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2023 Chicago Blackhawks Prospect Pyramid

Mario Tirabassi Avatar
July 21, 2023

If you know me and/or have been familiar with my take on hockey prospect rankings over the past few years, you’ll know my affinity towards a tier or “pyramid” system over ranking players 1-10/20/50/1,000 numerically. There are just too many debates over these kinds of lists that really get you into the weeds of where a player is in their development and where they may or may not stand within the organization. I’m not one to split hairs between a prospect ranked No. 4 and No. 9, when another person wouldn’t have either in their top ten. 

What is the prospect pyramid, you may ask? It’s a simple solution to these lists that is not original to me, but I’m stealing it from Toronto Maple Leafs blogger/YouTuber/Fanatic Steve “Dangle” Glynn, who has ranked Maple Leafs prospects using the pyramid system for years. Instead of listing players, the pyramid system allows you to group players into different sections of the pyramid, with the very top of the rankings being the smallest but usually where you find the most-rare talent.


Since this is my prospect pyramid, I can make up who is and who is not eligible to be considered a prospect. I have two simple disqualifiers: Players with over 90 NHL games played or older than 23 on October 10, 2023, the start of the 2023-24 NHL season. So here are the 43 players we are looking at in the Chicago Blackhawks prospect system.

Forwards (27): 
Connor Bedard
Milton Oscarson
Marcel Marcel
Frank Nazar
Ryan Greene
Samuel Savoie
Paul Ludwinski
Landon Slaggert
Riku Tohila
Nick Lardis
Oliver Moore
Alex Pharand
Liam Gorman
Nils Juntorp
Dominic James
Michal Teply
Roman Kantserov
Jiří Felcman
Colton Dach
Martin Mišiak
Jalen Luypen
Aidan Thompson
Gavin Hayes
Lukas Reichel
Ryder Rolston
Antti Saarela
Victor Stjernborg
Ilya Safanov

Defensemen (13):
Sam Rinzel
Kevin Korchinski
Isaak Phillips
Janne Peltonen
Slava Demin
Nolan Allan
Ethan Del Mastro
Connor Kelley
Wyatt Kaiser
Taige Harding
Louis Crevier
Michael Krutil
Alex Vlasic

Goalies (3):
Drew Commesso
Dominic Basse
Adam Gajan

From last year’s edition to this year’s edition, 13 names are missing, with six aged-out players, Jaxson Stauber, Arvid Söderblom, Cole Guttman, Mike Hardman, Filip Roos, and Artur Kayumov. Players that were either traded or unsigned by the Blackhawks include Josiah Slavin, Evan Barratt, Ian Mitchell, Alec Regula, Jake Wise, Jakub Galvas, and Nicolas Beaudin. Of these 13 guys, Söderblom is still sort of a prospect but will be a full-time NHLer this season at the age of 24, and the same can be said for Guttman.


Here’s how the Blackhawks prospect pyramid will be broken-down heading into the 2023-24 season and what each tier of the pyramid means. 

Level One: Special Prospect/Franchise Player

This is a player that you look at and have zero doubts about their ability to be that top-line/top-pairing superstar player—someone who you build an entire franchise around. 

Examples: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby

Level Two: Quality Prospect/Long-time NHL Player

This is a player who may not be that “future Hall of Fame” type player, but someone who is going to be around for a long time and will have a big impact on your team. These are players that no successful franchise is without.

Examples: Patrick Sharp, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Tony Amonte, Brian Campbell

Level Three: Good Prospect/Complimentary Player

These players don’t jump off the page as someone who will drive your team, but they make those small, timely impacts that can make good teams great.

Examples: Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland, Johnny Oduya

Level Four: Average Prospect/Depth Player

This prospect level is good for players with high expectations, but we don’t know much about them. Like if they have played in Europe or have had injury issues, for example. Players whose NHL aspirations may or may not pan out.

Level Five: Everyone Else

As the title says, this is where everyone else lands. Usually, these are prospects and players with unlikely futures in the NHL or have not yet shown enough in their Junior careers to be excited about. These are just “guys.”

Now that we all understand each other, let’s get into the 2023-24 Chicago Blackhawks prospect pyramid!

Level One: Special Prospect/Franchise Player

Connor Bedard

Jun 28, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Chicago Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson congratulates first overall pick Connor Bedard during the 2023 NHL Draft at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Connor Bedard and Connor Bedard only.

This tier, in previous years in which I worked on Blackhawks prospect pyramids, has included the likes of Kirby Dach and Adam Boqvist. I’ve learned my lessons.

This tier is only for players who have that special, undoubted “it” factor that players like Bedard, Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, etc. possess. I was wrong about Dach and Boqvist previously, but that was on my own ambition for what those players could have become. Bedard is different.

