Now that the 2023 NHL Draft is in the books, the Chicago Blackhawks will boast one of the best prospect pools in the entire league. After making 11 picks in the 2023 draft, it is all of a sudden a crowded and competitive group... let's take a look.
First and foremost everyone has a different definition of what a "prospect" is. For me it means you are 25 years or younger and / or have played fewer than 50 NHL games. By this definition, Lukas Reichel remains a prospect (as he should be).
The fact that I can even make a top 50 list is another accomplishment as some franchises barely have enough picks over the last few years to support a top 25 list, let alone the top 50 list that I made below for the Blackhawks.
In terms of this list I am going to rank it in tiers to show their projected growth (as a ceiling).
1. C Connor Bedard
Top Pairing or Top 6 Cornerstone Player:
2. LD Kevin Korchinski, 3. C Oliver Moore, 4. LW Lukas Reichel, 5. C Ryan Greene, 6. RW Frank Nazar
Potential Top 4 (or Starting Goaltender) or top 9 Mainstay Player:
7. G Drew Commesso, 8. RW Ilya Safonov, 9. RD Sam Rinzel, 10. LW Nick Lardis, 11. LD Alex Vlasic, 12. LW Gavin Hayes, 13. RW Roman Kantserov, 14. LD Ethan Del Mastro
Contributing Player at the NHL level:
15. RW Colton Dach, 16. RW Martin Misiak, 17. LD Isaak Phillips, 18. LW Jalen Lyupin, 19. RW Artur Kayumov, 20. G Adam Gajan, 21. LD Wyatt Kaiser, 22. LD Nolan Allan, 23. LW Samuel Savoie, 24. G Arvid Soderblum, 25. LW Cole Gutman, 26. C Aiden Thompson, 27. C Paul Ludwinski
Likely AHL Contributing Player:
28. RW Nils Juntorp, 29. LW Victor Sternborg, 30. LW Dominic James, 31. G Dominic Basse, 32. LW Landon Slaggert, 33. LW Marcel Marcel, 34. LW Mike Hardman, 35. RW Ryder Rolston, 36. LW Michal Teply, 37. C Alex Pharand, 38. RD Michael Krutil, 39. LD Taige Hardening, 40. C Antti Saarela, 41. G Jaxson Stauber, 42. C Jiri Felcman, 43. LD Filip Roos, 44. RD Connor Kelley, 45. RW Milton Oscarson, 46. RD Louis Crevier, 47. C Riku Tohila, 48. LD Janne Peltonen, 49. LW Parker Foo (NHL Rights), 50. C Jake Wise (NHL Rights)
There you have it, 50 players in the Blackhawks system and how I see their careers playing out. Listing them into 5 tiers was difficult as at these young ages it will be interesting to see their non-linear progression play out.
For me at least it's about those top 6 players and making sure they all have the time they need to reach their potential. In tier 3 my hope is that half of them will be long term solutions in criticial areas of need for Chicago. The difference between tier 3 and 4 is minimal, but for me it was about a players ceiling. Tier 4 could produce some nice NHL players that carve out careers in the middle 6 to bottom 6, or final pairing defenseman, but I do not see any of those players being top tier contributors either.
The last, and largest, tier encompasses a group of prospects I see as having a more difficult path to the NHL. Certainly a player like Landon Slaggert could "will" himself into a short NHL career, but ultimately these players will find themselves as career minor league players that may / may not have themselves a few opportunities at the highest level of hockey.
Somewhere in this group is the future core of our Blackhawks. That is an exciting sentence to write and read. The only question(s) remain, whom from the list will make it? While it appears obvious, the outcome rarely is.