belly Up Hockey along with being the podcast host of The SurgeCast. A history, science fiction/fantasy, and Dungeons & Dragons nerd.

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