A year ago at this time Adam Gajan went from possible late round pick to being selected by Chicago surprisingly at the top of the 2nd round (35th overall). The left catching Slovak went into the last World Juniors and in just 4 contests proved to all NHL General Managers the single most important trait a goalie can show: I can win a game all by myself.
The then 18 year old posted a .936 save percentage against the world's best same-aged players. He did it with a team devoid of any elite defensive help. Before hand, playing in the NAHL / USHL, Gajan was a good goalie (.906 / .917 save %), but make no mistake about it:
Adam Gajan is a Chicago Blackhawk because of the 2022 World Juniors.
Now the 6-3 netminder will try and use his strong play from the last tournament to propel Slovakia into medal contention against the likes of Canada and USA. The Slovak team has a strong top 2 lines and top pairing, however the depth issues may come back to keep them out of true contention when all is said and done.
These 10 days and Adam Gajan's performance on the biggest stage for teenagers (Gajan is now 19 years old) will show Blackhawks fans where his development truly is and if he'd be ready for a jump to Rockford next year. The tournament will be full of highly drafted forwards afterall, so what better way to gauge his progress than by going against future NHL top 6 forwards?
Drew Commesso is further along at the moment as he is now a professional playing for the Rockford Icehogs of the American Hockey League. The 21 year old spent 3 seasons for the Terriers of Boston University an even wore an "A" in his final season in Boston. After a stellar career collegiately Commesso has found that the AHL presents its challenges as the lineup changes weekly.
It's my belief that Commesso is more comfortable with stability and would benefit from a more set lineup and defensive core night in and night out. Hopefully in the future, once he gets his chance with the Blackhawks, the NHL club can present to him a stable 3 pairings to help mitigate high danger chances. Like Gajan, Commesso catches left however Commesso relies more on stationary practices than Gajan does.
The refined and calm play of Commesso is what likens him to a player of Corey Crawford (a player that took a long time to reach NHL stability). To me, it's his confidence in his mechanics that enables me to see him as a long term fit as a potential NHL starter for Chicago. Will that ultimately happen? The answer is unequivocally that it is too early to make a call on either Commesso or Gajan at this stage of their careers (at age 21 and age 19 respectively).
Furthermore the league in general has changed. Gone are the days of the starter taking the bulk of the starts all season long. This is a 2 starter league at this point (except for a few exceptions like Saros and Vasilevskiy) and there is 100% room for both former 2nd round picks with the Chicago Blackhawks.
At the moment Petr Mrazek is playing excellent hockey, however he is a pending UFA at season's end. Arvid Soderblom is not playing well and most media and fans are questioning his long term fit within the organization. Outside of that prospects like Jaxon Stauber (24) and Dominic Basse (22) while talented aren't viewed as realistic options. An arguement could be made for Basse as the 4 year NCAA starter closes his collegiate career this May. There is also the chance that Basse elects to sign elsewhere as he went unsigned by Chicago.
While the next 3 drafts present more opportunities for Kyle Davidson to add in talent between the pipes (Gabriel D'Aigle is in the 2025 draft as a likely 1st round pick) there is little to debate at this time: