Analysis

The Future of The Chicago Blackhawks’ Blue Line in 2021 and Beyond

By Joseph Felicelli
Duncan Keith #2, Chicago Blackhawks Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Duncan Keith #2, Chicago Blackhawks Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Nicolas Beaudin, Chicago Blackhawks
Nicolas Beaudin #74, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

In The Pipeline Defensemen

Once we start digging into the D-men not on the main roster, we start seeing a lot of different styles and levels of player. However, one thing is clear; there are a large group of Left-Shot Defensemen who are part of the organization, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Not a lot of depth on the right side, which explains the heavy reliance on Boqvist and Mitchell to develop and become long-term contributors to the ‘Hawks.

Nicolas Beaudin, LD: Beaudin came on board in the same draft as Adam Boqvist (2018), and was a similar type player as an offensive-minded D-man, but on the left, where Boqvist and Ian Mitchell play the right side. He made his debut at the end of the 2019-2020 season in 1 game, and then played 19 games in the 2020-2021 season for the Hawks.

Beaudin showed some decent angle use and positioning in his own zone this past season with the ‘Hawks, and showed he could use his body pretty well. He’s never going to be a hitter, but he can close off lanes, and tie up opponents in the D-zone, which when done correctly, can be a very effective disruptor to the opposing teams’ offense.

Beaudin held his own, albeit with some struggles, in his first extended action at the NHL level. I think he needs more time in Rockford to gain confidence and hone his craft, but as an Offensive LD, I see him as a future Role Player for the Blackhawks.

Isaak Phillips, LD: Phillips was a 2020 5th round pick of the ‘Hawks, and he played this past season in Rockford on a minor contract, as the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) faced an uncertain season. He signed his ELC at the end of March of 2021, and will be going into next season on a ‘Hawks contract.

Phillips is a bigger Defenseman, at 6’2″ and over 190 lbs. He is a good skater, very athletic, and can play a 2-way game. The initial thought when he was drafted was that he would spend at least 1 (likely 2) years in the OHL before turning pro. Getting a year of experience in Rockford hopefully got him used to the pro game, without damaging his confidence.

Phillips has the potential to be a contributor over the long haul, especially with the size and athleticism he brings to the ice. I view him as a potential Role Player for the Hawks long-term, starting in 2023 or 2024.

Alex Vlasic, LD: Drafted in the second round of 2019 (43 overall), Vlasic is another big body on the left side that brings a different element to the ‘Hawks blue line. At a towering 6’5″, and nearly 200 lbs, he stands out among ‘Hawks prospects. Drafted out of the US NDTP team, he moved on to Boston University, and has played for them the last 2 seasons.

While the strength of his game is in the defensive end, utilizing his reach and size to full advantage, he has been improving his skating and offensive play. Larger D-men like Vlasic take a little longer to develop because they have to learn to not only use their size, but work with their size to effectively react to much smaller, quicker players. If Vlasic is able to do that, he could be a rare player in the Blackhawks organization.

I believe based on his draft position, and his development, that Vlasic is a future Building Block player for the D-corps. I could see him making his NHL debut in 2022-2023, and competing for a full time role in 2023-2024.

Wyatt Kaiser, LD: Kaiser, a 3rd Round Pick in the 2020 draft (#81 overall), was drafted straight out of high school into the ‘Hawks organization. He has decent size at 6’0″, and a little over 170 lbs. He is currently attending the University of Minnesota – Duluth, where he has quickly gained the trust of the coaching staff, being deployed in all situations, and playing heavy minutes.

Kaiser is strong in his own end, using his strong skating and effective use of angles to make it very difficult to play against him.  On the offensive side, his skating and passing are very good, but he is still developing as a player in the offensive zone.

In 2-3 years, I believe Kaiser will be the top D prospect in the ‘Hawks organization. He has the potential to develop into a top-pairing D-man in the future, and could be a Building Block for the team into the latter half of this decade.

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