One of the more interesting things to watch at the start of the 2021-22 season will be the Chicago Blackhawks’ overhauled defensive group. Seth Jones and Jake McCabe are two new members of the team’s top-four, while it looked like youngsters Riley Stillman and Wyatt Kalynuk could be in the opening night lineup as the third pair. That won’t be true anymore, as Kalynuk is likely out a few weeks with an ankle injury according to head coach Jeremy Colliton, who spoke with reporters including Scott Powers of The Athletic today.
As Mark Lazerus of The Athletic points out, Kalynuk was expected to play his off-side to start the year, meaning there is now an opening on the right for one of the team’s other young defensemen. Ian Mitchell or Alec Regula seem the most likely candidates, though given both are waiver-exempt it could end up being a rotation of some sort. That is unless one of the other left-handed options–Calvin de Haan, Caleb Jones, or Stillman–move to the right side to start.
Either way, this is a disappointing start for Kalynuk, who showed last season that he’s far from the player that fell to the seventh round in 2017. After three seasons at the University of Wisconsin, the 24-year-old was a legitimate NHL defenseman in his rookie season, recording nine points in 21 games and strong possession statistics. Entering the second year of his entry-level contract, there was a good chance he will be a regular for the team when healthy. Of course, missing the start of the year is never ideal, and Kalynuk will now have to not only work to return from injury, but also overtake whoever gets the minutes in his place.
The Blackhawks kick off their regular season schedule on October 13 when they take on the Colorado Avalanche.