One of the biggest tasks in front of the Blackhawks is to rank and prioritize their prospect pool. There are players who are potentially ready to play in the NHL, others that need some seasoning before they can compete for a roster spot, and still more that may never see their name and number on a ‘Hawks sweater.
How do they sort them and rank them? By how close they are to challenging for a roster spot? By their overall potential? By organizational depth?
Lukas Reichel is widely regarded as the Blackhawks’ top prospect at Forward. He just signed his entry level deal, and is coming to North America after completing his season with Eisbaeren Berlin. He can play Center or on the Wing, and he is believed to be a strong playmaker. But in front of him are Borgstrom, Gaudette, Kurashev, Khaira, Nylander, and Hagel. And that doesn’t count guys like Connolly, Johnson, and Carpenter (or Strome for that matter).
The Blackhawks have to determine where he ranks compared to ALL of those forwards in front of him. The best thing for Reichel is to put him where he can play and grow the most, which in my opinion is the AHL, but if he is viewed as one of the best 12 forwards in the ‘Hawks organization, he will be on the main roster.
On Defense, there are a lot of prospects that all factor in to this view of “prospect.” Beaudin and Mitchell are the top guys with NHL experience, now that Adam Boqvist is gone. After that, you have players like Regula, and a host of players who have not signed their Entry-Level Contract (Kaiser, Vlasic, Krutil, Demin, Phillips, Crevier, and the recent draft picks mentioned above).
The Blackhawks made a concerted effort to add size the last 2 drafts on Defense, as well as their free agent signings, so does that make Beaudin and Mitchell drop down the list? But with long-term deals in place for Seth Jones and Jake McCabe, 2 spots are locked up for at least the next 3-4 seasons, so who gets the remaining spots?
The goalie is a little easier. Arvid Soderblom and Drew Commesso are the primary prospects in the organization, and they are going to be patient with both of them rather than rush them to the NHL. The bigger questions are in the short term, where Lankinen has to take a step forward to prevent them from a) rushing a prospect to the NHL who may not be ready, or b) forcing them to play goalie roulette again next offseason.
So once they rank their prospects, what then?