Brandon Hagel, Chicago Blackhawks, Column, Jonathan Toews, Philipp Kurashev

Blackhawks Banter: Toews, Prospects, & Middle-6 Forwards

Happy New Year, and welcome to the first Blackhawks Banter edition of 2021! The year 2020 certainly didn’t come to a happy ending for the Chicago Blackhawks. Within the final week of the year, we learned the team will be without the services of Alex Nylander due to knee surgery and Kirby Dach due to wrist surgery. Both are expected to be out for most, if not all, of the 2020-21 season. On top of that, it was announced that Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews is dealing with a mysterious medical condition, and there is no timeline for his return.

So today our writing crew of Greg Boysen, Brooke LoFurno, Shaun Filippelli, and Gail Kauchak will show some love to Toews, along with discussing who else could step up in the absence of these three important players. We will also touch on which prospects might get a chance with the big club this coming season. Follow along below and then join us this coming Monday night for our live show, brought to you by The Hockey Writers Live. We meet at 7:00 p.m. CST (8:00 p.m. EST) to banter in person the details of this column, and delve into further subjects as well. Let’s get started!    

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The statement the Blackhawks released on Toews included this quote from the captain, “I’ve been experiencing symptoms that have left me feeling drained and lethargic. I am working with doctors so I can better understand my condition.” This is terrible news for Toews and the team. It’s also all very vague, leading the hockey world at large to come to all sorts of crazy conclusions.

But the long and the short of it remains Toews is out and we don’t know when he will return. Worst case scenario, he’s forced to retire. Best case scenario, he’s back on the ice a few weeks into the season.

Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks
Everyone awaits the fate of Chicago Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews, who is dealing with a mysterious illness. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Regardless, it’s a huge loss. Not only is Toews an elite two-way player that leads the way on the ice, he’s also the veteran leader off the ice. Yet for the last handful of seasons the 32-year-old has been under-appreciated and under-valued as he gets older. Well, I’m sure we’ll all understand what he brings when he’s not there to bring it.

Toews deserves some positive vibes for all he’s done and all we truly hope he can still accomplish once he regains his health. Let’s take some time to share our best memories of Toews, whether it be a highlight-reel play, an impassioned locker room speech, or anything else that comes to mind.

Appreciation for Toews


Talk about coincidental timing, as my earliest memories of becoming a Toews fan take me back to the 2007 World Juniors when his Team Canada met Team USA in an epic semi-finals battle. If it’s not already enough of a storyline when these nations meet, they took things a step further in this matchup. It couldn’t be decided through regulation or overtime and needed one of the most memorable shootouts in tournament history.

After Toews made good on his first shootout attempt, it was clear Canada was going to rely on his touch to finish this one off. And it worked. They went to him three times in that shootout and he scored every single time. This included in Round 7, which is where this game ended after Peter Mueller of the USA failed to force a Round 8.

Related – Jonathan Toews: Beyond the Glory

The way Toews was able to take control and put Canada on his back, finding a way to secure the victory for his country, was such a fitting foreshadow of what was to come throughout his career. As a bonus Toews also earned bragging rights between he and superstar Blackhawks’ teammate Patrick Kane, who was on the other side in this instance. While we all know Kane for his shootout heroics throughout the years, leave it to Toews to have bettered him on the world stage.


One of my favorite Toews memories comes from when the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in June of 2013. Toews did a “moonwalk” dance on Boston’s ice after the game. Blackhawks nation went wild with that and paired it with Patrick Kane’s “Kaner Shuffle” dance. Those two went on to have a dance-off at the Blackhawks Convention in July with their respective dances.

I love that moment from Toews because he has always been portrayed as being so serious, so it allowed us fans to really get to see his personality beyond the façade.


My favorite on-ice moment was the 2015 Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks where Toews averaged a point per game in the series. He scored two goals with under two minutes to play to force overtime in Game 5, even though they lost that game.

Then in Game 7, on the road, he set the tone with two first period goals in a 5-3 win to get the Blackhawks back to the Stanley Cup Final. It was a pair of games where he put the team on his back and willed them to success. A true showing of greatness.


For my Toews thought I’d like to go back to the end of the 2017-18 season. Toews had just finished the worst season of his career production-wise, with 20 goals, 32 assists, and 52 points in 74 games. The two seasons before that weren’t all that great either. The captain only registered 58 points in both campaigns.

Many had written Toews off, saying he was washed up and on the decline for sure. And nobody would have blamed him if he rode quietly off into the sunset, settling into mediocrity and living off his past successes until he chose to hang up the skates. But that’s not the way Toews works. It’s all or nothing for this intense and success-driven man. He got to work reformulating his game, changing his diet and developing a new training regimen.

