The Chicago Blackhawks dynasty run is over. Rather than go into full tear down and rebuild, they are doing a quick retool.
The old regime was built through the draft with cornerstone pieces of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford. The Hawks have purged several players including Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Crawford.
Last year they missed Toews for the entire season and missed the playoffs, but rather than go full tank mode, they traded their 2021 first round pick and this summer acquired Seth Jones, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Tyler Johnson.
With Toews set to return the rebuild is over and Chicago looks to compete for a playoff spot again.
The prospect pool has some promising talent but is not one of the deepest in the league. It is closer to the bottom than the top.
The recent graduation of players such as Ian Mitchell, Kirby Dach, Henrik Borgstrom, Philipp Kurashev, and young building blocks on the roster like Nicholas Beaudin will all need to play big roles and continue to develop into future foundational players.
- Nicolas Beaudin, D – Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
Drafted: 2018 round one, 27th overall by Chicago Blackhawks
While Beaudin spent the majority of last season on the Hawks roster, he still qualifies for the rankings having only played 20 career NHL games at the time of writing this ranking. That will change shortly even though it is likely he splits time again between the AHL and NHL this season.
The undersized defender more than compensates for his lack of size with his elite-level mobility and hockey sense. He is a true example of how the modern day NHL defenseman can be successful. While at the AHL level last year he produced over a point per game with Rockford and was also able to score two goals and six points in 19 NHL games. Beaudin finished the campaign at the World Championship with Canada but had only one point. He will be a big part of the Hawks success in the future if they are to have any as a top-pairing defender with Seth Jones.
- Lukas Reichel, LW – Eisbaren Berlin (DEL)
Drafted: 2020 round one, 17th overall by Chicago Blackhawks
Ranked as an early second-round prospect, the Hawks snagged him at 17th overall in 2020. His D+1 year had some ups and downs. His point production in DEL and his role improved, but he missed the WJC with COVID after posting five points in the tournament in his draft year. He did get some international time with Germany at the World Championship and posted six points in nine games. His play in that tournament was enough for Chicago to sign him to his ELC and Reichel will come to North America to play in the AHL for the coming season.
Reichel plays a solid two-way game and is trending towards becoming a top-six winger and making the Hawks look smart for reaching on him at the 2020 draft.
- Wyatt Kalynuk, D – Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
Drafted: 2017 round seven, 196th overall by Philadelphia Flyers
Kalynuk is a very interesting profile. Undrafted in 2015 and 2016, he was finally selected by the Flyers in the seventh round. After three solid seasons in the NCAA as a Wisconsin Badger posting 78 points in 110 career games, he opted to sign as a free agent with Chicago.
After only eight games in the AHL as a rookie he already had 10 points. That earned him an NHL recall and he never went back. In 21 games with the Hawks, he had four goals and nine points. His offensive game has obviously translated to not only the pro level but in the NHL as well.
The concern is his defensive side showed signs of weakness in the NHL. It could be best for his development to get big minutes in the AHL to start in his sophomore season, but already 24-years-old he needs to establish himself as an NHL player soon. His skating and offensive upside are NHL ready, but will he be able to see offensive deployment and PP time on a team that boasts Seth Jones, Nic Beaudin and Ian Mitchell ahead of him, with Alec Regula close behind as well?
- Alec Regula, D – Rockford Ice Hogs (AHL)
Drafted: 2018 round three, 67th overall by Detroit Red Wings
After being acquired in a trade from the Red Wings, Regula returned to the London Knights in the OHL and had a breakout 2019-20 season with 27 goals and 60 points in 56 games. Last year was his rookie season as a pro and he struggled to bring the offensive prowess with four points in 16 games in the AHL. However, the 6-4 right-shot defender played a very sound defensive game and earned his NHL recall. He played three games with the Hawks but was held pointless.
Regula has a heavy shot and moves well for a player with his size. He may never play in a top offensive role in the NHL but he brings a lot of value with his mobility, size, shot, and defensive ability.
- Drew Commesso, G – Boston University (NCAA)
Drafted: 2020 round two, 46th overall by Chicago Blackhawks
Only Yaroslav Askarov was drafted higher than Commesso in the 2020 draft. His 18-7-0 record with USNTDP was impressive and his D+1 year as a freshman starter for the Boston terriers was good. The NCAA sample size was small, 11 games mainly due to COVID, but his numbers were good. He even earned a roster spot with Team USA at the World Championship, but as the fourth goalie behind more established players, and did not see any game time.
