With an impressive display of skill shown at the Tom Kurvers showcase (games against St. Louis and Minnesota) now behind us, it's time to dive into some of the play from our young core of prospects. With a dominant 5-0 win against St. Louis which saw #1 overall pick Connor Bedard grab the headlines with a hat trick it's important to note the play of Colton Dach and Nolan Allan.
Nolan Allan, to start, shows a patient and controlled approach to his defensive responsibilities. The 20 year old will begin his first professional season in Rockford with the Icehogs. At 6'2 and around 200lbs, Allan has the look of a defender that should be able to continue to be a physical force as a standup blue liner. Where Allan's value lies in his ability to make the correct play, protect his zone, and be a force in board battles and to limit offensive rushes by the opposition.
In the Tom Kurvers showcase games it was noteworthy how Allan could potentially play either side (as the coaching staff made note of before the events) despite being a left handed d-man. My prognosis for Allan is that he will play the entire season in Rockford (turning 21 April 28th) as a top 4 that will get heavy minutes against some of the AHL's best forward lines. When the 24-25 season comes however, I could see Allan pushing for a spot with the Blackhawks.
Colton Dach, also 20, on the other hand is starting to look the part of a big winger that can finish around the net or on the rush. At 6'4 and 196lbs the younger Dach (the Blackhawks drafted and traded older brother Kirby) appears to have an NHL ready frame already. In the showcase games it was evident that Dach could get to his spots with ease through contact and finish off tough plays with skill. This is an encouraging sign that should translate well to playing well with highly skilled passers like Connor Bedard.
Just like Allan, Colton Dach will start his career in Rockford, likely in a top 6 to middle 6 winger role for head coach Anders Sorenson. One thing that is concerning for me and something to watch will be how Dach takes care of himself in terms of his health. Coming off his final WHL season, Colton only played in 23 regular season games (27 points in said games) and plays a style that is quite aggressive. Will this be another season where he has to sit games to recover or will he figure out how to play in the AHL and stay healthy?
Each player demonstrated skill traits in the showcase that tell me they are approaching the "1 year away" timeframe in terms of the start of their NHL careers. While some players will get their chances this season (Phillips, Kaiser, Reichel, Vlasic for instance) to prove that they are long term NHL pieces for the Blackhawks, Allan and Dach look like they aren't too far away.
The 23-24 season should be one of development both in Chicago for the Blackhawks and in Rockford for the Icehogs. It will be exciting to follow the play of Nolan Allan and Colton Dach. I expect each to have big years for the Icehogs that should help catapult their games into the 24-25 season where they could push to make the Blackhawks' roster.