In July of 2020, defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk elected not to sign his entry-level contract with the Philadephia Flyers — the team that selected him 196th overall in the 2017 NHL Draft — and decided to join the Chicago Blackhawks after being told by the organization that he would receive NHL ice-time in the near future.
New Blackhawks signing Wyatt Kalynuk tells me he *chose* not to sign with Flyers, who drafted him in 2017.
The U of Wisconsin defenseman elected free agency, narrowed his list of suitors to six teams, then eventually signed with the Hawks.
Full story coming later this week.
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) July 22, 2020
Prior to signing on with Chicago, Kalynuk spent the previous three years (2017-20) playing college hockey for Tony Granato and the University of Wisconsin. Kalynuk served as the anchor for the Badger’s top powerplay unit and recorded at least 25 points in all three seasons.
Kalynuk Rises To The Occasion
After bouncing between the AHL and the Blackhawks’ taxi squad (remember that?) for the first half of the COVID-shortened season, Kalynuk finally made his NHL debut on Mar. 7, 2020, against the defending Stanley Cup champion (and now back-to-back Stanley Cup champion) Tampa Bay Lightning. Welcome to the show, kid.
Kalynuk joined the Blackhawks’ lineup and made an immediate impact with his offensive abilities from the backend. The 23-year-old defenseman frequently displayed his swift skating abilities and was noticeably growing in confidence as each game passed. Eventually, Kalynuk went from playing a bottom-pairing role to averaging roughly 20 minutes per night down the final stretch of the regular season. By the end of the year, Kalynuk had racked up nine points (four goals, five assists) in 21 games and wound up tying Duncan Keith *sheds tear* for the most goals among all Blackhawks defensemen. Pretty impressive for playing in less than half the team’s games.
Even though the Blackhawks added Seth Jones, his little brother Caleb, and Jake McCabe to their blueline during the offseason, Kalynuk still seemed fairly likely to make the opening-night roster thanks to his strong first NHL stint.
However, during a practice session on Oct. 5, Kalynuk took a hit along the boards from teammate Reese Johnson and suffered a right ankle sprain. Kalynuk was forced to miss the entire first month of the season due to the injury.
— Talkin’ Hawkey (@TalkinHawkey) October 5, 2021
Back And Better Than Ever?
Kalynuk returned to practice towards the beginning of November and was officially activated off long-term injured reserve ahead of the Blackhawks’ game against the Pittsburgh Penguins (Nov. 9). While the Blackhawks could have kept Kalynuk up at the NHL following his return, they decided to reassign the now-24-year-old defenseman to the Rockford IceHogs on Nov. 10 for a bit of a conditioning stint. With fellow defenseman Caleb Jones also recently returning from injury, electing to send Kalynuk to the AHL to play a larger role was a wise decision.
In four games of AHL action, Kalynuk tallied three points (one goal, two assists) and showed no signs of rust after missing the early portion of the season.
Wyatt Kalynuk (#48 in white) scores his first goal in his first game of the season! Ryan Stanton (#55) and Brett Connolly (#20) get the assists. #Blackhawks #HockeyTwitter #HawksProspects #IceHogs pic.twitter.com/1yQoTOAdSA
— Chicago Prospects (@Chi_Prospects) November 11, 2021
Then, with defenseman Riley Stillman being placed on injured reserve due to a left knee injury, the Blackhawks recalled Kalynuk from the IceHogs on Monday as the corresponding move. Stillman suffered the injury during the Blackhawks’ 1-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday after Erik Gustafsson checked former-Hawk Tyler Motte into Stillman’s leg.
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) November 22, 2021
Kalynuk and his immense offensive skillset return to Chicago with an enormous opportunity to provide the team with some much-needed offense. Through their first 18 games, the Blackhawks rank 30th in the NHL with just 2.17 goals per game. Aside from Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, and Brandon Hagel, the Hawks haven’t been able to do anything in the offensive zone this season. Jonathan Toews has yet to record a goal, and Dominik Kubalik is in the midst of a 12-game goalless drought as well. Kirby Dach hasn’t scored a goal since Oct. 27 vs. Toronto.
Also, the Blackhawks’ defensemen have chipped in for only four goals so far this year, with two of those coming from Seth Jones. Connor Murphy’s goal in the season opener against Colorado (Oct. 13) and McCabe’s empty netter against Seattle (Nov. 17) account for the other two goals from Blackhawks’ blue-liners.
With Kalynuk now back up at the NHL for his second stint, help could be on the way for the Blackhawks’ offense. Kalynuk will meet the Blackhawks in Calgary and could make his season debut on Tuesday night against the Flames.