When the Chicago Blackhawks take the ice in 2021, there will be at least two new forwards donning Indianhead sweaters. After letting Drake Caggiula walk in free agency and trading Brandon Saad to Colorado, general manager Stan Bowman inked Mattias Janmark and Lucas Wallmark to one-year contracts.
What should Blackhawks fans expect from the newly acquired forwards next season? Let’s dive in.
Janmark is a 6-foot-1, 196 lb forward who spent the first four seasons of his NHL career in Dallas. The 27-year-old has compiled 46 goals and 63 assists (109 points) over 297 career games with the Stars. Most recently, Janmark recorded six goals and 15 assists (21 points) over 62 games in the shortened 2019-20 campaign. He also added one goal and seven assists (eight points) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
One thing that Janmark brings to Chicago is versatility. He describes himself as “an offensive player that takes care of the defensive end first.” The first part of that sentiment may not be as evident when perusing his most recent seasons on the stat sheet. Keep in mind that his offensive downtick was partially due to the Stars employing a much more defensive-minded system over the past two seasons. Janmark hopes to revitalize his scoring touch in Chicago’s system.
“I’m really hoping to get some confidence back in the offensive zone and get that game going a little bit more because that’s how I want to play. Always been a two-way player, so defensive end of the game is really important to me. I (hopefully) can get to play with good players that can help me out offensively and I can help them out defensively too. I think the way Chicago plays suits me a little bit more.”– Mattias Janmark on signing in Chicago
He primarily fulfilled a bottom-six role for the Stars throughout their 2020 Stanley Cup Final run, but look for him to slot up in a Chicago lineup that will be without Brandon Saad. While he has played center at times throughout his four NHL seasons, Janmark’s career 38.3% at the faceoff dot and the availability of other options up the middle will push him to a wing spot.
In an ideal world, Janmark would return to or exceed the levels of production he enjoyed in his first two NHL seasons (15 and 19 goals, respectively). If everything clicks, that could be the case. However, a more realistic outlook is that Janmark will take on a sizable chunk of the dirty work along boards and in the corners in order to open up more time and space for higher-caliber scorers that he will likely be playing with. If the Blackhawks’ past lineup variation is any indication, look for head coach Jeremy Colliton to shuffle Janmark’s position from time to time in an effort to maximize the scoring prowess of players like Dominik Kubalik, Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach, and Dylan Strome (if he returns to Chicago).
Overall, Mattias Janmark is a downgrade from Brandon Saad — there’s no denying that. However, the Swedish forward will see time on the penalty kill, fulfill a complementary role in a number of different slots throughout the lineup, and help increase the pressure of the Hawks’ forecheck.
Wallmark stands 6 feet tall, weighs 178 lbs, and carries a left-handed shot. The 25-year-old Swedish center spent parts of four seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes before being traded to the Florida Panthers at the 2020 NHL trade deadline. Over 167 career NHL games, Wallmark has recorded 22 goals and 32 assists (54 points) while averaging 13:27 TOI.
‘Defensive specialist’ is a term that comes to mind when describing Wallmark’s game. He certainly fulfills that role, as he was a bottom-six forward and a key piece of the penalty kill (1:04 PK TOI/G) during his time in Carolina. Wallmark is also reliable in the faceoff dot, evidenced by his 50.9 career faceoff percentage.
However, Wallmark also has a bit of a scoring touch to his game. He totaled 28 and 25 points, respectively, in his first two seasons of full-time NHL action. With David Kampf and Ryan Carpenter already shouldering large defensive responsibilities in the Blackhawks’ bottom-six forward corps, that should open the door for Wallmark to further grow his game in the offensive zone. That’s something he wants to see come to fruition as well.
“Hopefully I can start producing offensively more too and still play solid at other ends of the ice, too. I want to be a good player in both ends, and I want to take the next step as a player and I think I have a great chance to do that here with the Blackhawks.”– Lucas Wallmark on signing in Chicago
It’s unclear exactly how Jeremy Colliton will deploy his bottom-six forwards from a lineup standpoint, but Wallmark projects to be a mainstay up the middle if he’s able to produce at both ends of the ice. He certainly proved to be capable of that potential with the Hurricanes last season.
Signed to a one-year, $950K contract, Lucas Wallmark has all the tools to outperform expectations in Chicago. The next step for the young forward will be gelling with his new team and getting it done on the ice.
It’s important to keep in mind that both Mattias Janmark and Lucas Wallmark are signed to one-year contracts. Yes, their fits with the Chicago Blackhawks given the team’s current direction, or lack thereof, may be questionable. However, both players are beloved by their previous fanbases for their skillsets and high-energy efforts every time they take the ice. Look for both of them to skate with something to prove during the 2021 season, even if the end result is ultimately being shipped away to a contender at the trade deadline.