The NHL Network recently ranked the Top 50 Prospects in the league and the Blackahawks rang up three with Conor Bedard (#1), Kevin Korchinski (#33) and Oliver Moore (#35). Despite having three, other organizations had three or more, with a trio notching four.
But where do they fall on the rebuild-contender-champion scale of the hockey cycle? Here’s a look at some of those teams and whether development, or high draft picks benefitted them. Note that while Buffalo has four prospects on the list, they are not included. CHN did a full write up on Buffalo’s rebuild and how the Blackhawks can use it as a lesson.
This will focus on Columbus and Nashville, who both had four prospects on the list.
NHL Network Top 50 Team with 4 Prospects: Columbus Blue Jackets
Prospects: #2 Adam Fantilli; #8 David Jiricek , #40 Denton Mateychuk; #47 Stanislav Svozil
The Jackets are loading up on young talent with a core that could potentially take a huge step forward with both Fantilli and Jiricek ready for the big time. Both are top ten picks in the Draft, with Fantilli third in 2023 and Jiricek sixth in 2022. The latter had 38 points in 55 games with AHL affiliate Cleveland.
Svozil is a defenseman who put up 78 points with Regina and saw a couple games in Columbus last season. He was taken in the third round of the 2021 Draft. Mateychunk was taken 12th overall in the 2022 Draft, right before the Hawks took Frank Nazar. He had 65 (8-57) points for Moose Jaw last season after a 64 point performance a year prior.
Takeaway For the Future: Columbus has picked high in the last two drafts and have prioritized defense with the exception for Fantilli, who fell to them after Anaheim selected Leo Carlsson. Third-round pick Svozil had developed nicely. All told, the Blue Jackets are building out what could be an absolutely stifling blueline with big-time offensive potential.
How does it relate to the Blackhawks? Chicago is stacked at both center and defensemen in its pipeline, and they too have seen some benefits from the likes of Ethan Del Mastro and Nolan Allan (who was a late first-round pick). Columbus has employed a similar strategy–taking a potential generational player in Fantilli while filling itself out defensively to complement what is already a strong unit. It buys them time should Jiricek and Svozil need some more time. But with veterans like Zach Werenski, Damon Severson, and Ivan Provorov already there, the Blue Jackets are going to be unbelievably strong if everyone, especially Werenski, stays healthy.
Our friends over at Nashville Hockey Now ranked the Preds prospects internally following the 2023 Draft. Here’s a look at where Michael Gallagher had each of the four:
#1 – Kemell – 2022 first-round pick 17th overall
From Gallagher: It’s clear that Kemell has all the makings of an elite winger like David Pastrnak or Mikko Rantanen, the question is will the Predators let him develop those skills in Milwaukee long enough or will they be enticed to rush him to the NHL like Kevin Fiala or Eeli Tolvanen? It will be tempting to rush him to the main roster but more time in the AHL will do him some good. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if he was called up after the All-Star break.
#2 – Askarov – 2022 first-round pick 11th overall
From Gallagher: Askarov should see 50-55 starts for the Milwaukee Admirals this season and perhaps a game or two in Nashville as an injury call up. I expect this to be the year the Preds decide if Askarov is the future in goal or a highly valuable trade chip (Juuse Saros has just two years left on his contract).
#3 – Evangelista – 2020 second-round pick 42nd overall
From Gallagher: GM Barry Trotz has mentioned Evangelista’s name a few times over the offseason as a player who could be in line for an opening-night roster spot next season. The 21-year-old Evangelista showcased a quiet confidence with the puck and a keen eye for finding his open teammates for scoring chances. With his crafty puck-handling skills, a deceptive release and laser-accurate wrist shot, Evangelista could be a dark horse for the Predators’ top six in 2023.
#4 – Wood – 2023 first-round pick 15th overall
From Gallagher: It will likely be two or three years before Matthew Wood sees the NHL, but it’s clear Trotz is willing to wait because of the potentially huge pay off. I’ve been told Wood will likely switch to center next season and the team clearly views him as a potential top-line option.
Takeaway for the Future
Nashville is going to be very good if they all pan out. Note that only the top two picks were flip-flopped but Gallagher specifically pointed out how Kemell may be a force to reckon with.
How Does it Relate To the Blackhawks?
It’s a divisional opponent, a team that the Blackhawks tussled with in the playoffs several times in the 2010’s. Nashville and Chicago had a great rivalry and it’s likely to get reignited if both teams see its prospects get to where they are. Gallagher believes the Preds are a bubble team, but if their prospects hit, boy they’ll be a tough out in the playoffs against some of the big boys.
What the Blackhawks can take away from it is that drafting and developing should continue to be the core tenet of the rebuild. But they should also be wary as the Preds could suddenly be a major rival with both teams stocked with prospects ready to roll.