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 eighth ranked prospect in the Blackhawks system is Ethan Del Mastro
Steadily, Statistically, and Physically Very Good
I chalk it up to the Draft Classes of 2020 and 2021, a group that might produce more talent in the later rounds of the draft than others. COVID shuttering every league along with everything else, many prospects slipped when they would have gained speed heading into the draft. It took a good season–well beyond 2021–to really get a grasp on things before it went back to full strength.
I put Del Mastro into this category. A glance at his numbers reveals a kid similar to Hayes who gets lost in the glitz and glamor of all the first and second round selections the team has acquired in the past few years. His numbers have only gotten better with each season. Del Mastro was named the captain in Mississauga. But back to the numbers:
- 2021-22 – 68 Games (7-41-48)
- 2022-23 Mississauga – 22 Games – (2-19-21); Sarnia – 30 Games – (5-33-38)
- 2022-23 Totals: 52 Games (7-52-59)
Over a point per game in his latest campaign, Del Mastro is one of the better statistical defenseman many hockey fans haven’t heard of. The impressive part extends beyond the numbers.
Read up on when Sarnia acquired him in a trade back in 2023, and you have another Blackhawks prospect on the same squad as Connor Bedard, Nolan Allan, Colton Dach, and Kevin Korchinski. Sting General Manager Dylan Seca called him an “elite” player in the OHL.
But he doesn’t draw the attention to himself. He quietly goes about his business on the ice, letting his physical play and offensive play and his leadership is at another level. This is a kid who found himself wearing the “C” after one season with his team and was 18. He was an alternate captain on Team Canada.
His head coach at Mississauga called him a “bull.”
He also said he’s NHL caliber and the towering defenseman imposes his will on both ends of the ice.
Blackhawks Full Time ETA: 2024-25
I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that Del Mastro ends up with the Blackhawks as early as this season. In the cited article above, head coach James Richmond said he’ll play in the big league for sure. It’s just a matter of when.
I very well could have placed him at sixth in this pipeline, and I think the only thing that could hold him back is the glut of players already on the roster ahead of him. Alex Vlasic, Isaak Phillips, and Wyatt Kaiser all have a shot at far more playing time this season. Kevin Korchinski, in my opinion, will break camp with the team and likely find himself paired with Seth Jones as some point this season–for good.
Del Mastro seems like a guy that could absolutely see a handful of games this season. But it’s likely he could shift to and from Rockford as a result or potentially learn and grow with the IceHogs before being shipped up to Chicago full time. General manager Kyle Davidson has no issue with it so long as it’s best for the player. Whether it’s 5, 10, or maybe 25 games, the hulking defenseman could find himself going to and from Rockford and Chicago.
In Del Mastro’s case, the Blackhawks may very well have another gem, in the same mold of Gavin Hayes, who could be a highly productive and special player if the development continues its upward trend.
So it’s hardly bull thinking that maybe Del Mastro has a shot at making the team for a few games this season. He’s a talent who could be a fixture for years to come if that trajectory continues to point upward.