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It’s time to take a break from the seemingly non-stop Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews talk to focus on the future of the Chicago Blackhawks. In our weekly Blackhawks Rebuild Report, Mario Tirabasso takes you across North America’s junior and college ranks with updates on recent draft picks and top-ranked prospects for the upcoming draft. Meanwhile, Greg Boysen keeps tabs on those youngsters playing professionally in the American Hockey League (AHL), ECHL, and Europe.
Mario’s Notebook: Kevin Korchinski and Frank Nazar grab 2022 Draft Class headlines, but don’t sleep on Gavin Hayes and Samuel Savoie.
- When we talk about the future of the Blackhawks organization and the depth of the prospect system, there is the cream of the crop, and then there are the players that fly under the radar. You have guys like Kevin Korchinski and Frank Nazar to fawn over, but they’re only going to be as successful as possible at the NHL if they are surrounded by complimentary players.
- Following the 2022 NHL Draft, Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson added several of these types of prospects along with Korchinski and Nazar mentioned previously. There are two that stand out this season and could be players that become household names in the Chicagoland area in no time: Samuel Savoie and Gavin Hayes.
- Savoie quickly became a fan favorite following his third-round selection in this past summer’s NHL Draft. His knack for agitating the opponent and his willingness to get feisty in prospect camp and the Tom Kurvers Rookie Showcase made him stand out and began the Andrew Shaw comparisons. With all those attributes still front and center this season, he has become more of an offensive threat in the QMJHL with 49 points in 43 games.
- Savoie tallied a five-point night (2G, 3A) last Saturday night in a staggering 11-3 win for Gatineau over Saint John. His 49 points this season are fifth on the Olympiques (third among players to play the entire season with Gatineau), and his 22 goals are second on the team amongst players who have played the entire season with Gatineau.
- In his past four games, Flint Firebird Gavin Hayes has two goals and six points and continues to lead all Blackhawks non-professional North American prospects in points with 51 in 50 OHL games this season. Hayes is second on the Firebirds in both points and goals (26) this season.
- Hayes is the often-forgotten pick from the Alex DeBrincat trade at last summer’s NHL Draft. The first pick in that deal was Korchinski, with Hayes and a future player to be picked this summer coming as the other pieces to the puzzle. While Korchinski grabs all the Blackhawks prospects headlines, Hayes has real potential to be another asset in that trade.
- Sticking in the OHL, Ethan Del Mastro was out and about in the Sarnia community this past week.
- Del Mastro is my most exciting defensive prospect in the Blackhawks system besides Korchinski. He has three goals and 15 points in 11 games with the Sting this season after being traded from the Mississauga Steelheads following the World Junior Championships. This season, Del Mastro is part of the point-per-game club in the Blackhawks’ prospect system, with 36 points in 33 OHL games.
- After mentioning him a bunch already, here’s Korchinski’s most recent goal, scored in the Seattle Thunderbirds’ WHL playoff-clinching win over the Everett Silvertips.
- Korchinski tallied four points in that win from last Friday night.
- With six goals and 47 points in 34 WHL games this season, Korchinksi leads Seattle defensemen in scoring and has the highest point-per-game rate (1.38) amongst all non-professional prospects in the Blackhawks’ system.
- Speaking of the Blackhawks’ 2022 NHL Draft class, Sam Rinzel is doing just fine for himself in the USHL this season.
- Rinzel netted the game-winner against Fargo last Saturday night, his sixth goal of the season. The 25th overall pick from this past summer’s draft, Rinzel currently rides a three-game point streak in the USHL and 14 points in his last 14 games since Dec. 30. Rinzel now ranks seventh in points (25) in the USHL among defensemen. He’s headed to Minnesota next season.
- Moving on to the NCAA ranks, it was nice to see a goal go in for Notre Dame’s Landon Slaggert last Saturday.
- Slaggert has been having a really tough season after putting up some impressive performances in his past two seasons with the Irish and his performances at the World Junior Championships in 2021 and 2022. With just four goals and nine points in 28 NCAA games this season, Slaggert has the lowest point-per-game rate (0.32) amongst NCAA prospects in the Blackhawks’ system.
- A familiar face was back in Boston this past weekend as Alex Vlasic showed up to get the BU Terriers ready to defend their Beanpole Championship.
