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Seth Jones injury provides first opportunity for young Blackhawks defensemen

Mario Tirabassi Avatar
October 30, 2022

The Chicago Blackhawks announced on Sunday that defenseman Seth Jones would miss the night’s game against the Minnesota Wild and is expected to miss the next 3-4 weeks. Jones was diagnosed with a right thumb injury that head coach Luke Richardson said he suffered in the second period on Saturday in Chicago’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo.

“Blocked a shot in the second period and finished the game,” Richardson said prior to Sunday’s contest. “The adrenaline carries you through the game and then you cool down and you start to get sore. So that’s where we are at right now.”

For the immediate future, Swedish rookie Filip Roos will slot into the lineup to fill Jones’ place. He and Seth’s brother Caleb Jones had been alternating games in and out of the lineup to begin the season before Caleb put together a productive stretch of hockey that saw him hold onto a lineup spot over Roos.

Those two will have a big opportunity in the absence of Seth Jones, a top powerplay “quarterback” for the Blackhawks. Caleb Jones and Roos will get the first opportunities to be the top powerplay defensive option for the Blackhawks with the elder Jones out of action until after American Thanksgiving.

Richardson said ahead of Sunday’s game, shortly after the news of Jones’ injury, that the Blackhawks would likely be looking to the Rockford IceHogs to get a seventh defenseman onto the roster. But at that point in time, no decision had been made on who it could be.

There are plenty of options for the Blackhawks to choose from on the IceHogs’ roster. First, there is Alex Vlasic, a player who finished last season as a rookie with the Blackhawks and playing alongside Seth Jones in the final handful of games. Vlasic was one of the final cuts in training camp and was sent to the IceHogs for the first time in his career. He has not registered a point yet in four appearances but is a plus-three with six shots on goal in his first taste of AHL hockey. He has 15 NHL games under his belt, all coming last season.

Down the line, there is Alec Regula, who also finished last season with the Blackhawks like Vlasic. He’s had a bit more professional experience than Vlasic, skating in 19 NHL games with the Blackhawks and 60 AHL games with the Rockford IceHogs. Both are sizable blue-liners who can move well for their size with Regula offering a bit more of an offensive game than Vlasic at this point in their career development. Regula had 26 points in 41 AHL games last season and has two goals in his first four games with the IceHogs this season.

Other viable options in Rockford include physical defenseman Isaak Phillips and two-way defender Jakub Galvas. Last season was the first for Galvas in North America after playing the previous five seasons professionally in Europe. He skated in six NHL games and 59 AHL games last year, recording no points in the NHL but two goals and 20 points with Rockford. He has a goal and four points in his first five appearances with the IceHogs this season.

Isaak Phillips is a fan-favorite in the IceHogs community and an often overlooked defensive prospect in the Blackhawks system. It’s an over-looking that should come to an end and could do so with a call-up to the NHL. He made his NHL debut last season with the Blackhawks and skated in four games without registering a point. He has 97 AHL already under his belt after just turning 21-years-old last month. Last year in Rockford he has ten goals and 25 points in 64 games and is out to another good start to this season with a goal and two assists in his first six games with the IceHogs.

Another wildcard in the mix could be Ian Mitchell. Coming into this season, it appeared like Mitchell could be penciled-into the Blackhawks’ roster with the state of the rebuild and organizational depth on the blue-line. But a wrist injury prior to training camp derailed Mitchell’s start to the year. He was given a six-week timeline to return and it has been about five weeks since then. Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson didn’t appear to think Mitchell was close to returning to playing status yet.

“He just started stick handling now. I’m not sure if he’s actually at the point of shooting the puck yet…He’s not ready to join the team quite yet.”

Whoever is brought up to the Blackhawks to replace Seth Jones, there’s no one on the roster right now that can replace the value Jones brings to Chicago with his ability to play significantly more minutes and play in all situations. Jones is averaging a team-high 25:14 TOI this season and is the only player averaging over 20-minutes of ice time per game with Patrick Kane in second at 19:40 TOI this season. Jones has four assists in eight games to begin this season and has been firing the puck at a high rate to begin the year with 22 shots on goal, only two behind team leader Patrick Kane (24).

“It will have to be replacement by committee.” Richardson said ahead of Sunday’s game regarding the hole in the lineup that Jones leaves. While the analytics may not always be his friend, for a defensively-thin Blackhawks team, not having Seth Jones will be a glaring problem on the ice even with more steady veterans like Connor Murphy and Jake McCabe in the lineup.

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