With general manager (GM) Kyle Davidson announcing that the Chicago Blackhawks are rebuilding, we could see several of their top prospects be regulars on the team as soon as next season. The team already traded a handful of their NHL players before the deadline, and there certainly should be more moves from here. Yet, when it comes to their prospects, there are three specifically who need to have an impact over the next few years. Let’s discuss why this is the case.
Lukas Reichel is viewed as the Blackhawks’ top prospect by most fans. This is entirely understandable, as he has all the tools to blossom into a legitimate top-six forward at the NHL level. Since being selected by the team with the 17th-overall pick of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, he has already shown signs of significant development. With the team currently rebuilding, this is very encouraging because there’s a good chance he will be a full-time player in their lineup next season.
After recording a 27-point campaign in 38 games with Eisbaren Berlin of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL), Reichel opted to make the switch to North America this season. He has been superb at the American Hockey League (AHL) level with the Rockford IceHogs, as he has 20 goals and 27 assists in 46 games. This is extremely impressive when remembering that he is still just 19 years old. With that, the youngster even played five games with the Blackhawks this year but failed to get on the scoresheet. Next time he is called up, expect that to change.
With the Blackhawks trading away Brandon Hagel, there is already a potential spot in the top six available for Reichel. This will be even more the case if the team elects to move Dominik Kubalik this summer, too. Furthermore, with how well he has played this season in the AHL, he is already showing signs that he is ready to take that next step and be an NHL regular. Even if they elect to keep him in the minors next season, the future is extremely bright for the German forward.
Nicolas Beaudin is another important prospect to keep an eye on these next few years. The 2018 first-round pick is aiming to cement himself a spot in the NHL and appears to be close to doing so. With the team rebuilding, he’s the kind of prospect to who they should be giving more chances. With defensemen like Calvin de Haan and Erik Gustafsson becoming unrestricted free agents (UFA) in the offseason, more openings could be available for the 22-year-old next season.
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Beaudin has made appearances with the Blackhawks over each of the last three seasons. In 22 total games with the NHL club, he has two goals to go along with four assists. However, he has played the vast majority of this campaign with the IceHogs. In 52 games with the team this year, he has one goal and 10 assists. With that, he also has been playing rather tenaciously, as he has a notable 64 penalty minutes.
With the Blackhawks expected to make serious changes to their roster this summer, it would be great for Beaudin to finally have the opportunity to be a full-time NHL player by next season. If he can reach his potential, he could become an important part of their top four. Furthermore, if he can improve upon his offensive game, he also would be a nice addition to their powerplay. That’s the vision they had when they drafted him, so let’s see if he’s able to take that next step.
The Blackhawks have serious questions when it comes to their goaltending moving forward. After trading Marc-Andre Fleury at the deadline, Kevin Lankinen has reclaimed the starting job. Yet, he is also a pending UFA this offseason and may not be an acceptable long-term option for the team. In 20 appearances this season, he has a 4-9-5 record, 3.63 goals-against average (GAA), and .886 save percentage (SV%). With numbers like these, it’s hard to imagine he will be the starter for much longer. Yet, luckily for Chicago, they do have a potential future number-one netminder in Drew Commesso.
Commesso just completed his sophomore season with Boston University and was very solid in the process. In 28 games for the team, the Massachusetts-native had a 13-11-3 record, 2.52 GAA, and .914 SV%. Those numbers from the 19-year-old are certainly promising, and should only get better from here on out. Yet, he would likely benefit from playing at least one more season in college. He’s still very young, and it is always wise to practice patience when it comes to goaltending prospects.
Commesso also had the amazing opportunity to represent Team USA at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. In his two games played during the tournament, he was simply excellent, as he sported a 1.00 GAA and .964 SV%. Seeing the 2020 second-round pick perform that well at such a major event certainly should provide Blackhawks fans with even more optimism regarding him. It will be intriguing to see when he decides to leave college and sign his entry-level contract (ELC) with Chicago.
Nevertheless, it will be fun to see how these three prospects develop from here. With the team rebuilding, they each could end up having notable roles with the Blackhawks in the very near future.