Wyatt Kalynuk: A Breakout Blackhawks Rookie in 2021

Wyatt Kalynuk was a pleasant surprise for the Blackhawks this season. The 6-foot-1, 189-pound left-handed shot defenseman emerged as a reliable rookie on coach Jeremy Colliton’s blue line, pushing other, higher profile prospects aside as he earned minutes.

The 24-year-old defenseman was originally a 7th round pick (#196 overall) by the Flyers in the 2017 NHL Draft but, after three years at the University of Wisconsin, he opted to sign with the Blackhawks. When he signed with the Hawks in July of last year, where and how he fit into the Hawks’ rotation was unclear; at that time, Brent Seabrook was injured and the club still had Olli Maatta under contract.

At Wisconsin, Kalynuk was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team and the All-Big Ten Honorable Mention Team in his first season. In his sophomore season, Kalynuk was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team on defense and he won the Spike Carlson/Chris Chelios Most Valuable Player after finishing second on the team with nine goals. He was the Badgers’ captain as a junior, earning first team All-Big Ten, Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten honors.

“He was our go-to offensive defenseman,” Wisconsin head coach Tony Granato told NBC Sports Philadelphia before Kalynuk signed with the Hawks instead of the Flyers. “He got the most minutes on the power play; he was the guy we wanted the puck to go through. He’s an elite offensive defenseman that has the ability to run a power play. We asked a lot of him.”

Kalynuk signed a two-year, entry-level contract that runs through the 2021-22 season with a $925,000 cap hit. Between signing and him joining the club for the 2021 season, Maatta was traded away and Seabrook ultimately had to call it a career, opening the door for him to get a crack at the NHL lineup.

And he grabbed the bull by the horns. Kalynuk averaged 16:16 with four goals and five assists in 21 games with the Blackhawks this past season. He averaged 1:06 per game on the power play, which ranked fourth among Blackhawks defensemen behind Adam Boqvist, Duncan Keith and Nicolas Beaudin.

Kalynuk’s best partner on the blue line was Riley Stillman. However, he only spent 19:01 5-on-5 minutes on the ice with Stillman this season – making the numbers good but from a small sample size. When those two were together, the CF% was 55.56 – the best of any defensive pair that spent at least 15 minutes together for Chicago this season. Their FF% was 57.50, also the best of any pair that spent 15 minutes together on the ice.

Here are Kalynuk’s top four 5-on-5 minutes TOI partners (defensemen) from the 2021 season:

  • Duncan Keith: 85:13
  • Calvin de Haan: 64:43
  • Connor Murphy: 50:07
  • Nikita Zadorov: 44:46

How did Kalynuk impact those four defensemen’s performance?

Keith:
CF% with Kalynuk – 41.48
CF% w/out Kalynuk – 46.67

de Haan:
CF% with Kalynuk – 49.53
CF% w/out Kalynuk – 62.50

Murphy:
CF% with Kalynuk – 42.70
CF% w/out Kalynuk – 45.61

Zadorov:
CF% with Kalynuk – 36.47
CF% w/out Kalynuk – 40.42

The Blackhawks blue line for 2021-22 will still be crowded. Seabrook is retired but that doesn’t change the reality that Boqvist, Beaudin, Ian Mitchell and Alec Regula will all be fighting for ice time with Kalynuk. Stillman appears to be in the mix moving forward as well; he signed a three-year contract extension on April 25. And Chicago still has veterans Keith, de Haan and Murphy signed and is negotiating an extension with Zadorov.

With how crowded the group is, Chicago will hope one of their veterans is taken by Seattle in the expansion draft and there may be others considered if/when trades are discussed as well.

However, we saw strides from Kalynuk that he appears to be a player the Blackhawks can have making an impact on the blue line in the coming year.

32 thoughts on “Wyatt Kalynuk: A Breakout Blackhawks Rookie in 2021

  1. Hagel was the rookie who got the most accolades, and deservedly so, but I thought Kalynuk was the rookie with the most promise to become a mainstay in the rebuild long term – mainly because as a defenseman he plays a position more in need than forward. I don’t know whether or not he can become a top pairing guy in the mold of Carolina’s Slavin, but I’m pretty sure his floor is a middle pairing guy and the fact he can play on either side only cements him into the long term picture.

  2. Kalynuk was great down the stretch, should’ve earned a big role next year out of camp. Hopefully he maintains his progression. A surprise his partners all had lower corsi numbers with him, but i guess like most rookies, learning defensive game takes a while at Nhl level.

  3. Mmmmm a big kid from Western Canada ….why am i not surprised.

    Get a couple more of those solid western boys and we`ll soon make the turn .

