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It’s a hashtag I’ve been using all week, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but somewhat serious. The Blackhawks’ soon-to-be 24-year-old winger has 2 goals and 4 assists in six games this season, which comes out to a 55-point pace.
But there’s more to his game than the numbers. Kurashev has emerged as one of the team’s most reliable two-way forwards.
Before Tyler Johnson went down with an injury in Tuesday’s win over the Panthers, Kurashev was on a line with Sam Lafferty and Jason Dickinson. Up to that point, their line was the Blackhawks’ most effective. When Johnson went down, Kurashev moved up to Jonathan Toews and Taylor Raddysh’s line. Suddenly, that line has been most effective.
This from the Sun-Times’ Ben Pope:
Kurashev’s and Toews’ expected-goals rate during 32 minutes together (at five-on-five) is a stellar 65.4%; Toews’ expected-goals rate when not with Kurashev is 42.2%. Kurashev’s and Dickinson’s rate during 45 minutes together is 58.3%; Dickinson’s rate without Kurashev is 33.5%. Similar trends hold true for Raddysh’s and Lafferty’s rates with and without Kurashev.
The numbers show it. The eye test shows it. Kurashev is a piece the Hawks can rely on for years to come. He’s a restricted free agent this summer, so the Hawks don’t have to worry about losing him. His qualifying offer would be a one-year deal at $787,500, which would be a steal for a player of Kurashev’s talent level. However, might it make sense for Kyle Davidson to reward Kurashev with a new, longer, slightly richer deal to keep him around long-term? If he could lock him into a four-year deal at $2.5 million a year, it’s more money and security for Kurashev up front, which is obviously tempting for him.
Meanwhile, the Hawks get some longer-term financial security of their own.
Either way, despite being one of Stan Bowman’s players, Kurashev has earned the right to be in Chicago when the team is ready to compete again.
What to do without Seth Jones?
It will be interesting to see what the Blackhawks decide to do with Jones’ roster spot. Filip Roos jumped in for Jones on Sunday night, and played pretty well. I’d like to see Roos get an extended chance to see what he can do. His defensive partner (and Seth’s younger brother) Caleb Jones has stepped up his game lately. They seem to be a pretty solid match as a pairing.
Luke Richardson has shown patience with his line combinations, and it’s a safe assumption he’ll do the same with his defensive pairs. With Jones on the shelf, and likely headed to IR, the Hawks only have six defensemen on the roster. Richardson implied the team would look to Rockford for a call-up, but they’ve also shown some hesitance in taking a kid away from the big ice time opportunities they get with the Ice Hogs.
Could the Hawks look to a waiver claim, or even a trade, to bring in another low-cost, veteran defenseman? It seems unlikely, but if there’s another Jarred Tinordi out there, it might be worth a look. I want Roos playing in the NHL. I want Alec Regula and Alex Vlasic playing games. It makes zero sense for the team to call up a kid and have them sit in the press box.
That’s the dilemma.
Call up a kid and have them sit? Call up a kid and sit a veteran like Jack Johnson (who, by the way, led the Blackhawks in ice time Sunday night)? Sit Roos who has earned the right to remain in the lineup?
This is why I’m glad I’m not an NHL coach or GM.
On Tuesday morning, the Blackhawks placed Seth Jones on injured reserve as expected. Regula got the call-up, after all. Regula, a right-handed shot, plays the right side like Jones and had a bit more offense to his game than Vlasic. He got powerplay time during the preseason, and I would expect that to continue on nights he is in the lineup. I hope he finds himself in the lineup most nights in Jones’ absence.
Native American Heritage Night on Tuesday
Tuesday’s game against the New York Islanders is Native American Heritage Night at the United Center. Since Danny Wirtz and Jaime Faulkner took control of the organization, their Native American initiatives have grown substantially.
These nights are always special, but I encourage fans to take the opportunity to really take in what the Blackhawks have to offer on Tuesday.
My Blackhawks fandom, oddly enough, began my interest in Native American culture from a young age. Nights like this can have the same impact on fans young and old.
If you’d like to attend, feel free to use our Gametime link to save. Tickets for the game on Gametime were as low as $10 when I wrote this piece.
What I’m hearing…
All seems quiet on the “major transaction” front as of now, but one thing I’ve heard from multiple sources is that the team’s bond is really growing.
Earlier this week, Luke Richardson said, “We’re not a young team, but we’re a new team,” meaning most of these players are still getting to know each other on and off the ice. Anecdotally, being at practices and morning skates, you can sense a closeness forming. It feels different than it did when camp began, and Max Domi’s response to Tyson Jost’s hit on Patrick Kane Sunday night illustrated that bond. Troy Murray shared the same thoughts during Sunday’s broadcast, as well.
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