ANALYSIS: Blackhawks fans need to be patient with prospects


The Chicago Blackhawks are hoping to have some of their young prospects start matriculating to the NHL over the next season. With Connor Bedard on the Hawks, everyone is waiting for them to take the next step into being competitive, but that is still a few years away. Based on the extensions signed by Jason Dickinson, Nick Foligno and Petr Mrazek, it will be another two seasons before the Hawks are truly ready to win. Here is some advice to Blackhawks fan: Please be patient.

The most recent prospect to make his NHL debut was Landon Slaggert. Slaggert made his debut on March 15 against the Los Angeles Kings. He is one the last draft picks from the previous regime and perhaps the first of wave of new prospects filtering up the Blackhawks’ ladder in the coming years. Slaggert, having finished his senior season at the University of Notre Dame, signed his entry-level contract with the Blackhawks.

Slaggert is a nice story. He is a South Bend, Indiana, kid who commuted to play for the Chicago Mission when he was younger. He played for the U.S. National Team Development Program before attending Notre Dame and being drafted by the Blackhawks in the third round of the 2020 draft. While the Blackhawks wanted to sign Slaggert after his junior year, he went back for his senior year to play with his brother, who was freshman at Notre Dame, and to improve his scoring touch. He finished his senior year with 20 goals and 11 assist for 31 points.

The Blackhawks are high on Slaggert because he skates well, is hard on the forecheck, is reliable in all zones and is constantly moving. Before everyone starts over-hyping and throwing out wild projections, that is how the Blackhawks view him. He projects as a bottom-six winger. Let me say that again, he projects as a bottom-six winger. He fits in with Paul Ludwinski, Samuel Savoie and Dominic James, per Scott Powers of The Athletic.

While he is a nice story, he might be nothing more than role player at the NHL level.

Things to consider when being patient

Here is my advice to people on X/Twitter. Let’s take a step back and relax and think about Slaggert and other future prospects in a rational manner. First off, let’s consider their projection. As the example prospect, Slaggert is projected as a bottom-six winger, which is fine and needed on this team. If he developed into a penalty killer too, that is another plus. The third line is probably his ceiling, and being a steady a guy on the fourth line is probably more suited for his skill set. That is the first thing to consider.

The second thing we need to consider when looking at draft picks is where they were drafted. As you get further in the draft, their odds of being an NHL regular becomes less and less. According a study by Dobber Prospects, only 25% of players drafted in the third round from 2001–2009 reached 100 NHL games, so Slaggert still has a long road ahead of him to be considered a success. Since the Blackhawks’ successful 2011 draft, only one pick from the third round has reached 100 games in the NHL. That pick was John Hayden, and he played the majority of his games 113 games with the Hawks in parts of three seasons. The odds on Slaggert being more than a transient NHL player are very low.

The next prospect to possibly join the Blackhawks could be Frank Nazar. Nazar was the 13th overall pick of the 2022 draft. Nazar suffered a major leg injury that cost him most of his freshman year at the University of Michigan. He only appeared in 13 games, recording two goals and five points. In his second year at Michigan, he has appeared in 37 games thus far. He has 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points. He was named the Big Ten Conference’s first star of the week (Jan. 30) and named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention for the season. Nazar and the Michigan Wolverines will take on the Michigan State Spartans in the Big Ten Championship tomorrow. The winner of the game will get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Dobber Prospects viewed Nazar as this before the 2022 draft:

Versatile forward with great speed and offensive skill. Generates offense off the rush and has a quick release. Needs to add strength to his undersized frame but has the talent to produce offense in the NHL.

The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler believes Nazar has top-end speed and work ethic and Powers believed that Nazar had a huge impact with Team USA in the World Juniors Championships.

Despite all of these accolades at the junior and collegiate levels, Nazar might need some seasoning at the AHL level before making an impact at the NHL level. So, before predicting that he will be a wing on the first line with Bedard, we need to consider that adjustments to the NHL oftentimes take time in the AHL.

Other 13th overall picks who were forwards needed time in the AHL. Here are all the forwards drafted from 2011–2020 at 13. In 2011, Sven Baertschi was the 13th overall pick of the Calgary Flames. He got five games in the NHL before spending 32 games in the AHL the following season. He would spend more time in the AHL in 2013–14, 41 games, and 2014–15, 36 games. He finally became an NHL regular in 2015–16 with Vancouver. In 2012, the Dallas Stars took Radek Faksa at 13th. He was sent back to the OHL for a season before getting his chance in the AHL. He spent parts of three seasons with a combined 66 games in the AHL before becoming an NHL regular with the Stars. In 2014, the Capitals drafted Jakub Vrana with the 13th overall pick. He spent 88 games between three seasons in AHL before becoming an NHL regular. Nick Suzuki was the 13th overall pick in 2017; he did not spend any regular season time in the AHL. He did play in the 2018 AHL playoffs before going back to the OHL. He became an NHL regular in 2019–20. Ty Dellandrea was drafted 13th by Dallas in 2018. He spent 87 games in the AHL between three season before becoming an NHL regular in 2022–23. In 2020, Seth Jarvis got drafted by Carolina. He spent nine games in the AHL before becoming an NHL regular in 2021.

Based on the historical evidence, Nazar is probably going to need time in the AHL before becoming an NHL regular.

Progress is not always linear

Guys are going to struggle and some guys are not going to pan out. The last two college players the Blackhawks added to their roster are currently on different courses. Defenseman Alex Vlasic got a cameo like Slaggert is getting and then spent all of last season with the Rockford IceHogs. This year, he has developed into one of the best defensemen on the team and a legitimate NHL defenseman. Wyatt Kaiser also got a cameo in 2022–23 and then made the Hawks out of camp to start this season. He then was sent down Rockford after 23 games. He was just recalled recently. While both Vlasic and Kaiser enjoyed success in the NCAA, both have taken different paths.

This season has been filled with the success of Bedard and not much else. Lukas Reichel has regressed, Arvid Soderblom has regressed, Kaiser was sent down, Kevin Korchinski has largely looked lost and seemingly the only other bright spot of young players is Vlasic. I know people are desperate for another player to be good, but please be patient.

Slaggert is the first prospect of the new wave. We are hoping to see prospects like Nazar, Oliver Moore, Sam Rinzel, Nick Lardis, Drew Commesso and Adam Gajan all matriculate to the NHL, but it will take time. Just sit back and enjoy the process.


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