For the past year or so, there have been rumblings about how Dylan Sikura was going to be a classic Bowman late-round pick. He was going to wildly exceed all expectations and give the Hawks the scoring depth they needed to recapture the dominance of the early-to-mid 2010s. After an ineffective camp, Sikura gets to take a gray trip up the Jane Addams to Rockford, while despite the odds, Luke Johnson gets to break camp. Let’s double dip.
Dylan Sikura 2017–18 Stats
5 GP – 0 G, 3 A
41.8 CF%, 64.3 oZS%
Avg. TOI 13:24
A Brief History: The former sixth-round pick in 2014 made his debut for the Hawks late last year. After increasingly strong performances at Northeastern from 2016–18, which saw Sikura tally 111 points in 73 games during his junior and senior years combined (43 G, 68 A), Sikura signed a two-year ELC last year. He played most of his time with Alex DeBrincat and Victor Ejdsell in his five games up, tallying three assists despite having his head caved in on the possession ledger. While two of those assists came in his debut during the Scott Foster Game, you’d gladly take three assists over five games. Things were looking up.
Then, preseason happened, and Sikura looked more like Freshman Year at Northeastern than Top Prospect in the Pipeline material. He had zero points on six shots at evens. His possession numbers were somehow worse than they were at the end of last year, as he posted a woeful 39.62 CF% despite taking 56+% of his draws in the offensive zone. His only notable contribution was a power play assist.
Oh, and by playing in just one game last year, the Hawks burned year one of his ELC deal, meaning Sikura is a restricted free agent after this year. Overall, not how anyone had it planned, if anyone had a plan at all.
It Was the Best of Times: We’ve already gone through something like this with Nick Schmaltz back in 2016. Schmaltz struggled early, got sent down to the Hogs, kicked in skulls, then came up for good later that year. The hope (and really, the necessity) is that Sikura follows a similar path as Schmaltz. While Sikura doesn’t have the pedigree that Schmaltz does and would need everything to go perfectly to top out as a second-line right winger, he does have a template to work with. If all goes well, he’s up with the Hawks around Thanksgiving or so and contributes 30–35 points on the third line.
It Was the BLURST of Times: Sikura turns out to be nothing more than a by-product of Adam Gaudette. This has always been the FFUD fear with Sikura, that he’s just the result of a bigger, stronger, better player at center. Since the only person who fills those criteria is Jonathan Toews (Artem Anisimov is too slow, Schmaltz is too small) and Sikura hasn’t proven he can make much on his own to this point, there’s reason to worry he’s much of nothing and peters out after this year, only to sign elsewhere and unlock the potential the Hawks always assumed he had after this year. One bad preseason doesn’t mean he sucks, but he does have the potential to suck.
Prediction: We’ll be lucky to get 40 games out of Sikura this year. I think it’s going to take him longer than anticipated to get comfortable to just AHL speeds, let alone NHL. That’s going to make it a tougher decision when deciding what to do with him as a restricted free agent come this offseason, but with all the water the organ-I-zation has carried for Sikura thus far, they’ll probably re-up him regardless.
Luke Johnson 2017–18 Stats (Rockford)
73 GP – 13 G, 17 A
8.1 SH%, 3 PPG, 62 PIM
A Brief History: Usurping Sikura’s role will be Luke Johnson. Originally drafted by the Blackhawks back in 2013, the moonfaced Johnson has spent the glut of his career in the AHL. And when I say glut, I mean it literally: A big reason he’s never made it to the NHL to this point is because of his weight. He began his IceHogs career at 5’11” 198, and it wasn’t until he dropped nearly 20 pounds last year that he started seeing greater success.
Johnson is essentially a guy. He’s got OK speed now that he’s lost some weight, an OK shot (he shot 8.1% for the Hogs during the regular season last year), and isn’t a zoo without cages in his own end. He was a strong contributor in the IceHogs’s Calder Cup run, with eight points (4 G, 4A) throughout those playoffs. He’s looked good on the fourth line, where he’s spent more time in the defensive zone and has still posted a 54+ CF%.
It Was the Best of Times: Johnson’s not going to light the world on fire. Best case, he stays on the fourth line with Kruger and some combo of Hayden, Kampf, or Martinsen. He plays well enough on the PK to justify rotating him in whenever Hayden disappears or Martinsen goes beyond sucking.
It Was the BLURST of Times: Quenneville gets it in his head that Johnson belongs on a line with Anisimov and Kunitz, and that line gives up 50 goals by itself before Thanksgiving.
Prediction: Johnson earned his shot with a strong camp this year. He’ll play well as the Hawks’s 13th forward and turn into a David Kampf Lite. He’ll get into a fight or two that will endear him to the “I’m gonna wear a headdress to the game” crowd and will pot, let’s say, nine points on the year.
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