- Unfortunately for Ryan Greene and Drew Commesso, the Terriers lost their opening game to Northeastern and could not defend their Beanpot title. They’ll face Boston College in the consolation game on Monday, Feb. 13, while Northeastern will play Harvard for the tournament title the same night.
- Goaltending prospect update from St. Cloud State as Dominic Basse backstopped both of the Huskies’ last two games. Even though they go into the books as ties, St. Cloud State would go on to “win” both of their games from this past weekend in shootouts, with Basse not allowing any goals in the shootouts. He stopped 55 of 59 shots he faced over the weekend, improving his stat line on the year to 9-3-2 with a .925 save percentage (SV%) and a 1.99 goals-against average (GAA) in 14 appearances. His .925 SV% ranks sixth in the NCAA among goalies to play at least 800 minutes in net, and he is one of seven goalies in college hockey to have a sub-2.00 GAA this season.
- Leading all Blackhawks NCAA prospects in point production this season with 24 points in 28 games, Ohio State’s Jake Wise recently broke down what goes into winning faceoffs for him, a skill that allows him to lead the Big Ten at the dot this season.
- I do wonder what the future holds for Wise after such a delayed realization of his potential at the NCAA level. After being a highly-touted third-round pick in 2018, Wise had an injury-riddled run with Boston University before transferring to Ohio State. He serves as the Buckeyes’ Captain this season, and I wonder if he will sign with the Rockford IceHogs on an ATO deal before figuring out where his professional career will begin, either with or without the Blackhawks.
- The consensus No. 2 prospect in the 2023 NHL Draft class continues to rack up honors in the NCAA as Adam Fantilli was named the NCAA Player of the Month for January.
- As the tweet says, since he returned from a disappointing performance at the World Junior Championships, Fantilli has been on an absolute tear with Michigan and has helped them go 6-1-1 in his last eight appearances. Fantilli recorded a goal and four assists in his previous two games as Michigan swept Wisconsin and climbed to No. 5 in the USCHO NCAA rankings.
- Oh, and apparently, Fantilli can do this…
- That is…something. Also, I cannot be 100 percent certain, but I’m fairly confident that Frank Nazar is one of these background dancers. I think second from the far right. If so, good to see he is healthy enough for whatever this is, and hopefully, that means getting into the Michigan lineup very soon.
- Last Friday, for the first time since the opening game of the Regina Pats’ season, Connor Bedard was held off the scoresheet. It ended a 35-game point streak for Bedard, where he scored 44 goals and 90 points.
- The scoring drought lasted one game.
- Bedard scored on his first shift of his next game last Sunday night, and it would serve as the only goal on the night for Regina in a 5-1 loss to Medicine Hat. At 24-22-3, the Regina Pats sit in seventh place in the WHL Eastern Conference and are holding onto a playoff spot by a thread. They are seventh in points (51) and eighth in points percentage (.520) this season.
- It’s Valentine’s Day on the 14th, a reminder for anyone who has procrastinated on getting their special someone something special for the special day.
- Even though he’s the top prospect in the 2023 NHL Draft class and arguably the best prospect the NHL has seen since the likes of Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid, Bedard is still not immune to the awkward Valentine’s Day requests.
- We’ve all been there before, one way or another. I myself have been on both ends of this kind of exchange. Kids will be kids.
- Here’s to hoping Chicago will be Bedard’s Valentine for years and years to come, and he won’t have to be peer-pressured into it.
Greg’s Notebook: Arvid Söderblom Leads Rockford IceHogs to Weekend Sweep
- The IceHogs started their successful weekend with a 3-2 shootout win over the Iowa Wild Friday night, their second straight victory in the shootout. The visitors got the early jump when Nick Swaney scored two minutes into the contest. Brett Seney tied the game before the end of the frame by deflecting an Adam Clendening shot into the Iowa net. Swaney struck again for the only tally of a tightly contested second period. AHL All-Star Lukas Reichel tied the game early in the final frame with a wrist shot for his 15th goal of the season. After a scoreless overtime, the game headed to the shootout. Luke Philp scored the only goal of the four-round competition to give the IceHogs the extra point in the standings. Arvid Söderblom continued his recent streak of solid outings with 31 saves in regulation and overtime and stopped all four Wild shootout attempts.
