Question one: Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks in goals this year, and Jonathan Toews is second. Who’s third?
Question two: Who is tied with Toews for the team lead in power play goals with seven already this year?
Question three: Who has the highest percentage of his shots going into the net at 20.2 percent, dwarfing the teams second-best number, Toews’ 13.4 percent?
Question four: Who is tied with Kane for the team lead with five game-winning goals?
Question five: Three Blackhawks have more than 145 hits. Dustin Byfuglien (160) and Brent Seabrook (151) are two of them. Who is the third (with 148)?
Question six: John Madden leads Blackhawks forwards with 44 blocked shots. Who ranks second among forwards with 33?
The answer to all six questions is Troy Brouwer.
Brouwer, 24, is having his best season with the Blackhawks already in just 59 games. He’s already established career highs in goals (18, his previous high was ten) and points (31, his previous best was 26), and is well on his way to breaking his career high of 16 assists (he has 13 already).
If you look at his numbers in the minors, though, seeing Brouwer contribute offensively shouldn’t be a surprise. In his final three seasons in the minors, split between the Norfolk Admirals and the Rockford IceHogs, Brouwer filled the stat sheet. Over those three seasons, Brouwer scored 125 goals and had 110 assists; his 235 points in 213 games is a fantastic 1.103 point/game average. But in his first few seasons with the Hawks, he wasn’t nearly as productive.
This year, Brouwer got his break when coach Joel Quenneville mixed up the lines and elevated him to the top line with Kane and Toews. His physical play and ability to get in front of the net and use his big body (6’2, 215) to screen opposing netminders have made him a key player in the Hawks offense. He’s also played smart hockey; he’s served only 36 penalty minutes this year while racking up 148 hits, a striking difference from Byfuglien’s 69 PIM on 160 hits.
Quietly, while then-GM Dale Tallon was throwing huge money at Hossa and getting blasted in the media for missing the cutoff to tender an offer to Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker, Brouwer signed a two-year deal worth $2.050 million total. That $1.025 million cap number makes Brouwer, by far, the best value on the roster.
Byfuglien has a cap number of $3 million and has fewer goals, more penalty minutes and a -3 rating this year (compared to Brouwer’s +7). Versteeg has a cap number of $3.083, has fewer goals, hits, game-winning goals, and is playing almost a full minute less per game than Brouwer.
Once the season passes the Olympic Break, keep an eye on Brouwer as he continues to produce and establish himself as a key member in the future of the Blackhawks. As the Blackhawks look toward next year and consider where they will cut payroll, the consolation of knowing that Brouwer’s bargain-basement salary and solid play will be back makes potential losses like Andrew Ladd, Byfuglien and Versteeg easier to stomach.