The Blackhawks’ future doesn’t look much more promising than their present.
The 2021 calendar year gutted their prospect pool, partially because Adam Boqvist and the 13th overall pick were traded and partially because several other prospects graduated or flamed out.
When breaking the pool down by position, though, the Hawks look fairly well off defensively. Seven of the 10 players ranked below are defensemen — and that’s not even including Wyatt Kalynuk because he’s 24, and these rankings historically have used an age limit of 23 to define prospects.
But outside of Lukas Reichel, the Hawks lack forward prospects with potential. The cupboard of scorers is almost bare, and the Hawks won’t have their first-round pick after this season — unless they win the lottery — to help restock it.
It’s a massive organizational weakness that interim general manager Kyle Davidson has identified but doesn’t have the assets to fix at the moment. And it makes it hard to be optimistic about the Hawks’ long-term outlook.
As always, these rankings are determined partially by NHL readiness and partially by upside.
No. 1: Lukas Reichel, forward, age 19
Previous ranking: No. 1
Stat line: 14 points in 18 games with Rockford (AHL)
There hasn’t been much recent Reichel news. Because of a concussion and a bout with COVID, he has played in only three AHL games since Nov. 29 — stalling his momentum after a furious 12-points-in-11-games start to the season.
But Hawks interim coach Derek King hinted Tuesday that the German center’s much-anticipated NHL call-up might not be too far away, saying the Hawks “could use somebody like him” once he’s back up to speed. That’ll be an exciting day for the team’s lone elite prospect.
No. 2: Ian Mitchell, defenseman, 22
Previous ranking: N/A
Stat line: 12 points in 20 games with Rockford (AHL)
Twenty of Mitchell’s 26 games this season have been in the AHL, bumping him back to “prospect” status after he previously seemed to have graduated.
There’s still time for him to develop into the dynamic top-four offensive defenseman that he once looked certain to become — and playing big minutes and building confidence in the AHL right now give him his best chance — but his stock is falling.
No. 3: Arvid Soderblom, goaltender, 22
Previous ranking: N/A
Stat line: .915 save percentage in nine games with Rockford (AHL)
The Hawks’ famed European scouting department might’ve struck gold yet again with Soderblom.
He has followed his .921 save percentage last season in Sweden, which earned him his Hawks contract, with another good-looking average this season in Rockford, which looks even better when considering he’s facing 33.4 shots per game. He’s remarkably calm and technically sound and efficient with movement in the crease.
No. 4: Wyatt Kaiser, defenseman, 19
Previous ranking: No. 5
Stat line: Seven points in 16 games with Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
Kaiser was one of three American Hawks prospects — along with Landon Slaggert and Drew Commesso — who missed out on valuable experience when the World Junior Championships were canceled.
But the 2020 third-round pick remains a key cog for Minnesota-Duluth after his breakout 2020-21 freshman season, showing the versatility to play in all situations.
No. 5: Alex Vlasic, defenseman, 20
Previous ranking: No. 10
Stat line: Seven points in 19 games with Boston University (NCAA)
Vlasic’s strongest suit is his 6-6 frame, and he makes full use of it, not only for hits but also to muscle away opponents to win and protect the puck.
He was seen as a project prospect when drafted in the second round in 2019. But as a college junior, he’s getting closer to pro readiness.
No. 6: Isaak Phillips, defenseman, 20
Previous ranking: No. 8
Stat line: Eight points in 18 games with Rockford (AHL)
Phillips has been a fast-rising prospect ever since he was rather innocuously drafted in the fifth round in 2020. His brief NHL call-up in October, ahead of his IceHogs teammates, indicated the Hawks are watching him closely.
No. 7: Alec Regula, defenseman, 21
Previous ranking: No. 6
Stat line: Four points in 11 games with Rockford (AHL)
Regula got a late start to his AHL season after suffering a back injury during NHL training camp. With his 6-4, 207-pound frame and decent puck-moving ability, he shares a lot in common with Vlasic, although his ceiling — as a sturdy third-pairing guy — caps out a bit lower.
No. 8: Landon Slaggert, forward, 19
Previous ranking: No. 9
Stat line: 10 points in 19 games with Notre Dame (NCAA)
Slaggert’s production has dipped slightly from his freshman year, when he had 22 points in 25 games. But the 2020 third-round pick has retained his Brandon Hagel-like work ethic that makes for an effective center or wing in all three zones.
No. 9: Nicolas Beaudin, defenseman, 22
Previous ranking: No. 3
Stat line: Six points in 22 games with Rockford (AHL)
After taking a sizable step forward last season, Beaudin has made it into only one NHL game this season. Even more alarming is that he has been on the third pair for the IceHogs most nights.
The 2018 first-round pick is skirting dangerously close to bust territory, although his timer hasn’t run out yet.
No. 10: Jakub Galvas, defenseman, 22
Previous ranking: Unranked
Stat line: Six points in 20 games with Rockford (AHL)
Galvas came out of nowhere to nearly make the Hawks’ opening-day roster. He hasn’t resurfaced on the NHL radar, but he has been a notable contributor for the IceHogs.
Honorable mention: Alex Nylander, forward, 23
Stat line: 12 points in 23 games with Rockford (AHL)
Nylander ranks third on the IceHogs in points and is tied with Reichel for first in goals, so he’s scoring at a decent clip. It’s just debatable whether he still qualifies as a prospect, even at 23, given all his previous NHL opportunities.
Other prospects to watch: Evan Barratt (F, 22), Nolan Allan (D, 18), Drew Commesso (G, 19), Colton Dach (F, 19), Ryder Rolston (F, 20), Taige Harding (D, 20), Louis Crevier (D, 20), Antti Saarela (F, 20).