Boston Bruins Oskar Steen Chicago Blackhawks Jonathan Toews
Jonathan Toews tackles everything he does with great determination. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

It all paid off in the 2018-19 season when Toews posted the best numbers of his career in all three categories with 35 goals, 46 assists and 81 points. And let’s not forget these past playoffs, when Toews was visibly rejuvenated by a chance to compete in meaningful postseason games. He led the charge with five goals and nine points in their albeit short nine-game stint.

This man just doesn’t quit, which is why I believe he will fight whatever this is and we will see him back on the ice again. We’re pulling for you Jonny!

Even before the losses of Toews, Dach & Nylander, the Blackhawks were short on top-six forward talent. Now, they’re really going to struggle to put together a talented top two lines. At this point, who knows who will end up where. In that vein, I’d like to play a game of sorts. Below are six middle-range players.

  • Ryan Carpenter
  • Matthew Highmore
  • Mattias Janmark
  • David Kampf
  • Carl Soderberg
  • Lucas Wallmark

Rank them in order of what kind of impact you think they will have with the team this upcoming season, one being the most and six being the least. We can discuss this further on our live Blackhawks Banter Show.

The Middle-Six Game


  1. Soderberg
  2. Janmark
  3. Kampf
  4. Wallmark
  5. Highmore
  6. Carpenter


  1. Soderberg
  2. Carpenter
  3. Janmark
  4. Highmore
  5. Kampf
  6. Wallmark


  1. Soderberg
  2. Highmore
  3. Janmark
  4. Carpenter
  5. Kampf
  6. Wallmark


  1. Soderberg
  2. Wallmark
  3. Highmore
  4. Janmark
  5. Kampf
  6. Carpenter

In addition to the above players, it’s highly likely some prospects will get a chance with the big club they might not have otherwise had. If the team isn’t going to be very good or win a lot of games, they might as well focus on their youth. Give these kids a chance and see what they’ve got, along with giving them valuable experience. That being said, which forward prospect (besides European signing Pius Suter, who is likely a shoo-in at this point) do you think has the best chance of securing himself a regular spot in the lineup this season, and why?

Top Prospect to Make the Blackhawks’ Roster


It’s hard to argue with the case Brandon Hagel has been making for himself this season. Playing in Switzerland’s Swiss League for the HC Thurgau to kick off the 2020-21 campaign, Hagel has already accumulated eight goals and seven assists for 15 points through 14 games. He’s also a plus-6, which only helps further the fact that he’s more of a help to his team when he’s on the ice than otherwise.

Brandon Hagel Rockford Icehogs
Brandon Hagel will be gunning for a spot on the Chicago Blackhawks roster this season. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

This version of the Blackhawks’ lineup is perfect for this 22-year-old winger to slot into. Not only does the roster have voids that need addressing due to unforeseen injuries, but if the club is going to focus on committing to a youth movement then why not reward those who are clearly ready to take such a step? If the Blackhawks put Hagel in, I don’t see how they’d end up regretting it.


I’m going to say Hagel. He had a great showing with his Switzerland team when he was loaned in October; 15 points in 14 games. His showing for the Blackhawks was cut short due to the pandemic. So I think a spot on the Blackhawks roster is his to lose.


It seems like every other day the Blackhawk are losing a forward, so there should be plenty of opportunity for a young player to make an impact. I’m going to go with Philipp Kurashev.

Philipp Kurashev Rockford Icehogs
Philipp Kurashev is another prospect that could become a regular player for the Chicago Blackhawks. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

He played very well in Rockford and the organization is very high on him. Had he not dealt with a couple of different injuries, he probably would have made his NHL debut last season. He is not going to be a superstar, by any means, but he should be a very solid player in all three zones.


I think we’re going to see Hagel as a regular in the Blackhawks’ lineup. With the Rockford IceHogs last season Hagel led the team with 19 goals and 31 points in 59 games. The winger was called up to the Blackhawks for the last game of the season before the pause. He played on the third line alongside Dach and Dominik Kubalik, and finished the night with four shots on goal in 11:48 minutes of ice time.

Related – Blackhawks Who Need to Make Their Mark on the 2020-21 Season

Hagel also had a very successful stint over in Switzerland this offseason. As both Shaun and Brooke mentioned above, in 14 games he registered eight goals and seven assists. That’s over a point per game pace! Considering the Blackhawks are now in need of players that can score goals, Hagel could fit the bill. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on in training camp.

Be sure to join us live Monday night at 7:00 p.m. CST (8:00 p.m. EST) where we’ll delve further into all the subjects above. We also aim to chat about the Blackhawks’ defense in the 2020-21 season, and of course get up to speed on the World Juniors! In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Facebook. And for your viewing pleasure, here is our most recent Blackhawks Banter episode below.

See you Monday!

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