Colin Blackwell took the long road to the NHL. After being drafted 194th by San Jose in the 2011 draft, Blackwell ultimately opted to spend his formative hockey years at America's most renowned educational institution: Harvard University. Now, at 27 years old and armed with an Ivy League Political Science degree, Blackwell has just finished up his rookie season in the NHL with the Predators.
Blackwell played less than half of the 2019-20 NHL season for the Preds, but was still able to affect positive change upon his arrival. He arrived in Nashville for the first time this season on Dec. 14, filling out David Poile's carousel of rookies that would make up for Viktor Arvidsson's absence. In his first 10 games of the season, Blackwell recorded three assists, a +6 on-ice rating, and 24 hits. His first NHL goal came in his 11th game of the season in Chicago; conveniently, it was the same game where a certain goalie scored the league's first goalie goal since 2013. Blackwell may have been overshadowed that night, but he's proven that he deserves a place on this roster with 10 points in 27 games as a Pred.
In the four games the Preds played between Feb. 21 and Feb. 27, Blackwell notched five points and a +3 rating. After the Preds' scorching 8-2 loss against Edmonton on Mar. 2, Blackwell wound up being healthy scratched through the season pause on Mar. 12. Blackwell hasn't had a lot of time to make a name for himself, but he sure is making the most of it.
In proportion to his average ice time per game, Blackwell actually finished as the most offensively productive member of the Preds this season. Skating only around 11 minutes per night, Blackwell managed to record more point shares (1.1) than Colton Sissons, Jarred Tinordi, Austin Watson, and Yannick Weber- all of whom spent more time on the ice than Blackwell. Blackwell also boasts the team's third-best on-ice shooting percentage, with a 12.9 conversion rate while he is on the forecheck.
The Fenwick metric helps to measure a team's puck possession while a given player is on the ice; if a player has an over-50 percent Fenwick rating, that means his team is in offensive control more often than not while he is on the ice. Blackwell's FF% of 54.7 ranks fourth best on the Preds' roster among players with over 20 games under their belt in 2019-20. His low minute count skews those numbers in his favor a bit, but the fact still remains that Blackwell has concrete efficacy on offense.
In a year where Nashville's top forwards were devastatingly bad on defense, Blackwell was among the few forwards who backchecked well. His +7 on-ice rating is the sixth-best on the team- meaning his defense has been solid enough to stifle the opponent and create more chances for himself and his teammates in the process. A lot of Blackwell's defensive success stems from his frequent rushing with the America Line- consisting of Nick Bonino, Craig Smith, and Rocco Grimaldi- who have been collectively outperforming most of the roster both offensively and defensively this season.
Blackwell also recorded a 90.7 on-ice save percentage for the 2019-20 season, even further emphasizing his success at stuffing an oncoming rush. Considering that Blackwell faces off in the defensive zone 53.5 percent of the time, getting the puck out of scoring danger mostly occupies Blackwell's skating minutes.
GENERAL EFFECTIVENESS AND TEAM INFLUENCE
Blackwell and Arvidsson- each standing at 5'9- are tied for the title of Nashville's Second-Shortest Player. If Blackwell pans out as well as Arvidsson or Nashville's Shortest Player, Grimaldi, then height won't be much on an issue. Blackwell's price tag is also pretty short, not to mention team-friendly. Signed in July of 2018, Blackwell's average annual income is only $675,000- the cheapest contract on the current Preds' roster. His two-year, two-way contract will expire this year, but the Preds probably won't be able to re-sign him for less than $1 million this time around.
During Blackwell's four years at Harvard, he skated with the likes of Toronto's Alex Kerfoot, Minnesota's Ryan Donato, and Buffalo's Jimmy Vesey (I know, blech). In Blackwell's junior 2015 season, the Crimson won the Whitelaw Cup as the best team in the ECAC Conference; in the championship game, Blackwell sealed the Crimson's victory over Colgate with an empty net goal.