Commesso is a positionally sound goalie, with a lot of confidence. He plays high in the crease to challenge shooters and is quick and adept at playing and handling the puck. The 19-year-old has little competition for the title of future Chicago starting goalie but will need several years of development before he is ready to play that role. Look for one or two more seasons as the starter with the Terriers before he sees AHL playing time, but the upside is there as a starting franchise goalie.
- Wyatt Kaiser, D – University of Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
Drafted: 2020 round three, 81st overall by Chicago Blackhawks
The Hawks drafted the “offensive defenseman” out of the USHS where he had nine goals and 34 points in 25 high school games. His D+1 season as an NCAA freshman on a top team at the University of Minnesota-Duluth was an eye-brow raiser, to say the least. While his offensive game did not carry over with no goals and 10 points through 28 games, he was a top-pairing defender for the Bulldogs and lead the defense in scoring. He played big minutes and received rave reviews for his defensive play.
Kaiser is a very strong skater with speed and agility. His lateral mobility and pivots are very refined as well as his stride. Kaiser will play another year or two with the Bulldogs playing top minutes. If he can establish his offensive game without sacrificing his defensive reliability, his upside becomes very intriguing. The Hawks may have found a gem with a third-round pick as Kaiser is a fast-rising prospect in their system.
- Evan Barratt, C/LW – Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Drafted: 2017 round three, 90th overall by Chicago Blackhawks
Barratt is a prospect trending in the wrong direction. After being a third-round pick, he went to Penn State and had a breakout sophomore season with 43 points in 32 games, and won a Silver Medal with USA at the WJC. His offensive production regressed in his third season with the Nittany Lions and last season as an AHL rookie, his production was good with 14 points in 27 games.
Barratt has a good shot and plays a gritty and physical game. His offensive vision isn’t great, but his shot is NHL level. Defensively he is sound, but his liability is his skating. His mobility is below average and his acceleration is a red flag as well. His NHL upside is likely a third-line player, but he needs to improve his skating to make it. So far there have been no signs of that as his skating has always been his biggest concern.
- Landon Slaggert, LW/C – University of Notre Dame (NCAA)
Drafted: 2020 round three, 79th overall by Chicago Blackhawks
Slaggert is a banger who loves to hit and play a gritty physical game. He is an agitator despite lacking a hulking frame. He had a strong freshman season with the Fighting Irish posting 22 points in 25 games and only 10 penalty minutes despite his aggressive style of play. His play earned him a role on Team USA at the WJC. In a checking role he was held pointless but helped win the Gold Medal to add to his resume. He may not project above a bottom-six role, but the Hawks are hoping he has some Andrew Shaw upside in a few years.
- Colton Dach, C/LW – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Drafted: 2021 round two, 62nd overall by Chicago Blackhawks
It was a summer of Brotherly love in Chicago as the Hawks united the Jones and Dach brothers. Colton, the younger brother of Kirby lacks the superstar upside of his older brother but does have some similarities.
He has great size at 6-4 and 205 pounds at 18-years-old. He is proving to be an offensively dangerous player posting point per game offense in the WHL. But the big concern in his game is his skating. Bigger players can take longer to refine their skating and balance. If Dach can get his skating to better than average at the junior level and continue to improve to at least average at the pro level, the Hawks may have a player here.
- Andrei Altybarmakyan, RW – Rockford IceHogas (AHL)
Drafted: 2017 round three, 70th overall by Chicago Blackhawks
The diminutive Russian winger played three seasons in Russia bouncing between the KHL, VHL, MHL, and international play. His role in the KHL was limited, and he played on some poor teams, but his production showed progression. After signing his ELC he made his debut in North America in the AHL and in 29 games had 12 points. Not bad on a bad team.
Despite being slight in stature he plays with intensity and a very high compete level. His skill level is flashy and impressive and his skating is not a liability either. He is a very versatile player. His compete and forecheck make him a serviceable bottom-six, and his skill level makes him a candidate for a top-six role. Altybarmakyan had an impressive rookie camp and preseason and should see a bigger role in the AHL this year.
Nolan Allan Was the Hawks 2021 first-round pick, 32nd overall. His upside is questionable but his game is solid enough to make him a safe if not sexy pick.
Alex Vlasic is a monster of a defensive defenseman playing big minutes for Boston U. His offensive game is limited but improving. At the NHL level, he would be a bottom pairing shutdown guy.
Michal Teply Produced well in the WHL but is struggling to keep up with the speed and pace at the pro level. He’s trending in the wrong direction.
Mackenzie Entwistle improved in his second pro season and was recalled to the Hawks and scored his first career NHL goal. The versatile winger could become a regular on a checking line.
Mike Hardman signed as a free agent out of Boston College and played the last eight games in the NHL with three points. The 22-year-old likely sees a season in the AHL this year.