Recently, The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn wrote that the addition of Bedard to the Blackhawks’ 2023-24 roster would have made them one of the top-five most improved teams of the offseason. Bedard wasn’t added to the list, but Luszczyszyn said that Bedard alone would have accounted for a +12 goal differential by himself on the Blackhawks, with the highest improvement of the offseason being the Dallas Stars, who collectively added a +15.7 goal-differential as a team with ALL of their offseason moves combined.

No one has to convince you or me of his capabilities; he’s shown it many times over. He’s going to be special.

Level Two: Quality Prospect/Long-time NHL Player

Lukas Reichel, Frank Nazar, Kevin Korchinski, Alex Vlasic, Drew Commesso, Oliver Moore

Sep 27, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Kevin Korchinski (55) during warmups before the game against the St. Louis Blues at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Only one name was added from last year’s list to this year: Oliver Moore. But no names have dropped from the tier, which is a good thing. Each player that was in this tier last year is still developing their game at a pace to be part of the future core of the Blackhawks, and hopefully, all contribute to the rise and sustained Stanley Cup contention window in Chicago.

Lukas Reichel will be a full-time NHL player in 2023-24, and rightfully so. He achieved above and beyond expectations in two seasons in the AHL with the Rockford IceHogs, and his second tour of NHL games last season was a vast improvement over his first taste of the league. Is he a center? Is he a wing? Is he a top-line option or more suited for the second-line? All questions will have an opportunity to be answered this season, as Reichel should get every opportunity in the world to solidify his spot with the Blackhawks.

Kevin Korchinski still looks to be every part of the future top-pair defenseman he is billed to be. Whether or not he gets to showcase some of those abilities in the NHL this season is still up for debate, but there’s no doubt he’ll get some time in the NHL with the Blackhawks this season. He’ll likely play again for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, and 2024-25 looks lined up to be the year Korchinksi gets his chance to break out as a prospect.

Frank Nazar has all the makings of a player who could take over the hockey world in Chicago. He’s got the look, the personality, and the skill set to be an immediate fan favorite. He missed nearly all of his freshman season at Michigan but returned at less than 100% at the end of the year and showed flashes of the skills that made him a top-15 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. He’ll have an entire season with the Wolverines in 2023-24, and his role will be elevated into the top-six group with Adam Fantilli leaving the Michigan lineup. If he hits all the benchmarks in his development, Nazar should be a borderline top-line forward in the NHL.

I kept Alex Vlasic up here because I still believe he holds all the tools to be not only a solid defenseman in the NHL but one that makes a lasting impact with the Blackhawks. He has the size and skating ability to hang in the NHL for a long time, and his defensive length and skills with the puck on his stick are improving. He spent most of the season in the AHL last year and his improvements from the end of the NHL season in 2022 to the end of the NHL season in 2023 showed. He’ll look to continue to build on those improvements, as he should be a full-time NHL defenseman this year in Chicago.

The newest addition to the pyramid and the highest-landing 2023 draft prospect, Oliver Moore, has a ton of potential and a ton of speed to burn. After essentially falling into Kyle Davidson’s lap at the 2023 draft at pick No. 19, Moore’s standing with the Blackhawks is high. He will attend the University of Minnesota and probably plays two seasons in college before he and we are contemplating his NHL future. He’s ranked by The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler as the No. 17 best-drafted NHL prospect in the league, and he was picked at No. 19 this year. For a player that was supposed to go in the first 10-to-12 picks of the draft in a loaded draft class, it’s feasible to think that Moore would have easily gone top-ten or even top-five in last year’s draft class. He was the fourth offensive option for Team USA in the NTDP this year behind players like Will Smith, Gabe Perreault, and Ryan Leonard, and he has the potential to be the No. 4 offensive option for the Blackhawks in the future behind guys like Bedard, Reichel, and Nazar. Or maybe he eclipses those guys? Who knows.

He’ll be making his professional hockey debut this season, but I’d be shocked if Drew Commesso doesn’t also make his Chicago Blackhawks debut at some point this year. He’s coming out of a very successful three-year college career at Boston University and represented the United States on three different occasions before ever playing a professional hockey game with his stints at the World Junior Championships, World Championships, and the 2022 Winter Olympics. On a recent episode of the CHGO Blackhawks podcast, we were asked who we thought would be the starting goalie on the next Stanley Cup-contending Blackhawks team. We all said Commesso. Now we wait to see if we are right.

