Brandon Hagel is a true dark horse candidate to make the Chicago Blackhawks opening day roster.
Heading into training camp, we were all talking about the likes of Alexander Nylander, Dominik Kubalik, Adam Boqvist, Aleksi Saarela, and Dylan Sikura as players who could have a shot at making the team out of training camp.
Although a couple of those names could end up on the roster in Prague, one unexpected name has started to rise the ranks and could find himself in the Blackhawks’ bottom six, Brandon Hagel.
Hagel, an undrafted free agent signing back in October of 2018, has impressed many at development camp and now is showing his worth at training camp.
In the first home preseason game, Hagel was very noticiable at both ends of the ice. He was even able to capitalize on a Jonathan Bernier turnover and squeak it past the backup netminder.
Brandon Hagel has had an impressive camp, but where does that put him in the pecking order for Blackhawks prospects?
Well, on Thursday, the practices were split into two camps. One that featured players likely headed to Rockford and the other camp featuring players likely competing for the NHL roster. Hagel was on the latter.
It was a bit of a surprise to many that the likes of Saarela and Sikura would not move on to the NHL camp, but I think the bigger surprise is the inclusion of Hagel and Anton Wedin in the NHL camp.
Wedin makes sense from the standpoint that he is an older player, 26 years old, and Blackhawks management likely want to get a look at him against NHL competition to see what they have in him.
As for Hagel, many had him penciled in as a top-six forward in Rockford this season, so what is it about Hagel’s preseason that put him in the position to possibly make this roster?
The first thing that stands out about Hagel is his drive. He is a player that you are always noticing at both ends of the ice.
Hagel was an offensive dynamo in his over-age season with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL, with 102 points in 66 games as a 20 year old.
It appears as though Hagel still does have that finishing quality to his game, but has already appeared to embrace what his role would be at the NHL level as a bottom-six forward.
It is unlikely that Hagel will be a top-six forward in this league, but from what we have seen of his training camp. He is able to provide that offensive touch, while playing an aggressive form of hockey at both ends of the ice.
Although with the inclusion of the likes of Nylander, Wedin, and Kubalik still in camp, it is difficult to imagine Hagel finding a spot in an already crowded group.
However, what his inclusion does do is highlight their faith in Hagel as a prospect. Even if he isn’t a top six forward at the NHL level, he looks to have the tools that will make him a productive player at both ends of the ice, provide solid special teams play, and the drive to continually improve as a player.
I would imagine that Hagel will find himself playing heavy minutes for the Rockford Ice Hogs this fall but don’t be surprised if at some point this season he is able to draw into the NHL line up.