Brandon Hagel is still as good as he was at the end of last season for the Blackhawks… But one thing needs to be improved.
Brandon Hagel is probably one of the best steals for the Blackhawks in the last decade. He was not drafted by the franchise, but they picked him up after he was released by the Buffalo Sabres. Drafted in the sixth round, I doubt anyone thought he would be a swiss-army knife type of player he is now, but the Blackhawks are definitely happy that he is.
Hagel can contribute offensively while still responsible in his own end. He can take the puck away and start the play on the rush or get in aggressively on the forecheck. He still plays full-steam ahead like he did last year, and that’s a great sign going into the season. Against Detroit, he and Mackenzie Entwhistle look to have developed some chemistry that will be valuable this season.
With that said, something about his game does need a little improvement and that is his shot. Yes, you can be an effective NHL player without a strong shot, but Hagel is one small step away from becoming a threat in all areas of the ice, and that is his shot.
His shot selection is still not where it should be, as he seems to shoot at the goaltender than at the net. What I mean by that is his shots sometimes hit the goaltender instead of forcing him to make the save.
Shooting for the low blocker, high glove, or the sweet spot right past the goalie’s ear should be his go-to. With his work ethic and skill, he is bound to earn plenty of assists by doing the dirty work. But by working on his shot, he will add a new element to his game the opposition will need to respect.
Am I expecting him to possess a shot like Alex Debrincat? No, not at all. Debrincat is a natural sniper, something you can’t teach. But as we can see with Patrick Kane, even playmakers need to possess a strong shot or they are easily defended by taking away the passing lanes. Hagel’s playstyle is one that you need to win in the postseason, and adding a strong shot to his skillset will only elevate him to a higher level.