Often times in sports, the excitement during a rebuild centers around the potential of the recently drafted 1st round selections. Hockey is no different and all eyes still remain on players such as Frank Nazar, Oliver Moore, and Sam Rinzel. Even that of Lukas Reichel, Kevin Korchinski, and Connor Bedard for that matter despite them being in the NHL.
Enter in Nick Lardis for consideration as a potential foundational piece though. In a bit of a surprise, Lardis fell all the way into the top of the 3rd round last draft for the Blackhawks to select him with the 67th pick. A highly ranked junior player, it wasn't until a mid-season trade until the skilled forward saw his play on the ice match his abilities.
Now playing his 70th game for the Brantford Bulldogs (formerly Hamilton) the 5'11 winger is tied for 8th in the OHL for goals (29 in 37 games) and is second on the team in points (50 on the season thus far). With speed, skating, and excellent hand eye coordination, Nick Lardis is demonstrating to league executives that perhaps he went a round or 2 lower than he should have.
In the video below, which is a fun stroll down memory lane, you'll see the surprise of the commentators that Nick Lardis was still available and just how skilled they think he is (at around the 15min mark of the video). Even then, it seemed that Chicago had picked up a player that had the potential to be a top 6 winger at the NHL level.
In terms of projection it's important to note that Nick Lardis was very young for the draft class and is still 18 (July 8th birthday) and wouldn't be eligible to play in the AHL next season. Could this mean that Kyle Davidson, Luke Richardson, and the rest of the Blackhawks brass might look to give him a shot at an NHL roster spot as a teenager? Kevin Korchinski, in a similar situation, made the move to the top professional league afterall and it looks like Nick Lardis should get his chance come next training camp.
So while all eyes will be on some of the bigger names (Frank Nazar at the end of this season for example), watch out because Nick Lardis could become a mainstay on Bedard, Kurashev, or Dickinson's left side sooner than you realize.