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The Central Division Chicago Blackhawks and the Arizona Coyotes will meet for their first of three contests this season on Monday, Oct. 30. These two squads have a lot in common in that they’re both in the midst of rebuilds, and have a young and talented roster. In the 2022-23 season, the Coyotes finished seventh in the Central while the Blackhawks finished eighth. This was good for 27th and 30th in the league, respectively. It’s safe to say both teams are currently bottom-feeders that are trying to build back up again.

There have also been a few trades between the Coyotes and the Blackhawks, with beloved players switching sides. With these two teams in the same division now since the 2021-22 season, I could see a rivalry in the making.  

Ahead of Monday’s game, I hooked up with my THW colleague Haynes Evans, who covers the Coyotes, for a crossover edition to talk all things Coyotes and Blackhawks. After all, it never hurts to keep an eye on the enemy! Here’s our Q & A session below.  

Checking In on the Newest Superstars

The Coyotes and the Blackhawks currently both have a high draft pick embarking on their first NHL season with their respective clubs. For the Coyotes, this is 2022 third overall draft pick Logan Cooley. For the Blackhawks, it’s 2023 first overall draft pick Connor Bedard. Let’s get up to speed on how these two young prospects are faring, with an overview of what we’ve seen from them so far.

Logan Cooley (Haynes)

Cooley has gotten off to quite the hot start in his still young NHL career. Beginning with a highlight reel goal in the preseason against the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL Global Series, Cooley has only kept things cool in the desert.

Logan Cooley is the Arizona Coyotes’ hottest new star. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With five assists through the team’s first six games, the next potential NHL superstar has looked more than comfortable on the ice, showcasing his skill set, with a flurry of highlights, including some insane no-look passes.

Connor Bedard (Gail)

Bedard also got off to a great start, registering three points in his first three games. But then he struggled a bit in his following four games; although he did notch a nifty power play goal against the Vegas Golden Knights on Oct. 21.

Related – Coyotes’ Cooley, Blackhawks’ Bedard Set For First NHL Matchup

That said, Bedard’s growing frustration was clear. He was trying to be too cute and forcing plays. Let’s face it, the NHL presents a little bit different animal. The game is faster and played differently, and the young center will need to adjust accordingly.

Connor Bedard has already been through some ups & downs in his first handful of games with the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

In the most recent tilt against Vegas on Oct. 27, Bedard was deployed with Philipp Kurashev, who has just returned from a wrist injury, and Nick Foligno, who’s become Bedard’s mentor and confidante. This trio played phenomenal together, with Bedard recording his third goal of the season. It appears the eighteen-year-old could already be turning a corner from his previous frustration. He currently boasts three goals and five points in his first eight games.

Catching Up With Old Faces

Let’s move on to some popular players who started with one club but now play for the other.  Nick Schmaltz was drafted by the Blackhawks (2014 draft, 20th overall) and played with them for a little over two seasons before being traded to the Coyotes in Nov. 2018. Many pundits in Chicago thought the Blackhawks had given up on the young center too early.  

Defenseman Connor Murphy, believe it or not, was also drafted 20th overall, but by the Coyotes and in the 2011 draft. Murphy played four seasons with the Coyotes before being dealt to the Blackhawks in the 2017 offseason, in exchange for defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.

So Haynes, tell us what kind of impact Schmaltz has had with the Coyotes, and I will do the same for Murphy with the Blackhawks.

Nick Schmaltz (Haynes)

Schmaltz has had quite the NHL career. After being dealt to the Coyotes for Dylan Strome in 2018, he’d bounce back and forth on the team’s injured reserve, while struggling over multiple stretches to produce while healthy. The seemingly never-ending saga of trying to remain healthy for a full year, while producing like a top-six forward led to speculation entering the 2021-22 season on if management would look to move the former 20th overall selection.

Nick Schmaltz struggled with injuries when he first joined the Arizona Coyotes. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

General manager Bill Armstrong remained firm in his beliefs that Schmaltz could turn things around, naming him a piece of the team’s core during the beginning on the organization’s rebuild. With newfound confidence, he’d post back-to-back near identical seasons of 59 and 58 points respectively in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons.

He’s remained hot since, posting seven points on two goals and six assists in the team’s first seven games, and his resurgence has benefited his teammates as well, including Clayton Keller, in which the two have built a dynamic chemistry. As one of the older guys on the team, Schmaltz (27 years old) has taken on a leadership role, being awarded as one of the team’s three alternate captains this season.

Connor Murphy (Gail)

I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t happy when the Blackhawks traded Hjalmarsson for Murphy. After all, Hjalmarsson was a legendary shutdown defenseman, everyone’s favorite warrior and three-time Stanley Cup champion. Who was this Murphy guy, anyway?! Just another random defenseman, albeit a much younger one.

