It’s August 15th and probably time enough that first line projections for the Chicago Blackhawks are fair game–though it’s seemed somewhat obvious as how things could look since general manager Kyle Davidson made a trade for Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno.
The conventional wisdom will likely dictate the early line combinations but surprises will occur in training camp and preseason–as they always do.
Hall and Connor Bedard are likely to be on the top line, as it feels like Hall is one of the best complimentary players in terms of skill for Bedard on that line. But who might slot in at the other wing when opening night commences? Let’s take a look.
Taylor Made Line: Hall – Bedard – Raddysh
You could call it Taylor-Made for Bedard to have both Hall and Raddysh on either side of him to start the season. When healthy, Hall can be a boon offensively. Injury has robbed him of a far more competitive career but he’s still had seasons of impressive production–including a couple seasons back where he had 61 points (21-40). It’s six years removed from his 93-point campaign that promised the player so many thought Edmonton was getting when he went first overall.
Raddysh is playing on the final year of his deal and is still only 25 years old. He also, following the depature of Max Domi and Patrick Kane, was the highest scoring wing on the team. Had it not been for Andreas Athanasiou’s 40 points (20-20), he would have stood above as the top point producer. While the former can shift from center to wing, Raddysh is naturally on the right side and seems the more natural and logical fit there.
Stretch Line: Hall – Bedard – Foligno (or Perry)
One of the features of snagging Foligno in the trade that brought Hall over from Boston was his versatility. He can slide to the other side of the ice and be both brains and brawn for the line, bringing the physical element should it be necessary when they’re out there.
But the stretch here is that Foligno isn’t likely to be a top line producer this late in his career, and will likely be a bottom six forward on a team that is trying to put some of its younger players in positions to take over and move the team completely out of a rebuild.
Once upon a time, Perry was a wrecking ball who could put points on the board, too. Blackhawks fans are well versed in that. He, too, would serve a similar purpose as Foligno adding some physicality to the line. But at this stage, it doesn’t seem like Perry would be skating often there. Though it’s his traditional spot on the ice, it’s likelier he is on the third line.
Which brings us to the last one:
A Future Line: Reichel – Bedard – Raddysh
It’s more for Lukas Reichel than anyone else, but what fun this would be for Blackhawks fans to watch. Now, Reichel isn’t likely to start up top barring an unbelievable burner in the preseason that forces head coach Luke Richardson’s hand. Patience will be taken in what will likely be Reichel’s first full season in Chicago. Raddysh, again, seems the natural complement on the other side. There is an outside chance that Reichel works down the middle, too. But with Jason Dickinson, Philipp Kurashev, Cole Guttman, and Tyler Johnson available there, it allows Reichel to ease into a more comfortable routine on the wing.
The Blackhawks will likely tinker with the top line throughout the season, trying to find that right combo. But the fun of the preseason and early season tilts will be seeing what combinations end up on that top line.