The Chicago Blackhawks went into an unconventional 2020 NHL Entry Draft looking to shore up their prospect pool and strengthen their farm system.
General Manager Stan Bowman has been known to select players based on the best available talent, not necessarily his most needed position. This seemed to follow a similar pattern in the 2020 Draft, as the Chicago Blackhawks selected a variety of players, all at different levels talent and skill-wise.
Even among the best amateur scouts, it is hard to predict exactly when a player can make the jump from college or juniors into the NHL, and player evaluation is especially challenging in the era of COVID-19. The transition to the faster, harder-hitting, and more-intense pace of NHL action is not always easy for young guns to get used to, but the ‘Hawks seem to have a number of guys from the 2020 class that could potentially make the jump in the next few years.
Again, it is hard to assume exactly when these players will make the jump from their current team to the professional game, but if I had to bet on the first trio of guys from the 2020 draft class to be in a ‘Hawks sweater first, it would probably be these three. With that being said, here are three key players from the 2020 NHL Draft and when they could make the NHL.
Drew Commesso, G
My opinion on Drew Commesso’s jump into the NHL may have changed a bit this past season given the stellar play of Kevin Lankinen so far. However, even with Lankinen playing as well as he has been, there may likely still be a need for Commesso on the ‘Hawks in the next few years.
Even assuming that Lankinen is able to keep his starting role for a while, Head Coach Jeremy Colliton, along with Bowman, will likely be looking to try and find a decent backup for Lankinen. Given the poor play this year of all of the other Chicago goalies, Commesso could potentially make the jump to the NHL in a few seasons in order to either take some of the pressure off of Lankinen or to eventually try and transition into a starting role.
Commesso has been playing very well this season for the Boston University Terriers, posting a .924 save percentage in ten games played. He still has a long way to go to develop fully, but given the current goalie situation, we could be seeing him sooner rather than later.
Estimated NHL Arrival: 2022-23
Wyatt Kaiser, D
If there is any Blackhawks prospect from 2020 that has been surprising people so far, it’s Wyatt Kaiser. The lanky defenseman is currently anchoring the top defensive pairing for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs and is logging a ton of minutes. A scouting report from SBN College Hockey took an in-depth look at Kaiser:
"The extent to which [Kaiser] has excelled so far this season, and so soon after being drafted, is exceeding all expectations."
Kaiser is exactly the type of defenseman that the ‘Hawks would eventually want on their roster. At only 18-years-old, he is already becoming an elite college hockey player and could make a big transition in the next few years.
Although he is a bit small for a defenseman, at 6’0, 173 pounds, he could easily bulk up and become an even formidable foe. Given the rate at which he is progressing, it probably won’t be that long until he gets a look in the show.
Estimated NHL Arrival: 2024-25
Lukas Reichel, F
The Blackhawks’ 2020 first-round draft pick, Lukas Reichel, is the type of gritty forward that any NHL club would want to have on their roster. The ‘Hawks snagged him up due to his significant forechecking abilities and a great sense of two-way hockey.
Reichel is in his second season with Eisbären Berlin of the DEL, and is having another great season, having already put up 24 points in 21 games played. He is a natural with the puck and has the innate ability to play both as a winger or center.
While Chicago has had some chippy players the past few years, the ‘Hawks could certainly use a player like Reichel. Not only can he play well at both ends of the ice, but he has the ability to dig deep and grind towards the net, perhaps a next-generation echo of Jonathan Toews.
He still has some room left to improve, and at only 18-years-old, he will likely take some more time to develop, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the chance next season to at least show what he can do on North American ice.