  4. DeHaan, if not taken in the expansion draft, will not play near a full season. Multiple shoulder surgeries and increasing age mean someone is going to get the ice time he spends hurt.

    Interesting how the eye test says Kalynuk was good, but every defenseman on the team had worse numbers when playing with him. He still needs to figure out his own end of the ice. Next season is shaping up to be another developmental year for all of these young defenders.

  5. Interesting how all the dmen he played with had worse numbers playing with him vs playing without him. He looked good but still needs to figure out his own end of the ice.

    Next year is shaping up to be another developmental year for all of these young defenders.

  6. I don’t think there’s any question next year will be a development year, as expected. The rookies had 56 games at most this season, many of them far less than 56. That’s barely getting to first base on the development curve. It doesn’t mean the Hawks can’t make the playoffs next season but it should again be a second priority behind getting the young players game time experience – especially the young d-men.

    There will be all kinds of bitching on Hawks blogs but the development process will take as long as it needs to take so all of us will have accept that whether we willing to or not.

  7. de haan. prior to this year the only year de haan was a minus player in his career was his rookie year. last year he was +10 in 29 games prior to being hurt. this year he was not hurt and finished the season -16 in 44 games. that tells me he played to stay healthy and by playing in that fashion he was horrible. likely part of his difficulties was playing with young players, but i think the much larger factor was him protecting his body.

    next year is another developmental year and every effort must be made to move de haan and open up his playing time to the development of a young d-man. moving him and moving on from zadorov leaves keith and murphy dressing every night and four other slots for beaudin, boqvist, kalynuk, mitchell, stillman, perhaps regula, and a free agent signing or perhaps another player emerging from rockford.

  8. Hawks 2015, Kalynuk not a big guy, same weight as Boqvist, 3 and half years older and maybe inch or 2 taller. With a few years less to grow naturally, bulking up is something he will almost certainly need to do if he is to survive the long hall.

    Canucks beat Flames today, so Calgary needs to win in any fashion tomorrows game for Blackhawks to move up another spot in the draft.

  9. We need six good ones and a 4th pair that can play like 2010. Even that loaded you still need everyone.

    Load the young wave!

    We add two elite ufa Defensemen and were getting there.

  10. Does anybody here have an idea about what kind of cap space we have right now if Toews does or doesn’t come back this year. It is my understanding (I’m certainly not an expert on it) as of right now the Hawks have $14 million if Toews sits out and 3 1/2 million if he’s back. This is assuming Zach Smith wont be back and DeHaan is picked up by Seattle and none of our Free Agents are signed. Anybody know for sure???

  11. It’s hard to judge a 24 y o players with 21 games played in NHL but we can see how focus he is when on the ice …he knows he is there now and has to show ….can he continue like this in a full season ? ….can he continue to improve defensively ?
    Was it just a good flash or ??
    I hope he will gain a 6-7 kilos in the next 2 years .
    I’m really happy with is game so far ….let see

    Go Flames Go …beat those Canucks tomorrow…
    We need to move up …..

  12. If you count caphits for forwards Toews, Kane, Debrincat, Connelly, Kubalik, Shaw, Borgstrom, Dach and Carpenter, Dmen Seabrook, Keith, Murphy, Stillman, Kalynuk and Boqvist, plus goalies Lankinen and Soderblom, plus retained salary and a bit for bonus overages, say 2m that is 9f 6d 2g, 66.5m basically. Zadorov for D and Gaudette, Hagel, Kampf, Nylander and Suter rfas to sign with 15m, if. Strome does come back his caphit is 3m and at least 1m salary at least taken out to make a spot. With ltir of Shaw and Seabrook a given, to use in few diferent ways of their choice, capspace isn’t an issue. With 22 or 23 contracts up next summer including Shaws coming off books, capspace shouldn’t be an issue next few years.

  13. Kurashev could be a paper move of sent down and recalled to replace Shaws spot after being put on ltir, another Defense spot open after Seabrook put on ltir. Also could use ltir before season opens if they wish too, which shuffles the deck but basically same result for roster, just affects what and when they do certain things.

  14. Hawks 29- de Haan had the best possession numbers of all the dmen, too.

  15. I will blow my own and others horns on this one. There was a group of us that stated at the start of the year that Kalynuk was the best among all of the Hawks Defensive prospects. I remember that same group also pushing hard for Hagel and Kurashev to be regular forwards on this team right out of training camp. Also predicted that Strome would be a non-factor,alot of us rode that train. On the flip side, I was wrong on Mitchell as he did not adjust as well to the longer physical NHL season and was trending down into the last few games of the year. I was also wrong about predicting Reese Johnson to be a regular forward on the roster. Although I am not quite sure that he was given much of a chance as he was relegated to 6 minutes a game on the 4th line for maybe a game every couple of weeks in the 1st half of the season. I also thought that Zadorov would be much more of a consistent physical presence and that he would handle the puck much better.