Level Three: Good Prospect/Complimentary Player

Landon Slaggert, Colton Dach, Jalen Luypen, Paul Ludwinski, Ryan Greene, Dominic James, Isaak Phillips, Wyatt Kaiser, Ethan Del Mastro, Nolan Allan, Sam Rinzel, Adam Gajan, Ilya Safonov, Gavin Hayes, Martin Mišiak, Samuel Savoie

Blackhawks prospect Colton Dach with the Seattle Thunderbirds. (Photo Courtesy: Seattle Thunderbirds)

So while the “Prospect Pyramid” isn’t a perfect pyramid shape as they usually get fatter in the middle than at the top and bottom, the structure still makes sense. Plus, any good prospect system is filled in the middle with players who will be good players, and some may surprise you and become great.

This Blackhawks prospect group has a number of these players that, in my mind, have that “good” tier in their future but also have that capability in their games to be great and jump up a tier in the future. Some of those players include Ethan Del Mastro, Nolan Allan, Sam Rinzel, Ryan Greene, and Colton Dach. These are all players that look to be in that mix of “how good can they actually be?”

Rinzel and Greene are still a few seasons away from professional hockey. Still, Del Mastro, Allan, and Dach will all make their professional debuts this season with the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL. Like Commesso in the tier above them, I’d be surprised if we go the entire 82-game NHL season without seeing one, two, or all three players make their NHL debuts.

Not to be forgotten in this group are standout defensemen Wyatt Kaiser and Isaak Phillips, who both have a shot at making the NHL roster out of training camp this year. If they don’t, the top pairing in Rockford will be very productive in the AHL this season.

Level Four: Average Prospect/Depth Player

Aidan Thompson, Victor Stjernborg, Antti Saarela, Taige Harding, Ryder Rolston, Michal Teply, Marcel Marcel, Nick Lardis

There is still a good amount of potential in this grouping, but they have much to prove as young players to be more than just spot players in the NHL or to fill lower roles on future Blackhawks teams. That’s not to say none of them can move up the pyramid tiers or become more productive players in the NHL down the line, but right now, they just seem to fit that billing of one rung above being “just a guy” in the system.

Three players that will have my eyes on them a lot this upcoming season are Ryder Rolston, Victor Stjernborg, and Antti Saarela.

Rolston is coming out of a fruitful three-year college career at Notre Dame that was cut short last season due to a broken collarbone. The NHL pedigree is there for Rolston, the son of former NHLer Brian Rolston. He has the size and shooting ability to make it in the professional ranks; I just wonder about his skating and if his total package of skills is enough to break through the AHL and get to that consistent NHL standard. He’ll make his professional debut with the IceHogs this year and should get a regular role in their lineup all season.

Saarela is one of those prospects that I feel kept getting buried in the shuffle. Being in Europe can do that, and putting up pedestrian numbers in Europe will do that to a prospect. He is the younger brother of former Blackhawks legend Aleksi Saarela, but he has an opportunity to grow in the Blackhawks’ system that his brother didn’t take advantage of. He’s played in the Finnish Liiga the past five seasons, playing in 190 games and tallying 73 points in professional hockey before he turned 22 in June. Now he’ll likely transition to North American hockey with the IceHogs and see where his development is after being a fourth-round pick in 2019.

Finally, there might not be a younger and more decorated European prospect in the Blackhawks’ system than Victor Stjernborg. Already at the age of 20, Stjernborg is a two-time SHL champion with Växjö Lakers in Sweden, took home a Bronze Medal at the 2022 World Junior Championships, and Captained Team Sweden to a fourth-place finish in the 2023 World Junior Championships. As a teenager, he has already played 87 professional games in the SHL, with another 30 games of SHL playoff experience. Last season on his way to his second SHL championship, Stjernborg tallied seven points in 18 playoff games. He’ll again be with Växjö this season, and hopefully, more from the hard-working, speedy forward is to come before he potentially makes his jump to North America in 2024-25.

The remaining eligible prospects fall into the final tier, where basically everyone else lands. Not to say that these prospects don’t have a chance to turn into serviceable players at the professional ranks, but it’s currently hard to see a path for them to the NHL with the Blackhawks. For right now, at least.

Many of the European players fall in the bottom tier because of how hard it is to translate their young European careers to the North American standards at this stage in the game, and many of the recently drafted players in the 2023 class fall here because, again, it’s hard to quantify exactly what the Blackhawks have in these prospects yet before we get a chance to dig into their draft+1 seasons.

Hopefully, this has solved all the problems of ranking and evaluating the Blackhawks’ organizational depth chart. I’m sure no one will have any problems with where any of these prospects were placed in my prospect pyramid. But that’s the beauty of all of this. It’s my pyramid. If you want to do your own pyramid, by all means, go ahead. It’s fun. Especially now that the Blackhawks’ prospect system is filled with more assured talent and less “squint hard enough,” and maybe there’s a good player or two.

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