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Here are 10 thoughts on the Blackhawks' prospects after 12 games into the 2020-21 NHL season:
The Blackhawks are giving Nicolas Beaudin more and more responsibility and he's handling it well. Here's a look at his ice time per game after four contests: 9:50, 13:35, 20:01, 11:45. Beaudin was sort of forgotten in the shuffle of defensemen prospects during training camp, but his game is rounding out nicely.
Lucas Carlsson doesn't have a point in four games and is averaging 11:11 of ice time this season, although that number is a little skewed because he played only 7:39 in his last game because of an injury. He hasn't been very noticeable, but he hasn't been a ghost, either. That's typically how his game is; quietly consistent.
Collin Delia started back-to-back games on Jan. 15 and 17 against Tampa Bay and Florida and hasn't appeared in a game since. He's sitting on an .863 save percentage, which isn't great but that's probably not indicative of how he played in those two games. A couple of puck-handling mishaps certainly come to mind when thinking about those two outings but he made some key saves in each of them. Rockford's season officially gets underway on Saturday but the Blackhawks have no intention of sending Delia to the IceHogs because he requires waivers.
Brandon Hagel has been a bright spot for the Blackhawks. He has one assist in nine games, but could easily have at least four goals this season — two shorthanded. Hagel is another player the Blackhawks are easing into a larger role, whether it's being moved from the fourth to third line or playing on the penalty kill.
Matthew Highmore's arrow was pointing up going into the season but he's having a tough time picking up where he left off last season. He has no points in seven games and has been a healthy scratch five times.
Reese Johnson has played in only one game but he looked solid in his debut. He recorded a team-high seven hits and had 10:56 of ice time in a 3-1 win over Columbus. It was a great opportunity for Johnson to get a taste of the NHL level before heading to Rockford, where he can build on his game.
Philipp Kurashev is tied for the rookie lead in goals (four) and tied for fifth in points (six) through 11 games. He went from a prospect who could potentially get a look this season to first-line center in such a short timeframe but had a bit of a hiccup in Thursday's 6-4 win over Carolina after logging only 6:56 of ice time. He did, however, extend his point streak to three games. You can certainly see the upside with Kurashev.
Kevin Lankinen has easily been the biggest surprise this season. He didn't have an NHL start under his belt going into the year and yet has a 4-1-3 record with a 2.32 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in eight starts. His 6.56 goals saved above average ranks third among all NHL goaltenders, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Ian Mitchell was a prospect Chicago fans were excited about going into the season, and rightfully so. He had taken strides all three years at Denver, where he served as the team captain for his junior year. There have been times Mitchell has made some rookie mistakes, but it doesn't look like the NHL level is too overwhelming for the 22-year-old blue liner. He has one point in 12 games and is averaging 14:04 of ice time per game.
Pius Suter has had an up-and-down rookie season so far. The reigning Swiss league MVP started the season with zero goals in his first five games before netting his first career NHL hat trick on Jan. 24. He has one goal since and has been demoted to a bottom-six role for the time being, although he does have a three-game point streak right now. The Blackhawks expect him to be better as he gets more acclimated to the North American style of hockey just like Dominik Kubalik, who was a healthy scratch twice early last season before turning into a 30-goal scorer.
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