(Editor’s Note: This is the tenth installment in Chicago Hockey Now’s Blackhawks of Tomorrow series about Chicago Blackhawks prospects. Today we look at forward Paul Ludwinski).
A terrific OHL playoff performance where Ludwinski utilized his speed and skill made way for higher expectations. The only thing that could seemingly halt his continuing ascent were injuries, and the last of them ended his season. Ludwinski played in just 47 games with the Kingston Frontenacs and tallied nine goals and 34 points. The production was down from a season ago, but he also played 20 less games. More on that in a moment.
Ludwinski has top end speed and when by the term top-end end speed, he has another gear that sets him apart from other prospects. Obviously, that will be challenged when he gets to higher levels of hockey, but about the only think that could stop his skating was the ankle injury that shelved him indefinitely.
Ludwinski is in an odd spot when it comes to where he’ll play. Just turning 19, he will not be eligible to play in the AHL next season due to the rules with junior teams and the NHL. He could have competed with Rockford once the OHL season concluded and he inked his entry-level deal. But it’s due to the leagues not being in tandem.
When the fall season begins, Ludwinski can remain on the NHL roster, but has nine games to audition for a full time role in Chicago. If he is (likely) sent back after those nine games, he would report to Kingston and not Rockford. However, his entry-level deal would slide another year, meaning it wouldn’t expire out the conclusion of the 2026-27 season. If he does indeed make the Blackhawks roster and stays beyond six games, it would be up for renewal following the 2025-26.
Ludwinski is another one of a deep crop of centers in the Blackhawks system. Regardless of injury, he was on a .72 points-per-game production rate before he went down. A season prior, though his numbers appeared with more points, he was at a .64 rate.
So it wasn’t a lack of progress. Truly the only thing that slow the speedy Ludwinski were injuries. But this is what a rebuild is. There will be the good with the bad. The injuries that just decimate seasons and even sometimes promising careers are unfortunately part of all of it. Hence, why Chicago is erring on the side of caution.
The Blackhawks took their precautions in shutting him down after signing him to an entry-level deal, and then an amateur tryout, while assigning him to Rockford. Why risk it? Ludwinski is the type of player who can make a big play at the right time, especially with the gamebreaking speed he has.
Patience is part of the rebuild. Paul Ludwinski and his healing process falls into that category. But it could pay off dividends in the end.