The NHL and NHLPA have until July 1 to decide whether or not entry-level contracts signed during quarantine are eligible for the 2020 postseason.
The Chicago Blackhawks were hoping to have an enormous boost to their blue line for the 2020 playoffs, but at the moment, the odds aren’t in their favor. Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman spoke to the media on Thursday for the first time since the NHL paused the 2019-20 regular season on March 12, and during the conference call, he stated that he does not expect top prospect Ian Mitchell to be allowed to play in the 2020 postseason.
“Right now, there’s no current-year contracts that are going to be approved,” Bowman said. “If that does change, certainly we’ll bring Ian into the mix.”
Although the Hawks certainly would have liked to have Mitchell for their stab at a long postseason run, a full training camp and preseason under his belt would probably be best before throwing him into NHL action. Not to say that Mitchell couldn’t jump right into the playoffs, but some time with the team this offseason will likely ease his transition into the big leagues.
Now that the Blackhawks don’t expect Mitchell to be eligible for the 2020 postseason, that essentially finalizes their defensive pairings for the opening series vs. Edmonton. Keith and Boqvist are expected to be the top pairing, while de Haan and Murphy will likely be the shutdown pairing to try and prevent Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl from taking over the game. That leaves Olli Maatta and Slater Koekkoek on the third defensive pairing, and the two have actually had tremendous success together this season. Believe it or not, the Maatta-Koekkoek pairing have the highest CF% of any Blackhawks defensive pairing with over 60 minutes together this season at 53.04%. Lucas Carlsson is the current favorite to take the seventh-defenseman spot, but Nick Seeler could be in the mix for that position as well.
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