  16. Hammer just listen to Ian. He is correct. I am trying to figure it out it myself and end up with 12 sheets of scribble and two Tylenols.

    Best thing to do is be compliant with Shaw’s and Seabs money to start the season. Then we can trade for or sign someone long term with Shaw’s money.

    We use Seabs money for our 1 year UFAs or trades with expiring contracts. The move I like is getting Fluery early in the season for 3.5mil. We also get an asset with him. He mentors our goalies this season. At TDL what team isn’t looking for a goalie to 1) take over cuz that’s the piece they’re missing. 2) Veteran back up or 3) insurance back up. That trade could bring us another 1st round pick.

  17. the hawks can’t protect ALL of their defensemen in the expansion draft….isn’t it more likely they take one of these younger players than dehaan?

  18. Gander
    I think that some of those youngsters are not available for draft expansion…probably 2-3 iff not more .
    Ian knows more about it

    Go Calgary Go ….Today at 3 pm
    Sooo strange to see the playoff at game 3 and regular season not over yet ….. strange 20-21 years all over the world.
    Yeaaa will get my first vaccine next week on 27 May …2 weeks after arriving in Quebec Love my Hawks

  19. Gander, Boqvist, Mitchell, Kalynuk and Beaudin are all exempt from expansion draft along with other youngsters in Rfd., because of 2 years or less as a pro. Keith has to be protected because of nmc and that leaves Murphy, Zadorov, Stillman and Dehaan eligible of which likely only 2 more can be protected, assuming they go the 7f 3d and 1g route for protecting. Bowman trade a surplus forward so Seattle takes Dehaan or something similar if he wants a certain player moved.

    JR thanks but depending what they do in off season, putting on of Shaw and Seabrook on ltir on season opening ltir to allow them a higher cap limit to open season and one in season ltir after season begins to give them manageable room for capspace during the year is an option if they want also.

  20. Ian, sorry I was rude earlier but i think those are more formalities and are to be expected. I too have taken many Tylenol trying to figure this out using different sources and what I came up with when its all said and done is that if Toews comes back: We don’t have that much to work with. Sure some guys wont be resigned and hopefully Seattle takes a contract off the books but I think for the most part, we won’t have that much with. For certain my figures are only guesses and that’s why I asked if anybody had some real estimates

  21. Hamner, no problem, not sure where your getting those numbers for Toews, ltir has to be accounted for at start of season, so that is what i gave you, a breakdown of what they have known and who they need to sign, until rfas caphits are known, you can’t give a definite only speculation. So what i showed you was on opening day what is known for projected caphit is depending who returns, some won’t, 66.5m to 68.5m ( 13 to 15m under cap limit)range not counting Dehaan but accounting for Shaw and Seabrooks ltir hit. That leaves roster spots to for 6 rfas not signed. How they handle using ltir is something else, not going there, other than to say it allows teams to go over the 81.5m cap limit. Too far away right now to be too exact because we don’t know for sure on who will be on roster.

  22. IMO, there is only one guy that is a “must re-sign” this offseason – Hagel. The other guys – Hinostroza, Kampf, Gaudette, Suter and Zadorov – are at least one notch below Hagel in terms of key pieces of the rebuild. Of those five, I would prioritize Gaudette and Suter but losing all five of them wouldn’t be a devastating blow to the rebuild as much as Hagel would be. I didn’t include Nylander in the list because his situation is unique with him missing the entire season and basically getting a reset on proving his worth to the team.

    It’s the following offseason that will be a challenge to re-sign all the players who could be key pieces of the rebuild and would be a blow to lose them – Dach, Kubalik, Kurashev, Kalynuk, Boqvist and Lankinen. That’s when the salary cap comes back into the equation of building/keeping the team. There are other players whose contracts are up after the 2021/22 season but they don’t fit the young player profile so they are less critical in the rebuild process and therefore less critical to re-sign.

    Which brings me to the question of what to prioritize for the Seattle expansion draft. If the Hawks want to entice Seattle to take a certain player – which player would you prefer they take between deHaan and Connolly? DeHaan has the bigger cap hit ($4.5M) but for only one more year, whereas Connolly’s cap hit is smaller ($3.5M) but he still has 2 more years which means his cap hit would still be on the books when the Hawks need cap space to sign all the players after the 2021/22 season. On the surface it would appear getting rid of Connolly’s salary would be the better decision – but when factoring in deHaan is a d-man who would be taking time away from young d-men who need the experience to expedite the rebuild process – would you still prefer Connolly?

