Blackhawks News & Rumours: WJC, Bedard, Coyne Schofield

As the 2022-23 season nears, there doesn’t appear to be much for the Chicago Blackhawks or their fans to look forward to. Outside of the fact that the sooner it begins, the quicker they can conclude a season that’s poised to be lacklustre at best. That said, a rescheduled international affair offers a welcomed offseason distraction in the meantime.

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This edition of Blackhawks News & Rumours will be centred around the same theme that Chicago has put into effect with their explicit approach to this rebuild. Let’s take a look at how focusing on development will work to alleviate the frustration this franchise is about to face.

Blackhawks Prospects at the World Juniors

Although it may seem odd to be watching the World Juniors in August, the Blackhawks certainly aren’t complaining. With their offseason activity having been centred around strategizing for a more fruitful future, getting to also witness some of their more promising prospects in action certainly aligns.

Chicago has five former draft picks suiting up for their respective nations at this year’s competition:

  • Dominic James, 20, USA
  • Ethan Del Mastro, 19, Canada
  • Landon Slaggert, 20, USA
  • Victor Stjernborg, 19, Sweden
  • Wyatt Kaiser, 20, USA

Despite varying levels of impact expected among the group, that the Blackhawks have this level of involvement on such a stage is a promising sign for what’s to come in the years ahead for the club.

Enjoying these performances offers optimism the Blackhawks should be clinging to, given the struggles that will unfold in due time.

Bedard Is Worthy of the Tank

While it’s a welcomed sight for any organization to witness its potential stars working to brighten their shine, they’d all be lying if they said they weren’t fixated on a particular prospect who’s yet to even be drafted. 17-year-old Connor Bedard has been turning heads for years and his spotlight continues to reach new tiers in advance of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

Connor Bedard, Team Canada
Connor Bedard, Team Canada (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Having been named the Western Hockey League (WHL) rookie of the year for 2020-21, Bedard added to his already impressive resume with the Regina Pats when he accumulated 100 points through 62 contests in 2021-22. A total that ranked him fourth in the league, with his 51 goals placing him in second in that respect. What’s more, Bedard was only one shy of being tied for first despite having played six fewer games than the WHL’s goal leader.

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His prowess has been on full display internationally, too. After racking up 21 points through 11 games with Canada’s U18 over the past couple of years, including capturing gold in 2020-21, Bedard’s country was certainly excited to see if he’d bring the same type of flare to the U20 tournament.

Tallying four goals in their only game played back in Dec. 2021, before the competition was postponed, inflated that anticipation. Two games into the reset, Bedard is already up to two goals and two assists as Team Canada looks to continue dominating IIHF’s Group A.

Scoring with such ease, no matter where he plays or who he’s up against, makes it clear why Bedard is the favourite to be selected first overall at next year’s draft. That he’s continued to elevate in such an elite manner through his teens suggests generational dominance is more than possible throughout adulthood.

Bedard already showcasing such a presence, let alone his untapped potential in the pros, speaks to why a rebuilding team would be so interested in structuring their strategy around having the best chance at drafting him.

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That said, it’s unlikely to hear a professional organization admit that they are looking to lose on purpose. Such an approach goes against the integrity of the game. However, with the moves that the Blackhawks have made of late, it’s difficult to assume they are trying to put together the best possible product at this time.

Rather, it’s as though they are willing to roll the dice on the results that this new-look lineup is capable of, with better odds in the draft lottery as their ultimate prize if things play out as expected.

If Kyle Davidson finds a way to make good on handing Bedard a Blackhawks sweater at the draft, any losing up to that point will be quickly forgotten. Possibly even with regards to the stars that they let depart, to make it so.

Coyne Schofield Making an Impact

Sometimes overlooked amid a flurry of organizational change are those that remain. Hired as Chicago’s Player Development Coach and Youth Hockey Growth Specialist back in 2020, Kendall Coyne Schofield continues to see her impact on display as those she’s helped to develop look to earn bigger roles.

That very influence was on full display throughout Chicago’s recent prospect camp, further illustrating why Coyne Schofield will continue to be such a vital member of this franchise as it rebuilds.

Coyne Schofield has been carving out an impressive career since well before NHL fans were fortunate enough to witness her ability on display at the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills event.

With a trophy case full of achievements, including individual IIHF awards, an Isobel Cup, and over 10 medals with Team USA, Coyne Schofield is perfect for the role of embedding the work ethic necessary to win at the highest levels of play. That Team USA’s captain has become a trailblazer along the way is beyond fitting.

“Knowing there are going to be people watching me on the ice, and seeing a woman in a coaching role, just shows what’s possible for the next generation,” Coyne Schofield said. “That’s what excites me.”

As a drastically different version of the franchise takes shape, those still involved have to be reassured to see that one of their best remains. An invaluable mentor for Chicago’s prospects, Coyne Schofield’s perspective will become that much more pivotal as the organization shifts to a development-centric strategy.

Blackhawks Brace for New Beginnings

While some of the changes may be difficult to digest, there are benefits that come alongside Chicago’s current approach. Not only will a new generation of Blackhawks have increased access to make their case as household names, but the franchise itself has a unique opportunity to expedite its rebuild in a way that only a first-overall pick can.

Will the 2022-23 Blackhawks lose enough to maximize their probability of securing that selection? Time will tell, but the current circumstances surrounding the team certainly make it seem like a plausible goal.

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All in all, the Blackhawks better hope that some good comes from the donation they made when they gave away Alex DeBrincat. If that means they have to avoid success at all costs until Bedard’s services are infused into their future, then that’s a price worth paying.