- The IceHogs and the Wild were right back at it Saturday and skated to the same result; a 3-2 win for Rockford. Swaney scored an early first-period goal for the second straight night to give Iowa a 1-0 lead. Defenseman Jakub Galvas got the IceHogs on the board with a shorthanded goal early in the second period. Sammy Walker’s 21st goal of the season gave the Wild a 2-1 advantage before the intermission. Just past the midway point of the third period, Seney struck on the power play to even things up. Regulation wasn’t enough to decide a winner for the fourth straight contest. The IceHogs appeared to be going to yet another shootout before Bobby Lynch scored with just 15 seconds left in overtime to send the sellout crowd home happy. Söderblom was solid for his third-straight start, making 33 saves for the victory.
- On Sunday morning, the Blackhawks returned to practice after the All-Star break and recalled goaltender Jaxson Stauber as Alex Stalock still works his way back from a concussion.
- Later that evening, Reichel, Seney, and David Gust represented the IceHogs at the AHL All-Star Skills Competition. Gust won the Accuracy Shooting Event by becoming the fourth player to hit all four targets on four shots. Reichel finished fifth in the Fastest Skater Event, won by Ethan Frank of the Hershey Ethan Frank. Seney competed in the Rapid Fire Event, where he and Thomas Harley of the Texas Stars scored two goals on 10 shots against Toronto Marlies netminder Joseph Woll.
- The Rockford trio played for the Central Division in Monday’s AHL All-Star Challenge. The AHL’s format is slightly different than the NHL’s as it is a round-robin where all four divisions play against each other. The three IceHogs were pointless, as the Central lost all three games.
- Arguably the two most important prospects in Rockford, Reichel and Söderblom, have stepped up their games and appear to have left their cold streaks in the past. After going without a point in his first four games back with the team, Reichel has a goal and four points in his last five games. Since getting pulled against the Milwaukee Admirals on Jan. 27, Söderblom has made at least 32 saves in each of his previous four starts. He’s gone 3-0-1-0 and allowed nine goals on 133 shots for a .932 save percentage (SV%) and 2.10 GAA.
- Heading into the post-All-Star break stretch run, Gust leads the team with 21 goals and 45 points. Seney and Reichel are tied for the team lead in assists with 26. Alec Regula still leads all defensemen with five goals. Galvas is tops amongst blueliners with 22 assists and 24 points. Cole Guttman leads all IceHogs rookies with 14 goals and 28 points.
- The IceHogs are up to fourth place in the Central Division with 52 points. They are one point behind the Wild for third and three points behind the Admirals for second place. Texas still leads the division with 57 points. The IceHogs will have a home-and-home series with the Admirals this weekend, Friday in Rockford and Saturday in Milwaukee. They will travel to Michigan Wednesday night for a mid-week tilt with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
- Chad Yetman had another big weekend for the Indy Fuel. He had a goal in Saturday’s 6-3 win over the Kansas City Mavericks. He added two assists in Sunday’s rematch, which saw Kansas City win 6-3. Yetman leads the team with 19 goals. His 39 points are fourth on the team, but he has played in nine fewer ECHL games than Alex Wideman, who leads with 48 points. The Fuel is in first place in the Central Division with 60 points. Only the Newfoundland Growlers (65) and Idaho Steelheads (68) have more points than Indy in the league.
- Defenseman Michael Krutil finally got his first point of the season with an assist on Saturday during HC Banik Sokolov’s 7-6 shootout loss to HC Poruba in the Chance Liga. This is Czechia’s second-level league, so their version of the AHL. He was back with HC Sparta Praha on Sunday in the Czech Extraliga, the country’s top pro league, where he is a teammate of former Blackhawk Michal Kempny. The 2020 fourth-round pick has played 28 games between the two leagues this season.
- Heading over to Russia, Ilya Safonov had a three-point weekend for Ak Bars Kazan. He had a goal and an assist in Friday’s 7-4 loss to SKA St. Petersburg, then followed that up with another goal in Sunday’s 5-1 victory over Kunlun Red Star. The 21-year-old center is up to 14 goals and 29 points in 57 KHL games.
- Speaking of big weeks in the KHL, Artur Kayumov had back-to-back two-point games for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. He snapped his five-game pointless streak with a goal and an assist in a 4-0 win over HK Sochi on Sunday. On Tuesday, he had the lone goal in regulation before assisting on Maxim Shalunov’s overtime winner versus Amur Khabarovsk.
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