Well, this is why I’m not a general manager. While Hjalmarsson serviced the Coyotes for a respectable four more seasons before retiring from the NHL, he was winding down his career. Murphy, on the other hand, was just getting started. He’s been a dependable shutdown defenseman for the Blackhawks going on seven seasons now, and he’s also the most tenured player on the team.

Connor Murphy is the most tenured player with the Chicago Blackhawks. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The now 30-year-old has become a spokesperson for team, a favorite for his candor and honesty, and a leader in the locker room. Murphy is signed with the Blackhawks for two more seasons beyond this one. Trade rumors swirl around him every year, but it’s hard to imagine a Blackhawks’ team without Murphs.

Kind of like Hjalmarsson back in the day.

Coyotes/Blackhawks Matchup Predictions

We should discuss the upcoming matchup between the Coyotes and the Blackhawks this Monday (Oct. 30). The Coyotes will host at Mullet Arena, which is owned by Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. It’s a smaller arena that gives the hosting team the advantage, not to mention the game won’t start until 9 p.m. Central Time.

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Haynes, what are you looking to see from this matchup? What players should the Blackhawks be watching out for? Give us your prediction on the outcome.

Haynes: We’re looking at potentially the next two teams that could run the Central Division for years to come. You have two rosters here that have loads of talent not only at the NHL-level, but in their pipeline. You’re going to see two fast teams that can carry the puck up the ice with ease and move the puck smoothly.

For the Blackhawks, Keller will be the guy to watch. After tying the franchise record for points in a season last year (86), he’s only picked up where he left off, and looks to be on path to break the record this season.

Arizona Coyotes’ Clayton Keller is a player the Chicago Blackhawks will need to keep an eye on in their upcoming matchup. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

I think the final outcome will be decided by one goal, and that very well could come in either overtime or the shootout.

Gail: The Blackhawks are coming off a feel-good, come-from-behind win against the Golden Knights. They will be looking to keep that momentum rolling against a Coyotes’ team that is of similar caliber in terms of competitiveness. The Coyotes are the only team, besides the Montreal Canadiens, that the Blackhawks have faced so far who are not considered contenders. The Blackhawks’ schedule has been brutal through their first eight games, and the Coyotes should offer a bit of a reprieve.

The Chicago Blackhawk have had a rough schedule so far, but are coming off of a big win. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That said, no team should ever be taken for granted, and the Coyotes are a young, fighting team just like the Blackhawks. It should be a fun matchup, and I’m predicting a high-scoring affair. All the Blackhawks lines appear to be rolling right now, and defense is playing great as well. The Coyotes will have their hands full keeping this team in check. Obviously, I’m going to pick the Blackhawks to win. I’ll go with 5-3 Blackhawks, another goal for Bedard, and Lukas Reichel’s first point of the season.

Bigger Picture for the Coyotes and the Blackhawks

These two teams don’t meet again until Mar. 5 and then Mar. 10, in Arizona and then Chicago, respectively. A lot can happen in that time span. Where do you think your team will stand in mid-March? Finally, predict where you think the Coyotes (Haynes) and the Blackhawks (Gail) will finish in the Central this season.

Haynes: For Coyotes fans there’s a lot of hope and optimism in the desert this season, something that hasn’t been seen in quite some time. If the Coyotes can find scoring outside Schmaltz and Keller, they very well could find themselves just outside of a wildcard spot approaching March and the subsequent trade deadline.

The Arizona Coyotes celebrate a goal. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

I’ve stated all season that the Coyotes are very capable of making the playoffs as the last wildcard team. With teams like Winnipeg, Nashville, and St. Louis facing their own questions and concerns, the Coyotes could run the table.

Gail: I personally think the Blackhawks could make some noise this season. Sure, they have a long way to go in their rebuild. But head coach Luke Richardson proved last season he can get the best out of his players. He’s on the right track in that regard this season as well, with a much more talented, albeit inexperienced, squad.

I’m not sure if they’re playoff bound, but I think the Blackhawks are going to make a lot of fans angry who want to see another high draft pick in the 2024 draft. When the Blackhawks and Coyotes meet again in March, I could see them being in a very close race in the standings.  

Related – Blackhawks News & Rumors: Bedard, Kurashev, Resiliency & More

Take your naps early and get your coffee ready, Blackhawks fans! The late-night matchup between the Coyotes and the Blackhawks promises to be a good one. Two up-and-coming superstars will go head-to-head, and two young and exciting teams will go to battle for two points. Thank you to Haynes for his insight on the enemy! We’ll have to revisit our thoughts when these two teams meet again in March.

May the best team win!

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