Let’s get it out of the way in which: the Chicago Blackhawks received’t be excellent by way of the 2023-24 season. Teams that draft first total normally don’t make the playoffs instantly, not to mention compete for a playoff spot the next spring. Your roster is probably going stuffed with younger gamers and league veterans clinging to a spot in the NHL. Who is aware of, your head coach might not even be the top coach in a 12 months.
It’s all relative. But when a franchise is ready to choose a generational expertise like a Connor Bedard, or a Connor McDavid, or a Sidney Crosby, that adjustments issues. Free brokers hear extra intently, and stars make tweaks to their no-trade lists. It additionally presents alternatives for gamers already on the staff to alter their narrative, and there is probably not a greater instance of somebody like that than Andreas Athanasiou.
Athanasiou’s Reputation Was Formed in Junior
I began watching Athanasiou whereas masking the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) London Knights throughout the 2010-11 season. He fell to the fourth spherical of the 2010 OHL Priority Draft, taken 81st total by the Knights. Despite his elite skating capability and offensive manufacturing, scoring over a point-per-game throughout his U16 AAA season with the Toronto Titans, scouts have been apprehensive about his work ethic (extra on that in a bit).
He held his personal in his rookie season, scoring 11 targets for a rebuilding Knights squad, then scoring 22 targets and 37 factors in 12 months two. Watching each recreation, I used to be impressed at how briskly he was and the way a lot he stood out on the ice. His capability to generate velocity from a degree of standing nonetheless appeared like he was collaborating in the quickest skater competitors at All-Star Weekend.
Related: Blackhawks Bytes: Bedard Fever, Pang, Athanasiou, Anderson
However, battle between Athanasiou and the teaching workers in 2011-12 led to him being wholesome scratched for eight of London’s 19 playoff video games. After the season, he requested a commerce and was despatched to the Barrie Colts, the place he flourished, scoring 78 targets, 84 assists and 162 factors over his ultimate two OHL seasons.
In a 2013 interview with MLive.com, he mentioned what occurred in London.
“I didn’t get the opportunity (in London) as much as I wanted and as much as I deserved,” mentioned Athanasiou. “Barrie gave me a little more (ice time) and you can see I made the most of it. I didn’t think it was more confidence. I always have confidence in myself.”
Talented Detroit Red Wings prospect Andreas Athanasiou loaded with confidence in skills, MLive.com, Aug. 29, 2013
He ended up being drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the fourth spherical of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Now enjoying professionally, it could be as much as him to shake the repute.
Carving Out A Professional Career
During his time with Detroit’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in Grand Rapids, Athanasiou confirmed flashes of offense, tallying 25 targets and 51 factors in 83 video games with the Griffins. He was referred to as up in February 2016, enjoying in Detroit’s ultimate 31 video games, scoring eight instances and incomes 13 factors. The Wings knew they’d a proficient participant in their group, but it surely was as much as him to earn a spot in the lineup.
After the 2016-17 season, in which he scored 18 targets and 29 factors, Athanasiou was a restricted free agent however couldn’t conform to phrases on a brand new contract with the membership. The two sides settled on a one-year deal value $1.39 million. While any participant deserves to attempt to get a deal they really feel is honest, the holdout left a bitter style for administration.
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His 2018-19 marketing campaign stood as the best of his profession, with 30 targets and 54 factors, good for second in staff scoring and a career-high 0.71 points-per-game (P/G). The subsequent season was the ultimate 12 months of a two-year deal signed in 2018 and was a take a look at to see what sort of contract he would see when he entered restricted free company. It began poorly, with solely 10 targets by way of 46 video games, in addition to a league-worse plus/minus of minus-45.
Traded to Edmonton, Then Off to Los Angeles
General supervisor Steve Yzerman determined to chop bait with Athanasiou on the commerce deadline, sending him to the Edmonton Oilers for Sam Gagner and two second-round picks. This was thought as a possible “change of scenery” deal for Athanasiou, having an opportunity to play with McDavid and Leon Drasaitl, however quickly turned out to be a failure.
He scored one purpose and one help in 9 common season video games, with nothing so as to add in 4 playoff video games. He went from enjoying with McDavid to the fourth line in no time. Unable to discover a buying and selling associate, the Oilers didn’t tender him a qualifying supply, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Athanasiou signed a one-year deal value $1.2 million with the Los Angeles Kings, nicely under the $3 million-per-year deal he signed with the Wings in 2018. This was the kind of show-me contract gamers signal once they haven’t any different possibility, hoping to show to the league they nonetheless belong. He scored 10 targets and 23 factors in 47 video games, ok for the Kings to re-sign him to a different one-year deal, this time value $2.7 million.
Injuries derailed most of Athanasiou’s season, solely enjoying 28 video games however scoring 11 targets and 17 factors, good for a P/G of 0.61. The Kings determined to not re-sign him, leaving the ahead searching for a contract with what was his fourth staff in three years. A mix of allegedly being tough to teach, proving his inconsistency, and now accidents left Athanasiou questioning what his future would appear to be.
That’s the place Chicago got here in.
A Fresh Start in Chicago
Blackhawks normal supervisor Kyle Davidson knew the staff’s focus going into the 2022 offseason could be on rebuilding. Some followers raised their eyebrows when he signed Athanasiou to a one-year, $3 million deal, however the logic made sense: both he blossoms with us or we commerce him for property.
In the 59 video games he performed earlier than the March 3 commerce deadline, he was barely under his profession P/G with 22 factors. But as soon as the mud settled and the staff dealt Patrick Kane and Max Domi, forcing them to name up 2020 first-round choose Lukas Reichel, a lightweight switched on for Athanasiou.
The two discovered instantaneous chemistry, enjoying steer clear of the opposite staff and setting one another up for scoring alternatives. Athanasiou put up six targets and 12 assists for 18 factors in the ultimate 22 video games, a P/G of 0.82, additionally giving him a ultimate 2022-23 stat line of 20 targets, 20 assists and 40 factors.
His robust play on the finish of the season received him a two-year, $8.5 million extension with the Blackhawks, with an annual common wage of $4.25 million, the best he’s ever earned. After three consecutive one-year contracts, the deal was a monumental step in Athanasiou’s profession.
“Andreas worked out really well for us,” Davidson said after the signing. “It was a good fit. He found a little extra something right toward the end. There was actually some nice chemistry with Reichel, which is not nothing.”
For the Blackhawks, they locked in somebody with game-changing velocity who generally is a versatile piece of the staff’s offense.
It’s been an arduous path for the 29-year-old. No longer a nomad, shedding the repute that’s adopted him since junior, Athanasiou now has the chance to write down his personal narrative. It’s as much as him to go out there and take it.