Long gone are the days when the Chicago Blackhawks instilled fear into their opponents on a nightly basis. The once dominant team, despite trying to take one more shot at success last season, is in the early stages of a full-fledged rebuild.
While there will be a few difficult seasons up ahead, the good news for Blackhawks fans is that they do have a number of promising prospects in their pipeline that will help speed things up. It is highly unlikely that general manager Kyle Davidson would be interested in trading any right now given the state of his team, though some could be had for the right price. That said, here are four that are untouchable for at least the next year.
Though he didn’t do a whole lot in his first 11 games as an NHLer this past season, Lukas Reichel is one of the more exciting prospects throughout the entire league. In the 2021-22 campaign, during which he was just 19 years old, he had an extremely impressive 21 goals and 57 points in just 56 games. His one assist in his showing with the Blackhawks was certainly underwhelming, but doesn’t at all take away from how great of a prospect he is.
While it is still too early to say for sure, getting Reichel with the 17th selection at the 2020 Draft looks like an absolute steal for the Blackhawks at this point. Barring a complete shock, he will crack the lineup out of camp this year and have a legitimate chance at winning the Calder Trophy. The now 20-year-old is the most prized possession leading this organization’s rebuild.
The top defenseman in the Blackhawks organization is Kevin Korchinksi, who was selected seventh overall in the 2022 Draft. The 18-year-old still has plenty of ways to go before making an impact at the NHL level but has several great qualities including his size at 6-foot-2 as well as his incredible skating ability. On top of that, he has a ton of talent in the offensive zone, proven by the fact he recorded 65 points in 67 games as a defenseman for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League this past season.
Of course, like most players, there are some areas of Korchinski’s game that need improvement. In his case, that improvement needs to come in the defensive end, as he has a tendency to cheat for offense and is sometimes lackadaisical away from the puck. The good news, however, is that he is still very young and has plenty of time to work on this part of his game over the next few seasons.
Though he doesn’t receive as much discussion around the hockey world as the two above, Frank Nazar is a very exciting prospect for the Blackhawks. The 13th overall pick from this year’s draft doesn’t have a ton of size, standing at just 5-foot-10, but has everything else you look for in a top prospect.
Nazar’s speed is ultimately his greatest asset, but he also has impressive hands and best of all, an extremely high work ethic. In 24 games with the U.S. National Development team this past season, his 15 goals were second amongst his teammates, while his 35 points ranked third, just two shy of Isaac Howard for the top spot.
The hope now for both the Blackhawks organization and its fans is that Nazar will continue to put up offense at a steady rate in 2022-23 as a freshman with the University of Michigan. It is undoubtedly a big step, but with his excellent skating and work ethic alone, he shouldn’t have much trouble adjusting.
Many will argue that Alec Regula is not a top-four prospect in the Blackhawks system. In fact, there will be plenty that suggest that other defensemen such as Alex Vlasic and Sam Rinzel are more deserving. Time will tell, but from what I have both seen and read, I personally am quite high on Regula and believe he has what it takes to develop into a top-four defenseman at the NHL level.
The recently turned 22-year-old is coming off of a very impressive season spent mostly with the Rockford IceHogs in which he put up 26 points in 41 outings. He was also able to get in 15 games with the Blackhawks, and though he only recorded a single goal, he didn’t look out of place in any situation he was placed in. It wasn’t as if he was overly sheltered either, as he averaged nearly 18 minutes of ice time per contest.
While Regula isn’t a great skater, he has the ability to break out of the defensive zone with ease thanks to his passing ability. He has solid offensive skills as proven by his numbers in the American Hockey League, but is also good in his own end thanks in large part to his 6-foot-4, 208-pound frame. Whether or not he is able to crack the Blackhawks’ opening night roster remains to be seen, but he should see NHL action at some point in 2022-23 regardless.
More Great Prospects Soon to Come
At this point in time, the Blackhawks have a fairly solid prospect pipeline. That said, if they hope to turn things around and become a truly elite team once again, they will need to add even more, which they should have no issues doing. If indeed Patrick Kane gets traded, he should be able to net both a solid pick and prospect in return. On top of that, this is a team that will likely finish near the bottom of the standings this upcoming season, which will result in a very high pick in the 2023 Draft. As dark and gloomy as things appear right now, the future of this team has the chance to change drastically for the better in just a few years.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.