    For me – I would rather they get rid of deHaan than Connolly to facilitate the d-men development and figure out another way to deal with Connolly’s $3.5M cap hit for the 2022/23 season.

  23. I agree Ian on losing DeHaan to open a D spot especially if they re-sign Z which I put at about 75%

  24. if being competitive to win the cup remains the goal then the won/lost records the next two years should not matter. there is no chance this team will be competitive to win the cup next year and very little better chance the following year. that being the case there is no reason to have de haan, zadorov, or connolly on the roster going forward. trading de haan and connolly is a win just to be rid of their contracts. it doesn’t matter what the hawks receive in return as long as it does not involve salary cap commitments. if each return a seventh round draft pick five years from now good enough. same for strome in my opinion. these players will not be important contributors three years from now. baby bowman needs to focus on moving these contracts and not whether or not he “wins” the trades. the trades will be “wins” just for these players and their cap hits being gone.

    in the “crying over spilled milk” department……. i was vehemently opposed to dach and boqvist blowing an elc year being with the hawks last year in a pathetic attempt to help a terrible team make the playoffs. having to pay them a year sooner is now the result of that pathetic decision. the year experience being overmatched in the nhl instead of boqvist at rockford and dach in juniors was nowhere near worth blowing that ecl year. not to mention the just as pathetic decisions to acquire three year contracts for maatta, de haan, and shaw. talk about a terrible off season. hope baby bowman has learned his lesson and makes decisions based on the ream being in rebuild mode rather than trying to worm into the playoffs next year to be crushed in the first round by a real team.

  25. EB, Seattle is no doubt going to have a say in who they take, be easier sell if one of those players was on their radar vs someone who doesn’t fit their game plan maybe.

    You mention contracts next year, 7 ufa contracts on current roster due to expire next summer, Shaw, Carpenter, Murphy, Dehaan, Delia, Subban and Lankinen taking up 15.9m in cap, only Murphy and Lankinen likely to be re-signed. 8 rfas Dach, Kubalik, Strome, Kurashev, Hardman, Entwistle, Kalynuk and Boqvist. Taking up 12.1m in cap, likely all but Strome could be re-signed. That’s 28m available Dach, Kubalik and Murphy likely the biggest hits, a bridge for Dach, very possible none of them exceed 5m hit. Others will require raises but depends on what next season brings, should ample, plus expect next season with Shaws hit gone, Seabrooks caphit moved to another team wanting an ltir capspace, which makes about 35m space to sign who they want and pursue somebody else if they want. After Collitons endorsement of Suter and how he liked his versatility, be very surprised if he is not brought back. Not alot being said on Gaudette so not as sure about him.

    Hawks29 not disagreeing with your points, just saying basing when prospects play in Nhl on service time is not what i want to see, be careful what you wish for there. Rushing them too early is not the best way either though.

  26. ian

    agree playing them when ready is the proper time, but there was no reason to believe either were ready for the nhl last year.

    when one generally manages from a position of weakness and desperation the results of last year are more likely than not going to be the result.

    my point….. i don’t want to see another off season where moves are made with making the playoffs next year as the goal as opposed to the strength of this roster come 23-24. in regards to 23-24…. the cap space and playing time for youth that are generated by connolly, de haan, zadorov, and strome being gone by september far outweigh what contributions they might make in the next couple of years in terms of improving the team won/lost record.

  27. Ian, for sure Seattle is in the driver’s seat and enticing them to take deHaan when he isn’t the guy they want will require some inducement from the Hawks – who knows what that would be – hopefully something much less than a Teuvo type asset. OR – possibly induce Seattle to take Connolly and then buyout deHaan.

    I don’t know this for sure but it seems like it is more difficult now to trade a LTIR player than it was a few years ago when it seemed many teams did it. Maybe because most teams are not looking for salary to reach the cap floor like they were a few years ago. It would be great to trade Seabrook’s contract and get back that $6.8M cap space but I’m not holding my breath for it to happen.

  28. EB buying out Connelly not a bad option either, be just under 1.2m caphit, save 2.3m in cap savings, flip side both have requirements for compliancy needs too. Agree on the teams not looking for an ltir hit to reach floor right now, but creates a new need for teams needing to use ltir to keep their roster intact, so hopefully Seabrook caphit can entice somebody in that position maybe. After all he announced his retirement as a Blackhawk which takes care of that. Actually makes you wonder with both Shaw and Seabrook now announced retirements as Blackhawks, if a move may be made this summer to move them to a team(s) needing ltir to hold their roster together.

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