The Chicago Blackhawks still have to make a move or two before the season begins to get under the salary cap, so their roster will change in the near future. But let's take a glance at what the organization could look like at the NHL and AHL levels based on the current roster.
In the first of two parts, here are projections for the NHL level:
Projected defenseman pairings
No. 1 Corey Crawford
No. 2 Antti Raanta
Summary: The Blackhawks' top-6 forwards are easy to project. The unknowns come after that.
Bickell and Shaw are likely to remain on the third line, and it makes sense for Kruger and Smith to be on the fourth line again. It should be interesting to see who that final person is on each of those lines. You could make cases for Versteeg and Morin on the third line. Versteeg may not have had a tremendous playoff run, but he still played a top-9 role for much of last season. The Blackhawks are hopeful he'll be a different player after rehabbing his knee this offseason. Morin was promised a larger role when he re-signed in June, and he could be best suited for the third line with his offensive ability.
As for the fourth line, it all depends on what Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wants there. He normally likes having at least one player in his lineup who plays an enforcer role. He lost that when Brandon Bollig was traded this offseason. Mashinter could be the replacement there. If Quenneville is willing to use the best overall player, he could opt instead for Versteeg, Morin or Regin.
Teuvo Teravainen and Joakim Nordstrom could also be in the mix for spots, but it's hard to see where they fit in with so many one-way forwards on the roster now and with their cap situation. If the Blackhawks move a forward or two, Teravainen could start in the NHL. Quenneville was certainly impressed by him on the final day of the prospect camp. Teravainen could very well play a center or wing role on the third line to begin the season.
With the defensemen, there likely won't be many changes from last season. Keith-Seabrook and Oduya-Hjalmarsson will again be the top two pairs. Leddy should again be the mainstay as the fifth defenseman, and he'll likely have a rotating partner again. Rozsival should have a similar role to last season where he plays about half the games. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman traded a second-round pick for Rundblad, and Bowman expects him to be utilized more this season. The Blackhawks also have three prospects in Adam Clendening, Klas Dahlbeck and Stephen Johns who are close to being NHL ready. If the Blackhawks move a defenseman or two, those players will likely be the first to get crack at the NHL. Kyle Cumiskey, who they recently signed, also has NHL experience.
Finally for the goaltenders, the Blackhawks will start the season as they ended the last one with Crawford as the No. 1 and Raanta as the No. 2. Raanta struggled in the backup role last season and will aim to be more consistent this season. The Blackhawks recently signed Scott Darling for some organizational depth at the position. Darling showed some promise last season in the AHL, but he doesn't have any NHL experience. The Blackhawks are still looking to add another two-way goaltender with NHL experience, according to a source.