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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Ben Pope

Ranking the Blackhawks’ top 20 prospects entering the 2022-23 season

Goaltenders Arvid Soderblom (pictured) and Drew Commesso have moved into the Blackhawks’ top five prospects. (AP Photos)

The Blackhawks’ prospect pipeline looks better and deeper now than it has in years.

That improvement largely has come at the expense of the NHL roster. And the pipeline still isn’t as talented and deep as the Hawks hope it will become in a few more years. But its continued improvement nonetheless should provide some optimism in an otherwise-bleak season to come.

As such, this list has been expanded from the top 10 prospects — as in previous editions — to the top 20. The rankings are determined partially by upside and partially by NHL readiness.

No. 1: Lukas Reichel, forward, age 20

Reichel dominated in the German league in 2020-21, then in the American Hockey League with Rockford in 2021-22. He projects as a versatile top-six forward because of his smooth puck-carrying ability, soft hands and excellent vision.

He has added much-needed strength and weight this offseason and might become a full-time NHL player this season.

No. 2: Kevin Korchinski, defenseman, age 18

The Hawks see Korchinski, whom they drafted seventh overall in July, as a future top-four offensive defenseman and power-play quarterback — a unicorn among the many defensemen in their system. He’ll continue developing with Seattle of the Western Hockey League this season.

No. 3: Frank Nazar, forward, age 18

Nazar, the 13th overall pick this summer, looked fantastic at development camp in July. He projects as a top-six center — like Reichel, only a few years further down the road — because of his skating and work ethic. He’ll be a freshman at Michigan this season.

No. 4: Arvid Soderblom, goaltender, age 23

Soderblom was Rockford’s MVP last season, his first in North America. His .919 save percentage in 38 games was somewhat miraculous, given the quantity and quality of shots he faced.

With his track record and size (6-3), he looks like an NHL goalie and might get some chances to prove that if Petr Mrazek or Alex Stalock suffers an injury this season.

No. 5: Drew Commesso, goaltender, age 20

Commesso’s ceiling is higher than Soderblom’s, given his potential to develop into an elite NHL goalie. On the other hand, he’s further away from the NHL and less of a sure thing.

Building on his 2022 Olympic experience, Commesso likely will be one of the top goalies in the NCAA this season at Boston University, where he posted a .914 save percentage last season.

No. 6: Ian Mitchell, defenseman, age 23

Mitchell has been a staple of Hawks prospect rankings for nearly a half-decade, and he still has the well-rounded repertoire that once made him a headliner.

Nonetheless, after spending all of 2021-22 over-ripening in Rockford, 2022-23 might be his make-or-break season to prove he can translate his game effectively to the NHL. If he fails, he might tumble out of the ‘‘prospect’’ category altogether.

No. 7: Alex Vlasic, defenseman, age 21

Vlasic played his first 15 NHL games at the end of last season and improved noticeably even in that short period. His towering 6-6 frame long has been his selling point, and he skates and passes well for his size. He’s never going to be a star, but he has a high floor.

No. 8: Alec Regula, defenseman, age 22

Regula is similar to Vlasic in size (he’s 6-4, 208 pounds) and NHL experience (15 games last season), and he’ll compete with Vlasic — and Mitchell — for playing time this season. He has been productive in the Ontario Hockey League and AHL, and he said in April he believes ‘‘there is a time where I’ll be able to make plays like that in the NHL.’’

No. 9: Wyatt Kaiser, defenseman, age 20

Kaiser’s awareness and hockey IQ are elite, he defends well for his size (6-0, 183 pounds) — although gaining strength has been a point of focus — and he’s decent offensively, too. He’ll be a top player for Minnesota-Duluth again this season.

No. 10: Sam Rinzel, defenseman, age 18

Rinzel, the 25th overall pick this summer, is so far away from the NHL — he’s spending 2022-23 in the U.S. Hockey League, then enrolling at Minnesota — that he’s difficult to project.

He has arguably the second-highest ceiling (behind Korchinski) among all defensemen in the Hawks’ pipeline, but he might never pan out. Only time will tell.

No. 11: Colton Dach, forward, age 19

It’ll take awhile for Hawks fans to disassociate Dach from brother Kirby’s frustrating tenure, especially because he projects to be a similar type of NHL player.

If Colton develops into a Kirby-like second- or-third-line center, however, that’ll be a major victory, considering his draft position (62nd overall in 2021). He’ll turn pro after one more season with Kelowna of the WHL.

No. 12: Landon Slaggert, forward, age 20

Slaggert’s versatility and work ethic are intriguing. He projects as a jack-of-all-trades NHL forward who could fill holes throughout a lineup. He’ll be a junior at Notre Dame this season.

No. 13: Ethan Del Mastro, defenseman, age 19

Del Mastro will return for a third season with Mississauga of the OHL after taking a massive step forward last season and signing a slide-eligible NHL contract.

No. 14: Isaak Phillips, defenseman, age 20

Already having two AHL seasons under his belt at his age has given Phillips a developmental head start on other Hawks defensive prospects. His ceiling is low, but he might be a competent third-pairing NHL option rather soon.

No. 15: Jakub Galvas, defenseman, age 23

Galvas looked good in six appearances for the Hawks in January and February but has been somewhat forgotten since. His poise and puck-moving ability is encouraging; his size (5-11, 165 pounds) is a concern.

No. 16: Nolan Allan, defenseman, age 19

Just a year after being picked 32nd overall, Allan is in a tough spot. The general manager who reached for him (Stan Bowman) is gone, and nine of the 15 prospects ahead of him in these rankings are also defensemen.

His projection as a third-pairing shutdown guy hasn’t changed, but as he returns for another year with Prince Albert of the WHL, the road to get there has.

No. 17: Paul Ludwinski, forward, age 18

Ludwinski will return for a second season with Kingston of the OHL after being selected 39th overall in the draft in July. His skating and motor are high-end.

No. 18: Ryan Greene, forward, age 18

Greene, picked shortly after Ludwinski, is a well-rounded center headed to Boston University this season.

No. 19: Jalen Luypen, forward, age 20

The Hawks’ decision last summer to use a seventh-round pick on Luypen, an over-ager, panned out. His 64 points in 66 games in the WHL justified a pro contract, and he’ll try to translate that to the AHL this season.

No. 20: Jaxson Stauber, goaltender, age 23

Stauber posted a .921 save percentage in 37 games for Providence last season, earning a pro contract. He’ll start the season as Soderblom’s backup in Rockford.

Other prospects to watch

  • Antti Saarela, forward, 21
  • Michal Teply, forward, 21
  • Gavin Hayes, forward, 18
  • Samuel Savoie, forward, 18
  • Aidan Thompson, forward, 20
  • Dominic James, forward, 20
  • Nicolas Beaudin, defenseman, 22
  • Louis Crevier, defenseman, 21
  • Taige Harding, defenseman, 20
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