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Hawks Hits: Blackhawks Preseason Drop Finale in St. Louis

Jay Zawaski Avatar
October 8, 2023

The preseason is finally over. Saturday night, the Blackhawks tied a bow on their preseason with a 5-3 loss in St. Louis. Chicago, who rolled out a roster more resembling the Rockford Ice Hogs than the Blackhawks, had goals from Lukas Reichel, Joey Anderson, and MacKenzie Entwistle.

Petr Mrazek got the start in goal and stopped 18 of 23 Blues shots.

The Blackhawks and Connor Bedard open their regular season Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, and CHGO Blackhawks will be there. Make sure to join us as soon as that game ends.

For this edition of Hawks Hits, we’re going to offer our evaluations of the Blackhawks players looking to make the final roster spot. Reese Johnson is another bubble player, but it seems pretty obvious he’s Rockford-bound. That leaves Joey Anderson, MacKenzie Entwistle, and Boris Katchouk.

Greg: Boris Katchouk Puts in Another Solid Effort

Katchouk’s first full season with the Blackhawks certainly had its highs and lows. He missed the first three weeks of the season due to an ankle injury suffered in training camp. It took him 12 games before picking up a point and only had two goals and six points in his first 40 games. Then, all of sudden, things clicked for him down the stretch. He had three goals and 10 points over his final 18 games.With all the offseason additions, Katchouk was going to need to be that confident player we saw down the stretch if he wanted to make the roster out of camp. For the most part, we’ve seen that guy. He’s been very effective on the penalty kill and picked up two assists at the Minnesota Wild early in the preseason.

I think Katchouk cemented his spot on the opening night roster with his performance in St. Louis. He picked up a primary assist when Joey Anderson redirected his shot attempt into the net.

In 17:25 of ice time, Katchouk had an assist, a shot on goal, one takeaway and was a minus-1. He also played 2:24 on the penalty kill, the most among of the forwards. He gives the team more on a nightly basis than Johnson does. He has more versatility and offensive ability, while playing well on the penalty kill.

Mario: Reese Johnson likely on wrong side of cut-line

There’s nothing wrong with being a more one-dimensional NHL player when it comes to being tough, physical, and willing to stand up for teammates. Those are all commendable traits for an NHL player to have. Reese Johnson has all of those. But unfortunately for him, the Blackhawks are at a point now where just being able to do those things are likely not enough to stick around on the NHL roster.

Chicago needs their fourth-liners to be able to play tough, play responsible, and be able to threaten to chip-in offensively from time to time. Other players who were on the cut-line for the Blackhawks like Boris Katchouk and MacKenzie Entwistle can do all those things and Reese Johnson just isn’t there. Entwistle scored his second goal of the preseason tonight and Katchouk tallied his third assist of the preseason, while Johnson’s last effort of the preseason saw him with two shots on goal, no hits, and 13:12 minutes of ice-time. He rang a shot off the post in the third period, probably would have been his last-ditch effort to make the team.

Johnson’s a nice guy and a hard player, he’ll likely be one of the first players considered by the Blackhawks if/when they need a gritty call-up from the Rockford IceHogs. But ultimately, he’ll be coming from the Rockford IceHogs.

Jay: MacKenzie Entwistle makes his case

Tuesday night, MacKenzie Entwistle had a moment to forget. He had a two-on-zero breakaway with Boris Katchouk and blew a tire.

Entwistle flat fell down.

Most young players would have let the moment crush them…especially a player as “on the bubble” as Entwistle has been this preseason. He was asked about the incident after Friday’s practice. “I’m glad everyone got a laugh out of it. I got a couple of texts after the game,” Entwistle said. “Kaner texted me and said ‘Get Jimmy (Heintzelman) to sharpen your skates.’ That was embarrassing. I’d love to bury that and have that chance back.”

Saturday, he had his chance for redemption and didn’t miss. Late in the second period with the Hawks trailing 4-2, Entwistle took the puck from his own blue line, dangled the Blues defenseman, and tucked the puck past Blues goalie Jordan Binnington.

In my mind, Entwistle is the bubble player most worthy of making the final roster. While Katchouk brings more offense, and Joey Anderson brings more experience, Entwistle’s game-to-game compete level and positional versatility make him the best option. He finished the preseason with 2 goals and an even rating in four games. We’ll find out a Sunday morning who is headed back to Rockford, but here’s hoping #58 stays in Chicago.

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