Hawks prospect rankings: Top 12 going into 2022-23 season originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The calendar has officially flipped to September, which means hockey season is right around the corner. Hard to believe, but training camp will be here before you know it.
The Blackhawks are in the beginning stages of a full-scale rebuild, so the expectations going into the 2022-23 season will clearly be different than in years past. A lot of the attention will be on player development and how the pipeline is progressing.
So with that being said, here's a look at our Top 12 Blackhawks prospect rankings as we get ready to enter a new campaign:
1. Lukas Reichel, C/LW
The former No. 20 overall draft pick in 2020 headlines the group, and deservedly so. He quickly emerged as the offensive driving force for the AHL's Rockford IceHogs last season after registering 57 points (21 goals, 36 assists) in 56 games and adding two goals in five postseason contests. The production didn't translate during his brief stints in the NHL — just one point in 11 games — but I'd argue it was more a product of the team, not the individual. The interesting debate going into camp is, does it make sense for Reichel to spend another season tearing up the AHL or would he benefit from playing consistent top-six minutes in the NHL but doing so on a team that could finish dead-last?
2. Kevin Korchinski, D
It's probably not fair, but Korchinski will always be attached to the Alex DeBrincat trade because he was the player the Blackhawks took at No. 7 overall, the pick they received from Ottawa in the blockbuster deal. Korchinski’s play away from the puck will always be a work in progress, but his offensive upside is high — think Dallas Stars’ John Klingberg. That's a top-pairing defenseman and power-play quarterback ceiling.
3. Frank Nazar, C
Nazar, who was selected No. 13 overall by Chicago in July, is an elite skater, where he was considered to be one of the best in the 2022 draft class. He's an undersized forward at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds but that shouldn't be an issue in today's NHL. He tries modeling his game after Brayden Point, who's one of the best two-way forwards in the league. If Nazar can get remotely close to that level, it would be a massive win for the Blackhawks.
4. Arvid Soderblom, G
The Blackhawks have been searching for Corey Crawford's successor for years, and Soderblom has the tools and makeup to be a potential No. 1 starter at some point. Don't be fooled by the numbers in his three NHL appearances last season. He was legitimately one of the top goaltenders in the AHL, and one source feels Soderblom is the best goaltending prospect the Blackhawks have had in a very long time. He's that good.
5. Nolan Allan, D
The Blackhawks drafted Allan with the No. 32 overall pick in 2021, and it was probably Chicago's quietest first-round pick in recent memory because he's not a flashy player whatsoever. He is a true shutdown, stay-at-home defenseman at heart whose game, stylistically, resembles Niklas Hjalmarsson. Allan could complement one of the Blackhawks' puck-moving defenseman pretty comfortably down the road if he reaches his full potential.
“He doesn’t get the love; he’s good though," one team source said. "Elite skater. Plays hard and big. He will be good. Not offensive, no, but he’s better than people give him credit for.”
6. Wyatt Kaiser, D
Kaiser has taken significant steps forward since the Blackhawks drafted him in the third round (No. 81 overall) in 2020. He's a very good all-around defenseman who's going to be leaned on heavily in his junior season at Minnesota Duluth, and his college head coach Scott Sandelin believes Kaiser could play himself into the conversation as one of the best defensemen in the nation.
"I'm really looking forward to him having a big year for us," Sandelin recently told NBC Sports Chicago. "He's our top guy. I'm excited for him. I think he's got a really good future ahead of him and I know the organization likes him. I'm hoping that, if this is his last year, he makes it an All-American year. He very well could be that type of player."
7. Ethan Del Mastro, D
Del Mastro, a fourth-round draft pick by Chicago in 2021, is known to be more of a stay-at-home defenseman but he had a surprisingly strong offensive 2021-22 season with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, where he compiled 48 points (seven goals, 41 assists) in 68 games while serving as the team captain. One Blackhawks source said Del Mastro is "exceeding expectations," and that's probably why the team locked him up on an entry-level contract in April.
"Ethan has made tremendous strides in his game over the last few years," GM Kyle Davidson said. "He has really opened our eyes as he showcased a poise with the puck and ability to make plays on the rush this season. Combining those traits with an already strong defensive mentality gives us hope that there is still plenty of room for progression and growth in his game."
8. Sam Rinzel, D
Rinzel has a lot of admirable qualities to be a solid defenseman in the NHL, but he's a long-term project and the Blackhawks know it. He just finished high school, so patience will be required with his development. He's a 6-foot-4, 180-pound right-handed shot defenseman who prides himself on playing a two-way game and calls himself a "very good skater" who can get up and down the ice.
9. Drew Commesso, G
Commesso had an up-and-down sophomore season at Boston University, where he struggled out of the gates but finished the second half on a positive note. He ended the campaign with a 13-11-3 record, 2.52 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. Not bad, not great. He is a polished goaltender in many areas and has a high ceiling, but it might take time to get there. This will be an important junior season for Commesso's growth, and it wouldn't be surprising if he turns in a strong year.
10. Alex Vlasic, D
You could argue Vlasic should be higher on this list, but we prioritized ceiling players and Vlasic's upside is a bit limited when it comes to the offensive part of his game. But that's not why the Blackhawks drafted him. At 6-foot-6, 199 pounds, Vlasic projects to be a dependable third-pairing defenseman who can play shutdown-type minutes and be paired nicely with a right-handed shot puck-mover in the future.
11. Colton Dach, C/LW
Dach led the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL last season in goals (29), assists (50) and points (79) in 61 games after accumulating 49 points (22 goals, 27 assists) in 82 games during his first two seasons with the Saskatoon Blades. He failed to get on the scoresheet in five postseason contests, but he otherwise took a step forward in his development. Dach is also starting to fill out his 6-foot-4, 196-pound frame, which is an admirable package. Consistency in his game will probably be the main focus, because when Dach is playing to the level he knows he can play at, he can be a difference-maker.
12. Landon Slaggert, C/LW
Slaggert, a third-round pick by Chicago in 2020, is a player who knows his role and does it very well. He projects to be a bottom-six forward at the NHL level, but he can be a really good one. He can win faceoffs, kill penalties and has some offensive skill to his game. He recorded two goals and four assists for six points in five games for Team USA at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship in August.
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