3 Blackhawks Players to Watch for in Training Camp

The Chicago Blackhawks officially opened their first training camp practice on Sept. 22. Practices will run through Sept. 26, and their first preseason game will be against the St. Louis Blues on Sept. 27. The Blackhawks recently wrapped up their Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase this past week against the Minnesota Wild where the team’s top prospects got to show off their skills. Many of the prospects will be at training camp to join the veterans, and the showcase gave fans a good idea of which players to keep an eye on. Here are my picks for the top prospects to watch based on their performance at the tournament.

Blackhawks’ Standout Prospect: Lukas Reichel

Lukas Reichel was the prospect that stood out the most during the showcase, which surprised no one. If he didn’t stand out, that would have been concerning, considering he is the Blackhawks’ best prospect. During the tournament’s first game, he got boarded in the first period, which caused him to miss most of the game. However, he was 100 percent for the second game, where he shined. He had four assists in a 5-0 victory over the Wild. He showed the same nifty playmaking abilities from his time with the Rockford Icehogs last season. He was a point-per-game player in the American Hockey League (AHL) with 21 goals, 36 assists, and 57 points in 56 games, which led the team.

Moreover, the coaching staff believes that what he showed at the tournament was better than what he showed last year. Icehogs’ head coach, Anders Sorensen, who was coaching the prospects at the showcase, stated, “[Reichel] took his game to another level today. He looks a little bit stronger, a little more comfortable within traffic and with contact than he did last year. I was happy to see that progress.” (from ‘Lukas Reichel survives injury scare, dominates rematch in Blackhawks-Wild prospect series’, Chicago Sun-Times, 9/18/22).

Lukas Reichel Chicago Blackhawks
Lukas Reichel, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Reichel has taken the initiative to improve over the summer. The 20-year-old mentioned how he switched to a healthier diet, thanks to Blackhawks’ strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman. He also got an assist from defenseman Connor Murphy, who introduced him to healthy restaurants in Chicago. In addition, he put on at least 15 pounds of weight to his 6-foot, 170-pound frame, so he won’t get knocked off the puck as easily as he did last year (from ‘Blackhawks prospect notebook: Bigger, healthier Lukas Reichel ready for second NHL season, The Athletic, 09/14/2022).

Related: Blackhawks Have an Under-the-Radar Calder Candidate in Reichel

All the steps Reichel took over the summer seem to have paid off, but now he faces a more exciting challenge amongst the veterans. He proved already that he excels among other rookies, or even better, just from his time in the AHL. However, the NHL is a different ballgame. He played in 11 games with the Blackhawks last season and recorded one assist. In some games, he was more noticeable than in others, however, he is fast, and his on-ice awareness and offensive abilities are at an elite level already. He mentioned several times he wants to be a full-time NHL player next season, and the organization wants to see how he performs at training camp before making that decision. With many aspects of his game improved over the summer, I think his standout status could remain amongst the Blackhawks’ elite during main camp.

Blackhawks’ Dark Horse Prospect: Cole Guttman

The Blackhawks signed forward Cole Guttman to a two-year, $1.9 million deal in July. The 23-year-old was initially drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2017, but they opted not to sign him, which made him a free agent. He comes from the University of Denver, where he put up an impressive resume over four years. He was the team’s captain and led the Pioneers to a National Championship last season. He ranks 53rd-all-time in program history in scoring by putting up 55 goals and 66 assists, and 121 points in 140 games and was second-best in the country in faceoff wins with 579. He has always been known for his skill, high hockey sense, and doing the little things correctly.

Chicago saw the upside with his offense and leadership qualities and took a chance on Guttman, and judging by the prospect showcase, they made the right decision. He had two goals and two assists during the tournament, and the coaching staff took notice. Sorensen mentioned that he could see the winning mentality, and the details in his game to go with his good habits. I don’t think many Blackhawks fans had him on their radar as a prospect that could make noise this fast, but the speedy forward could make a case for some NHL time this season if he has a strong training camp. The goal-scoring aspect alone puts him ahead of most of the prospects besides Reichel.

Blackhawks “Show Me” Prospect: Nolan Allan

The Blackhawks drafted Nolan Allan in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft with the pick they got from the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of the Seth Jones trade. Although he was a high draft pick, he unintentionally became an afterthought in the mind of Hawks fans because they have so many defense prospects. However, that just makes Allan all the more interesting.

Related: 3 Blackhawks Prospects Who Need to Have an Impact in the Next 5 Years

Allan had a pretty good tournament, and he was listed by general manager Kyle Davidson as one of the players that stood out. He had an assist on a goal from Guttman and showed some promise in his defensive game.

Former general manager Stan Bowman explained the reason for drafting him, stating, “He’s got the size [6-foot-2, 194 pounds], the skating and the physicality. He was a really big workhorse for that Canadian team that won the gold medal. He certainly caught my eye watching that game. We think those are the types of players you need to have success in today’s game.”

Bowman is not wrong, but it’s questionable where he fits into the organization’s plans moving forward. At 19 years old, he still has some ways to go, and other defensemen could take his spot on the depth chart, such as Isaak Phillips, Jakub Galvas, Alex Vlasic, and Alec Regula. Those players are higher on the Blackhawks’ priority list because they are already playing in Rockford, so he is someone that likely has to show the team he can be a big part of the future. It’s a crowded group, but his showcase was very encouraging.

Something that stands out to me about Allan is that when he was drafted, he was described as a defenseman who was not known for offense, but his defensive game made up for it. Yet, he seems to have transformed that narrative last season with the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League (WHL), where he had 7 goals, 34 points, and 41 points in 65 games, which was sixth-best on the team. He’s on his way to becoming a two-way defenseman, which he mentioned was his goal. If he carries that two-way play from the showcase into training camp, that will give Chicago a lot to think about for the future.

Of course, there are other notable prospects to watch, like Kevin Korchinski, Paul Ludwinski, Arvid Söderblom, and more. But Reichel and Guttman are the forwards with the strongest chance to make the Blackhawks out of camp, and Allan is worth watching because of his journey so far. Chicago’s prospects are not the flashiest in the NHL, but management added a lot of talent at the 2022 Draft that should make for an entertaining training camp. Hopefully, these prospects can outdo their prospect tournament performances and stand out!