Which Chicago Blackhawks Can You Trust in Fantasy Hockey?

The Stanley Cup Champs made a few roster changes this offseason, many of which have fantasy implications.

After winning their third Stanley Cup since 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks reconstructed their roster, making even more adjustments to a roster that has seen enough turnover to make one’s head spin.

Out are familiar faces Patrick Sharp, Johnny OduyaBrandon Saad and Brad Richards (among a cast of others), and in are Artemi Panarin, Trevor Daley, Ryan Garbutt, Artem Anisimov, Viktor Tikhonov, Marko Dano and Kyle Baun.

How those players fit in to the core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and the rest of the holdovers from last season is still fluid, but what is known can help you decide who to target short and long-term in fantasy hockey.

Toews, Kane, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook and Crawford are the known commodities who should be owned in fantasy hockey, and according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times and others, Toews and Hossa will be together on the top line for another season after anchoring an offense that scored 2.7 goals per game last season, 17th best overall. The Hawks had a team Corsi For percentage (CF%) of 53.6, second best in the NHL. You hold on to the puck, you generate more scoring chances, and you have a better chance of winning.

Top Two Lines

The question with the top line is who plays on the left side of Toews? So far, Andrew Shaw, Teuvo Teravainen and Dano have auditioned on the top line. Dano is starting the year in the AHL, so he is off the short-term short list (but there's ore on him later).

If recency bias says anything, “Turbo” Teravainen gets the nod, making him must-own. There is some risk as well with Teuvo on the top line, as head coach Joel Quenneville is not very patient with younger players.

The second scoring line has seen the biggest face-lift. Kane remains on the right side, and newcomers Anisimov and Panarin appear to be the first two to play alongside Chicago’s dynamic scorer. Anisimov and Dano came over in the trade that sent Saad and a cast of others to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The loss of Saad is huge, but Anisimov could be the best center to play with Kane since the start of Chicago’s Cup run.

Anisimov scored a career-high 22 goals in 2013-14 before dealing with injuries last season.

Panarin is a complete unknown because he has never played in North America. The 23-year old was the Kontinental Hockey League’s fifth-leading scorer last season and led all players in playoffs in scoring, however.

If Panarin adjusts to playing with Kane, who has similar play-making abilities, and Anisimov gets back to the 20-goal plateau, Chicago’s second line could be better than a good chunk of top lines in the NHL. Another good sign for these three is the high praise given to them from Quenneville, which is something he does sparingly.

Anisimov and Panarin will be owned in some leagues from the get-go, so keep your eyes peeled for them now and monitor their chemistry with Kane.

Marko Dano is a player that should be on all fantasy owner radars once he gets the call to the big show. He has shown he can play in the NHL already, netting 8 goals and 21 points in 35 games last season with the Blue Jackets.

Third-Line Issues?

Right now, the assumed third line of Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Ryan Garbutt offer a scoring punch that scares no one. Bickell was recently out on waivers because he hasn’t showed his scoring touch in situations that don’t involve postseason hockey, Shaw is better as a winger, and Garbutt is better suited in a checking role

Putting Dano in Garbutt’s spot would at least add some scoring potential. Another move could be to insert Viktor Tikhonov, another KHL defector, to center (despite being a right winger) with Dano and Bickell. Tikhonov failed in his first NHL stint in Arizona, and if he does not crack the roster in Chicago, he could go to the AHL or back to Russia. He is waiver wire fodder unless he centers scoring talent.

Not a Fantasy-Friendly Defense

The defense in Chicago possesses less fantasy options than real options.

Keith and Seabrook will be owned in every league, and beyond that, who knows? Niklas Hjalmarsson is a top shutdown defender who makes his mark in the plus/minus category, and  Trevor Daley is so bad defensively that his plus/minus will hurt his offensive production.

Unless you target Keith or Seabrook or plan on adding Hjalmarsson as your least defenseman, use your roster spots for blue-line players from other teams.

A Top Fantasy Goalie

Corey Crawford is a top-12 fantasy goalie. His 32 wins (in 57 games), 2.27 goals against average and .924 save percentage were all among the top 12 last season. He also won his second Jennings Memorial Trophy, tying NHL MVP Carey Price for fewest goals allowed. “Crow” allowed two or fewer goals in 71% of games in 2014-15. Price, for comparison’s sake, did so in 66% percent of his 66 games.

Crawford earned two shutouts last season -- not terrible, but not elite. Crawford will be a low-end number-one goalie or an elite number-two goalie.

The Blackhawks have plenty of star talent left on the roster, and that can help give value to lesser-known commodities, but this Stanley Cup champion squad isn't without fantasy question marks.