After a very surprising pick at #35- goalie Adam Gajan, the Blackhawks selected again at # 44. This time, they chose a winger in a very heavy forward draft. The Hawks selected Roman Kantserov from the Russian MHL.
Kantserov is a diminitive 5'9" left handed winger who weighs 176 pounds. Last year for Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk of the MHL, Kantserov scored 54 points in 45 games. He had 27 goals and 27 assists. In the playoffs, he notched three points in three games. He played one game for the KHL affiliate team, but only logged a little over two minutes and registered no points.
Roman Kantserov is an excellent skater, one of the faster skaters behind the Hawks second pick, Oliver Moore. He has excellent puck skills, including carrying it, passing it and shooting it. He is very capable of carrying the puck with control into the offensive zone. It appears that the Blackhawks are building a fast team, not overly large, who will rely on puck possession and carrying into the zone rather than dumping and digging it out of the corners.
While he clearly has speed and skill, there are two concerns for the Blackhawks. One is his size. He is small, coming in at 5'9". NHL playoff hockey is brutal. It requires a physical game and the ability to both deliver and take hits. A smaller player can get lost on the ice during playoffs. However there are plenty of smaller players who have had success in the NHL, Alex DeBrincat, Brad Marchand, Yanni Gourde, Mats Zuccarello, Johnny Gaudreau and finally Stanley Cup champion Jonathan Marchessault. The size isn't a concern here. The Blackhawks just need to support by surrounding that speed with size. In this case, it's worth the chance.
The second concern will reveal itself as a true concern or nothing to worry about over the next year. Kantserov plays in the MHL. He is very successful playing with very talented players. However, the MHL is a soft league in comparison to the NHL, AHL, OHL, WHL, etc. There is very little hitting and nearly no fights. The question remains if he will be able to execute his game in a more violent environement. It's likely that he will spend at least part of next year in the MHL before joining the KHL, but even the KHL is lighter in terms of hits. The adjustment to the North American game is a big one; can Kantserov make the leap? Time will tell.
One place Blackhawks fans should feel very positive about is with Kantserov's attitude. He is positive and team centered. In a 2021 interview, Roman said of his first season in the JHL (MHL), "I liked my first season, even though I didn't score many points because I tried to play for the team and not chase my personal stats. Now I feel more confident. I earned some good experience, and it shows." He went on to talk about holding himself to a high standard but always keeping the team in the front of his mind, "You need to keep the bar high - to improve every year and at the same time not forget that you do not win games alone, but with your team. I don't get upset if I don't get to the scoresheet; our team's victory is much more important."
This team first attitude is exactly what the young Blackhawks need. Hopefully after another season in the MHL and one more in the KHL, Kantserov will be ready to come over and get some time in Rockford. If all goes well, we could see him in a Hawks sweater in three years. He will most certainly be easy to root for.