At just 22 years of age, the towering 6'6 defenseman Alex Vlasic is rounding into what could be a big role for the young Blackhawks core. Playing top pairing with five-time all star Seth Jones has given the young blue liner a clear path to establishing himself as a prospect to watch this season. While Connor Bedard and Lukas Reichel will grab alot of headlines, it may be Vlasic that more quietly puts together a big campaign as a rookie.
With 21 NHL games under his belt before this season it wasn't known yet how the Hawks' management envisioned Vlasic's timeframe playing out. After 2 road games it's clear now that he will get every opportunity to stick in place for the entire season. A +2, with an assist, averaging just under 20 minutes on ice is a big deal just 4 seasons past his draft year for a defenseman. Typically it will take players at said position longer to adjust to the NHL than say a scoring winger that is tasked with only a few aspects of a complete game.
No, being an NHL top 4 defenseman takes time. Future Hall of Famer Duncan Keith took time to get going after all (not a comparable at all, just a reference that the position is typically one that needs time to adjust). The Wilmette native was a 2nd round pick (rumor has it that former GM Stan Bowman was trying to draft Drew Helleson with the pick) by the Blackhawks in 2019 and spent last season in the AHL after 3 seasons growing his game at Boston University.
His game is predicated on his defensive gap coverage inbetween the blue lines near center ice. Alex Vlasic correctly and effectively uses his reach and size to either poke-check a puck away from a forward or use his body to stand up a rush from moving into the O-zone. It has been noticeable and gives me encouragement that this will parlay his time in Chicago's top 4 into an extended stay.
While we marvel at some of the moves our young forwards pull off, the improvement (so far) from our goalie tandem, it may be Alex Vlasic growing into a legitimate top 4 defensive defenseman before our eyes that has been the stand out momenet for me through 2 games.