Last week’s Chicago Blackhawks Stock Index looked at six names who could potentially be with the big club as early as next season. Imagine an infusion of young talent around Connor Bedard, which would certainly make for an exciting upturn–along with the growing pains of a young but up and coming team.
So what could things look like not only next year, but throughout the next few seasons? We’ll start with the upcoming draft, where it looks like the Blackhawks will have top three odds. For the sake of argument, if they win the draft lottery again, Macklin Celebrini will likely be their choice and now the Hawks are set down the middle for years to come.
But what if some–or even all of the six mentioned last week (plus one more) break camp with the Hawks next year?
Connor Bedard is the Foundational Piece To Build Around
Bedard obviously stays as the team’s top center, but Celebrini, who has lived up to his billing in his freshman campaign, would slot in as either the team’s second or third line center.
From there, the Blackhawks have the comfort of knowing they can take their time shuttling kids to Chicago. The purpose would be to keep Bedard trending the right way while also being mindful of the players ready for the jump and improving their upward trajectory.
So how what are the predictions? A look below. (Note the asterisk indicates an entry-level deal still has to be offered).
On the Opening Night Roster: Frank Nazar*, Ethan Del Mastro, Colton Dach
50/50: Gavin Hayes, Oliver Moore*, Landon Slaggert*, Samuel Savoie
Nazar seems the foregone conclusion, the top prospect right now in the system and a guy who will have his sophomore year under his belt. The Michigan squad he’s on right now isn’t as strong as last year’s iteration, dropping a pair this weekend to rival Michigan State. But Nazar’s numbers hold up along with his goal scoring. He’s also been consistent throughout the season.
Del Mastro is all but a lock, as he’s been given big time minutes in Rockford and passed every test. He was the IceHogs representative for the All-Star game, and could be next season’s Alex Vlasic–a dependable and constantly improving player.
Dach returned last night in the IceHogs 2-1 victory and if he continues to be as steady as he’s been, a Hawks team that was giving him a serious look back in October will likely keep him with the club to kick off next season.
I nearly put Hayes on the opening night roster, too, but I’m waiting to see how his performance looks in the OHL playoffs. A strong run there all but gives him an edge, too, as his numbers have been dynamite both this season and last. Until the last two games, he was averaging a goal-per-game since being traded from the Flint Firebirds. Moore is a tricky case, too, but if he plays well in the big games, think the Big Ten Championship and NCAA Tournament, that may escalate his chances at signing an entry-level deal.
The Hawks may play it patient, knowing they have other options available and have him fulfill his sophomore season. Slaggert is 50/50 only because he could test free agency if he wants–but has indicated that he wants to sign with the Hawks. He’s enjoyed his best season with career numbers in both goals and points.
Savoie is an interesting case. He will likelier need some seasoning but his physical game along with the skill set he has could be alluring for the team to employ a wait-and-see approach.
Coming Years Will See Crowded Lineup Cards
There are already several Blackhawks penciled in for next year, and others who will be fighting over the next 30 games to prove they should stay. The lack of goal scoring this year will be a priority next season–especially since it signals the start of a march toward a contending foundation.
Especially with Connor Bedard in the fold. Nazar can go down the middle or on the wing. Del Mastro may very well be a top four defenseman. If Moore ends up making it, he would be quite the linemate for Bedard right off the bat.
This will be the next deep dive–a look at how they may be utilized.
The next month is not only important to watch in terms of lottery standing but also in how the future Blackhawks position themselves for a sooner–or later–call.
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