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2017-2018 NHL Preview: Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are already creating a playoff strategy and the season hasn't even begun

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Twenty-fourth up are the Chicago Blackhawks. Having won 3 Stanley Cups in the last 8 years they remain one of the foremost contenders to win each year. They have made the playoffs the last 9 consecutive seasons.

Basic Stats:
2016-2017 NHL Standings: 3rd
Western Conference Standings: 1st
Central Division Standings: 1st
Goals for Rank: 9th
Goals against Rank: 11th

: The Chicago Blackhawks to me will mimic a season much like the Pittsburgh Penguins this past season. Pittsburgh ended up 2nd overall but definitely looked to be taking games here and there resting players as needed for the long term. Parts of November, January and March they were littered with injuries and looked to step off the gas and make sure their players were healthy and well rested instead of pushing them. The sheer power Chicago still has seems to be forgotten due to Nashville sweeping them in the 1vs.4 first round playoff matchup. Don't underestimate the fire that can ignite in this team because of that 4 game sweep. I fully expect to see Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and reunited members Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp spending this season tactfully preparing to win the Stanley Cup. Trading Artermi Panarin for Brandon Saad is an exchange of goals for grit giving them an edge to compete more physically in the playoffs. This move tells me their focus is on improved playoff roster for Playoff success as opposed to regular season standings. On defense, losing Niklas Hjalmersson, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Scott Darling will hurt. Connor Murphy will do his best to fill in those shoes coming to Chicago from Arizona as the Blackahws will feature an experienced top two of Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith followed by Michael Kempny and Connor Murphy. It's an average defense set that will do their job for the team.  In net, they continue to rely on 32  year old Corey Crawford. Last season Corey had a 2.55 GAA (21st in the NHL), .918 Sv% (13th in the NHL) and 32 wins (10th in the NHL). Behind Corey, they let Scott Darling go via trade to the Carolina Hurricanes (Scott was 10th in GAA and 4th in Sv %) and acquired Anton Forsberg as they up and coming goalie. Anton had limited success with the Blue Jackets and is still a work in progress.

Major Additions:
Patrick Sharp, Connor Murphy, Brandon Saad and Anton Forsberg
Major Subtractions: Johnny Oduya, Atermi Panarin, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Scott Darling

Prospects and Picks:
- Henri Jokiharju. Selected 29th overall in the 2017 draft, the 18 year old Finnish defensemen had a solid year in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks last year scoring 48 points in 71 games. He's a solid skater reading the ice well and capable of making good passes up ice. He seems to understand the flow of the game better than most but he does need to mature a bit physically.

-Alex DeBrincat. The 39th overall selection in 2016, the Michigan native scored 127 points across 63 games in the OHL for the Erie Otters last year. He is a very talented skater with quick hands, he's agile and obviously knows how to find the net. With all of that said, he's still on the smaller side and could bulk up a bit. There is an offchance he cracks the top lineup but my guess is he spends sometime in the AHL to see how his game translates to the next level. If he succeeds there he'll be brought up mid-season.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:
-Tanner Kero. On a team that I anticipate decreasing in goals for AND against, it's the 4th line center out of Michigan Tech who scored 16 points last season across 47 games. He's a deep league flier but I think Tanner has the potential to be a 30+ point scorer and I also think he has long term capabilities to be their third line center but for now he'll serve as their 4th line center.

-Connor Murphy scored 17 points across 77 games for one of the worst teams in the league. Switch the script and put him on one of the best and I think he has 25+ point potential, ESPECIALLY if he gets any sort of Power Play time (he had 0 PPP last year).

Cap Situation:
They currently have around $0MM with 22 players signed.

Projected finish:
2017-2018 NHL Standings: 8th
Western Conference Standings: 4th
Central Division: 3rd

NHL 9th: Tampa Bay Lightning (Eastern Conference 5th; Atlantic Division 2nd)

NHL 10th: Anaheim Ducks (Western Conference 5th; Pacific Division 2nd)

NHL 11th: Ottawa Senators (Eastern Conference 6th; Atlantic Division 3rd)

NHL 12th: Montreal Canadiens (Eastern Conference 7th; Atlantic Division 4th)

NHL 13th: New York Rangers (Eastern Conference 8th; Metropolitan Division 4th)

NHL 14th: Calgary Hurricanes (Western Conference 6th; Pacific Division 3rd)

NHL 15th: Carolina Hurricanes (Eastern Conference 9th; Metropolitan Division 5th)

NHL 16th: San Jose Sharks (Western Conference 7th; Pacific Division 4th)

NHL 17th: Dallas Stars (Western Conference 8th; Central Division 4th)

NHL 18th: Philadelphia Flyers (Eastern Conference 10th; Metropolitan Division 6th)

NHL 19th: Winnipeg Jets (Western Conference 9th; Central Division 5th)

NHL 20th: St. Louis Blues (Western Conference 10th; Central Division 6th)

NHL 21st: Boston Bruins (Eastern Conference 11th; Atlantic Division 5th)

NHL 22nd: Buffalo Sabres (Eastern Conference 12th; Atlantic Division 6th)

NHL 23rd: Arizona Coyotes (Western Conference 11th; Pacific Division 5th)

NHL 24th: Los Angeles Kings (Western Conference 12th; Pacific Division 6th)

NHL 25th: New Jersey Devils (Eastern Conference 13th; Metropolitan Division 7th)

NHL 26th: Detroit Red Wings (Eastern Conference 14th; Atlantic Division 7th)

NHL 27th: New York Islanders (Eastern Conference 15th; Metropolitan Division 8th)

NHL 28th: Vancouver Canucks (Western Conference 13th; Pacific Division 7th)

NHL 29th: Florida Panthers (Eastern Conference 16th; Atlantic Division 8th)

NHL 30th: Las Vegas Golden Knights (Western Conference 14th; Pacific Division 8th)

NHL 31st: Colorado Avalanche (Western Conference 15th; Central Division 7th)