What will the Blackhawks do with Ian Mitchell? That and 4 other thoughts on the Hawks
Take advantage of every opportunity. Because fierce competition will be here soon.
That was Luke Richardson's advice to every young player on the Blackhawks shortly after the trade deadline passed on March 2.
Some have taken advantage. But others -- like defenseman Ian Mitchell -- have not.
Mitchell, a second-round pick in 2017, was already having a rough season heading into the Hawks' current five-game road trip. And it only got worse during a 5-0 loss at Colorado on Monday.
Just 2:41 in, Mitchell had a puck bounce off him and go into the net. Then he failed to properly defend a 2-on-2 rush in the second period, and Denis Malgin easily scored off a pass from Valeri Nichushkin. He was also in position to stop the Avs' last goal, but did nothing to impede Malgin near the crease.
"Yeah, he had a tough battle," Richardson told reporters. "You know, it's always tough coming in and out of the lineup -- (but) that's pro hockey or pro sports. You've got to be ready when you get your chance.
"I think he was a little tentative and step back (on) a couple goals where he's close to his man; he's just got to step into that man and play the body.
"But most young defensemen against a Colorado Avalanche team are gonna have that trouble with their fundamentals."
Mitchell, while gifted offensively, just isn't consistently hard enough in the defensive zone. He's only 24 years old and has a mere 77 NHL games under his belt, however. The last thing the Hawks want to do is give up on a young blue liner only to see him blossom elsewhere -- a la Gustav Forsling.
So we'll see what happens this summer, when Mitchell becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.
It will be interesting to see which team Alex Stalock signs with next season. The 35-year-old has been the Hawks' best goalie this season, going 9-10-1 with a .915 save percentage and 2.84 goals-against average.
The question is, will general managers be scared off by Stalock's recent injury history, which includes a concussion and oculomotor dysfunction? Playoff-caliber squads might not want to roll the dice.
It would be a no-brainer for the Hawks to make an offer, but they've got a goaltender glut heading into 2024-25: Petr Mrazek ($3.8M cap hit) is signed; Arvid Soderblom could vie for the No. 1 spot; Jaxson Stauber proved he deserves a longer look; and Drew Commesso will likely play in Rockford.
So unless Mrazek is traded (highly unlikely) that leaves no room for Stalock.
Race to the bottom:
As the season winds down there will be plenty of eyes on the standings to see which team has the best chance to land generational talent Connor Bedard. As of Tuesday the last three teams were Columbus (51 points with 12 games remaining), San Jose (53 points with 11 games remaining) and the Blackhawks (54 points with 12 games remaining).
Whichever team finishes last has a 25.5% chance of ending up with the No. 1 pick. The odds for the 31st and 30th teams are 13.5% and 11.5%, respectively.
Bedard, who is playing in juniors for the WHL's Regina Pats, has 70 goals and 72 assists in 55 games.
The draft lottery is May 8.
The Hawks continue their five-game road trip at Washington on Thursday. The Capitals (33-31-8) are 5 points behind Florida for the final wild-card spot in the East. Alex Ovechkin (40 goals) recorded a hat trick when Washington defeated the Hawks 7-3 at the United Center on December 13.
Former Hawks update:
Brandon Hagel notched the second hat trick of his career during Tampa Bay's 5-3 victory over Montreal on Saturday. It came on the one year anniversary of his trade to the Lightning. "I couldn't have come to a better place," said Hagel, who has 27 goals and 32 assists. "I'm so happy playing with guys that know how to win. I've got a coach that knows how to win. Can't make this up." ... Patrick Kane has 3 goals and 4 assists in 10 games with the Rangers. ... Max Domi has a goal and 2 assists in nine games with the Dallas. ...
Alex DeBrincat (21G, 35A) had no goals and 1 assist in Ottawa's last seven games. ... Dylan Strome needs 5 goals to tie his career high, set last season. The Hawks play Strome's Capitals on Thursday. ... Dominik Kubalik (18G, 21A) has scored just twice in Detroit's last 16 games. ... Kirby Dach (13G, 23A) scored a goal in Montreal's 3-2 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday. It was his first action since February 16. He'd been out with a lower-body injury. ... Goalie Kevin Lankinen (8-6-1, .917, 2.70) was pulled after allowing 4 goals on 5 shots during Nashville's 7-0 loss to the Rangers on Sunday.