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2022-2023 Central Division Preview: Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks

The Central Division’s two worst teams last season don’t look like they’ll be much improved.

Chicago Blackhawks v St Louis Blues Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images

Arizona Coyotes

2021-2022 Season: 25-50-7, 57 points, 8th in Central Division

Key Returning Players

Clayton Keller is back after missing the end of last season due to a broken leg. Keller still led the Coyotes in goals (28) and points (63), and finished fourth in assists (35). The team’s second top point producer, Nick Schmaltz, is also going to be relied upon to continue his role in supplying the team’s offense alongside Keller, especially in the absence of Phil Kessel. Also with the absence of Kessel, Lawson Crouse will be leaned upon to boost his 20 goal, 14 assist performance from last season.

Key Departures:

Phil Kessel’s signing during the offseason with the Vegas Golden Knights leaves a hole on offense. While Kessel was only responsible for eight goals in 82 games, he led the team in assists with 44, and finished third in the team in points.

Key Signings:

Nick Bjustad signed a one year, $900,000 this off-season with the Yotes. The long-time Florida Panther had spent the last two seasons with the Minnesota Wild, netting seven goals and six assists in 57 games last year. While not an offensive powerhouse, he could provide some veteran support and guidance to a young team.


Goaltending is going to be one of the Coyotes’ biggest issues this year. Either Karel Vejmelka has a good season buoyed by either Jon Gilles or Ivan Prosvetov as a consistent backup, or else he shoulders nearly the entire load again this season and becomes another shooting gallery victim of the Coyotes’ defense.

Chicago Blackhawks:

2021-2022 Season: 28-42-12, 68 points, 7th in Central

Key Returning Players:

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are coming back for this season, despite plenty of trade talk regarding both (Kane in particular). They’ll be leading another fairly young Blackhawks squad through the team’s current rebuild. This is probably not how either player felt their final year with the team would go.

At least if either player gets traded, after retirement, they’re guaranteed to relive their glory days into old age as the Hawks trot them out for jersey retirements and public outreach.

Key Departures:

The Blackhawks’ tank is in full swing. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was dealt to the Minnesota Wild at the trade deadline, leaving a gap in goaltending. At the draft, Alex DeBrincat was dealt to the Ottawa Senators - leaving the Blackhawks bereft of a player who scored 41 goals and added 37 assists for good measure. Center Kirby Dach is now with the Montreal Canadiens. Dylan Strome, third on the team with 22 goals last season, is now adding his firepower to the Washington Capitals. Former 30 goal scorer Dominik Kubalik will be contributing to the Detroit Red Wings’ climb up the standings.

Most of the Blackhawks will need a lot of guidance this year for any success. It’s uncertain how much they’ll get this year.

Key Signings:

Jack Johnson and Max Domi should be able to help add some stability to the defense (maybe) and some crunch - but not defense - to the forwards.


The Blackhawks will have to lean on Petr Mrazek and Alex Stalock in net to support coach Luke Richardson’s first year as coach. Best of luck.