A Blackhawks’ core group that has already suffered far too many losses just took on another. That loss comes in the form of Cole Guttman, who had been playing center on the second line for Chicago this season.
It was announced Monday morning at the Blackhawks’ practice that the 23-year-old would be headed to Los Angeles for shoulder surgery. The surgery will repair the injury he apparently suffered in November. He has been playing through it since, but Chicago head coach Luke Richardson said he aggravated it again on February 25.
The reaggravation now explains why Guttman was not sent down to the Rockford IceHogs on the day of the trade deadline. Such a move would have made him eligible for the AHL Playoffs in April. The team apparently knew that Guttman was dealing with the shoulder issue, but presumed he could play through it until the end of the NHL season. It was a logical move because now that he’s been shut down for the year, the team doesn’t have to use one of its allotted four roster call-ups after the trade deadline.
The Blackhawks seemed to feel that he had shown them everything that he had needed to already this season and opted for surgery now so that he would be expected back by training camp. Richardson explained the move as the news broke:
“He wanted to keep playing, but I think the decision between him and his side and our side was the right thing to do it now, to get ready for next year. Because he’s shown he can play here, so he wants to have a chance to be ready 100 percent at training camp so he can again.”– Luke Richardson
The Blackhawks’ center was selected by the Lightning in the sixth round of the 2017 Draft. After being drafted, he continued to play out his college career at the University of Denver and even led them to a national championship last season. After the end of that season, he chose to forgo signing with the Lightning, instead opting for free agency in August. He quickly signed a two-year deal worth $950,000 annually with Chicago, who liked his upside.
Guttman started the season with the IceHogs, where he tallied 30 points in 39 games. Amid a barrage of injuries to the Blackhawks in mid-February, he was called up to make his NHL debut. Since then, he has appeared in 14 games, mostly on the second line. He has six points while averaging around 15 minutes on the ice per game. In that time, he has a +/- of one, remarkably for a player on a rebuilding roster.
It’s always hard to see a young roster piece injured. While hockey is a physical game full of injuries, perhaps the worst of those is when it happens to a promising rookie eager to prove himself. However, as Luke Richardson said, Guttman has shown he can play at the NHL level and be a valuable member of his young squad. With his timeline putting him back in game shape by training camp, the Blackhawks’ young center should be ready to come back strong and take his game to the next level next season.