As the Chicago Blackhawks head into the 2023-24 season, they have a loaded pipeline of prospects. Where it gets difficult, is determining exactly where they are on their journey and how that plays into their ranking.
Instead of writing a longer 2000+ word piece, CHN has opted to write ten shorter pieces that lays out the reasoning for the spot in their respective ranking. Believe me, looking at the list it’s not a simple notion outside of #1, which is a slam dunk. Essentially, the considerations with rankings worked like this:
- Where is this current prospect in their readiness with the Blackhawks? A Lukas Reichel is much closer compared to a Gavin Hayes.
- How does the current prospect rank out in terms of their ceiling as opposed to other prospects on the list?
- How has the prospect performed within their respective league–and how does that league rank out against others?
CHN’s fourth and fifth ranked prospects in the Blackhawks system are Frank Nazar and Oliver Moore.
Call it a Cop Out, but It’s Too Close to Call
To be fully transparent, the next six along with some of the honorable mentions have a compelling argument for each to be in a different spot from where they’re ranked. For these in particular, I’m going with the criteria set above to place them in the order they’re in. But when it comes to a case being made, it’s essentially back to the Spiderman meme I wrote about yesterday. Moore and Nazar share similar strengths with their blazing speed, slick stick handling and shooting skills to go with it. Throw in responsible two-way forwards that use that speed to disrupt opposing rushes and it’s the perfect recipe for two terrific options down the middle for Chicago.
So where to rank them? In the sense of numerical ordering, Nazar is fourth while Moore is fifth–with the likelier argument being a 4A/4B–it’s that close. Nazar gets the nod for the slight bit of experience he already has at the collegiate level and for already being thrown into a Frozen Four with Michigan as a freshman.
But it’s razor thin when it comes to the nod. Moore showed what he can do during the Showcase and he’ll likely be getting first line minutes with the University of Minnesota with Logan Cooley headed to the Desert. Imagine the matchup when Michigan and Minnesota face off in Big 10 play this season (last season they first played in November and then again in January. They also ran into each other in the Big 10 Tournament with Michigan winning 4-3).
So any counter argument to mine I can’t fault. But with that five point performance in the Summer Showcase along with a couple months of a head start, Nazar gets the 4A while Moore is 4B.
Before an ETA, a Little Research Based Learning
I’m going with recent history here using similar players as a gauge and also what Moore himself said when asked about his style of play.
Cooley, who would have been Moore’s teammate, spent a season with Minnesota and inked his entry-level deal this summer. When asked who he patterns his game after, Moore claimed the Detroit Red Wings’ Dylan Larkin. Larkin, like Nazar, went to the University of Michigan.
He, too, spent one season and was out. Larkin’s case was different as the Red Wings were in a strange hybrid of a rebuild (sound familiar?) and found his way to Detroit with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk both on the roster. He scored a goal in his first game and ended his rookie campaign with 45 points, 23 being goals. He also made it to the All-Star Game in Nashville where he not only won the fastest skater contest–but set the all-time record.
Not a bad comparable at all. Larkin spent one season with Michigan, where he had 47 points (15-32) in 35 games. He signed his entry-level deal, played a playoff set with the Grand Rapids Griffins (five points in six games) and has been with Detroit ever since.
Cooley had 60 points (22-38) in 39 games and was a Hobey Baker Trophy finalist, behind eventual winner Adam Fantilli. (Fantilli was teammates with Nazar at Michigan for yet another Big 10 connection.)
Larkin was the closest in terms of draft spots as he was taken 14th overall in 2014. Nazar (13th in 2002) and Moore (19th in 2023) are a bit further from Cooley (third overall in 2022) and it could be argued that Cooley is a higher tier of prospect than both–for now.
Blackhawks ETA: 2024-25
The walk through recent history is proof to me that if both Nazar and Moore continue the momentum from the Summer Showcase and stay healthy for as close to a full season as they can, they’re both suiting up for the Blackhawks in 2024-25. The Blackhawks will have five potential openings at forward once the 2023-24 season ends. Tyler Johnson, Corey Perry, Colin Blackwell, Jason Dickinson, and Nick Foligno are all unrestricted free agents while there are four restricted free agents.
In short, there will be ample space for them. It’s a safe bet, too, that both will be selections to represent the United States in the World Juniors in December. A strong showing there only emboldens general manager Kyle Davidson to have them signing on the dotted line once their respective college seasons conclude.
Minnesota and Michigan both boast excellent programs with top notch talent and coaching. Both will aid in the further development of two of Chicago’s best prospects. It also means that they’ll play later into their college careers, providing valuable postseason experience against the finest talent in the NCAA.
Taking all of this into consideration, it sure points to a likely appearance in 2024-25 with history on their side, too. Good health, and luck also play into this coming to fruition.
That 4A/4B argument won’t likely matter a year from now if both are skating their way to be full-time participants in Chicago.