Throughout the beginning of the season, the focus of all the hype around the Blackhawks has been around Connor Bedard and his offense. The group is starting to heat up and is the highlight of the young team. When we haven’t been talking up the team’s scorers, we’ve been doting over Petr Mrazek and Arvid Soderblom between the pipes, both of whom have been pleasant surprises so far this year.
Through 13 games this season, though, the most glaring hole on the roster has been the defensive unit. The Blackhawks have allowed 3.46 goals per game, a number that’s among the highest in the NHL. The team’s goaltenders aren’t to blame – they’ve faced the third-highest shots per game in the league. Coming into the season, Chicago knew its blueliners were a mostly inexperienced group, with youngsters like Kevin Korchinski, Alex Vlasic, and Wyatt Kaiser slotting into everyday roles on every line. However, the team still needs to see improvement from its defense soon.
On Thursday morning, the Blackhawks made a long-awaited change on the blue line when they recalled 24-year-old defenseman Filip Roos from Rockford and placed veteran D-man Nikita Zaitsev on the non-roster list. Zaitsev didn’t practice yesterday and is set to miss time due to a personal reason. His return timeline isn’t set at the moment, but a stint on the longer side is expected.
Roos is a 24-year-old big-bodied skater who has three assists and four points in ten games this season, leading all Rockford defensemen. It won’t be his first time in a Blackhawks uniform, as he logged 17 appearances with the big club last year, logging three points. While there’s no report on the expected length of Zaitsev’s absence, Roos may expect a similar amount of usage this year with the recent call-up. His entry-level contract expires at the end of this season, so it’s a great opportunity for the young skater to prove he belongs.
Zaitsev temporarily leaves the team after drawing much of the attention of Blackhawks fans, and not in a positive way. The 32-year-old veteran has been in and out of the lineup throughout the start of the year and hasn’t performed particularly well when he’s been on the ice. He was acquired last year in a cap-dump deal, but he may be on the block at this year’s deadline. Either way, it’s safe to say he won’t be resigned before he hits free agency next summer. However, being away from the team for personal reasons isn’t usually a great sign, and everyone – even his biggest “boo-birds” – wishes him well.
While losing a player for personal reasons is never welcome news, the move is a great opportunity for the Blackhawks to give one of their most talented AHL skaters a longer look with the big club. Roos will look to make the most of an opportunity in order to earn another contract in Chicago and prove that he can be a valuable part of the current rebuild.