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Blackhawks Prospects

Big 10 Hockey a Big Time Destination for Blackhawks 1st Round Picks

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Chicago Blackhawks prospect and soon-to-be University of Minnesota freshman Oliver Moore could only laugh. Was he hearing it from Michigan forward and fellow prospect Frank Nazar?

“He’s just been in my ear about that the whole camp honestly,” Moore said with a laugh. “He’s been in my ear; I’ve been in his ear. We’ve both just talked about how much we’re looking forward to that, playing Michigan-Minnesota, being in both buildings and just battling against each other. We’ve had a chance to do that a little bit two years ago at NTDP in practice. He’s a competitive guy and so am I so it’ll be fun.”

Down the road, though, they could be side-by-side battling NHL opponents.

Big 10 Well Represented by Chicago’s First Round Picks

In Blackhawks General Manager Kyle Davidson’s last two drafts, of the five picks made in the first round, three were from the Big 10. It’s likely more coincidental as the Blackhawks are “best player available” when they draft. But it’s certainly unique that of those five first-round picks, three are exclusively in the Big 10, a conference known for its hockey pedigree.

Rinzel committed to Minnesota in August 2021, almost a whole year before he was drafted by Chicago. Nazar was slotted to be a freshman at Michigan while Moore was also committed to Minnesota.

One other interesting note is that of the five picks, it’s been exclusive to the Big 10 and the Western Hockey League. Both Kevin Korchinski (Seattle, 2022 seventh overall pick) and Connor Bedard (Regina, 2023 first overall pick) were from the same league as well.

The Big 10 is interesting however with both Michigan and Minnesota being powerhouses in the division. Both made it to the Frozen Four last season and Minnesota was the runner up in the Title game.

Both are projected to be a the top again, with Minnesota likely relying on Rinzel to fortify a blueline that had several members go to the NHL. Brock Faber of the Minnesota Wild finished his season and then played in the opening round of the 2023 NHL playoffs.

Could Rinzel see the same results? Perhaps. But the Blackhawks aren’t worried about that as much as they are when it comes to development and being in the right spots. Davidson pointed that out with several of Chicago’s prospects playing deep into meaningful postseason games.

“It’s always nice to see your players playing late in the season,” Davidson said.  “It’s invaluable experience they’re obviously getting if their teams are going farther. There’s good coaching, there’s good players and the better environment you can have your players in that’s a very positive thing.  We saw that for sure with Frank at Michigan, and you know, our Seattle boys [Korchinski, Colton Dach, and Nolan Allan].”

Big 10 Could Help Produce Big Results for the Blackhawks

Nazar admitted that he let Moore know that he’ll see him quite a bit next year–on the other side of the ice.

[I was] throwing a few chirps his way,” Nazar said.  “Letting him know I’m coming back next season and we’ll be coming for them.”

But the friendly competition in the Big 10 will only strengthen the Blackhawks prospect pool. Moore will be rooming with Rinzel, and potentially both having a chance to crack the Blackhawks lineup sooner rather than later.

Moore compared himself to Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin, who spent one year at the University of Michigan before signing his pro contract. Speed and the ability to score and play both ends of the ice have served Larkin well. He now wears the C in Detroit and Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman admitted he was building around him now.

While the Blackhawks are clearly building around Bedard, Moore can hold his own and potentially make the Blackhawks lethal down the middle. Nazar is also a center, but is versatile enough to play on the wing. Regardless, speed is another component they’re building around in Chicago.

So though they’ll be chirping one another, Nazar is still a huge fan of someone who could be his teammate some day.

“But he’s a great kid. I got to know him really well the last couple of years with NTDP, and his billets were good friends with my billets. just good people around and I’m glad I got to know him pretty well.”

Rinzel sees how it could all come together as well even if for now, they’re still Big 10 rivals.

“Every kid that they drafted here or every kid who’s here wants to be on the team in the future,” Rinzel said.  “So we’re all kind of collectively going the long goal and obviously trying to win the Stanley Cup in the future. We’re all just enjoying the process and trying to get better here and talking to us other kids to get to know each other and get to know what everyone’s like.”

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