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Blackhawks Rebuild Report: Drew Commesso and Ethan Del Mastro have professional firsts in big weekend for Rockford IceHogs
Hockey is in full swing around the globe! While the Chicago Blackhawks are still hitting peaks and valleys at the NHL level, our weekly Rebuild Report focuses on the talent that is on the way.
Mario Tirabasi is keeping tabs on the amateur ranks in North America. He will make a deep dive into the NCAA ranks and the Canadian junior leagues. Greg Boysen is focused on the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League (AHL) and all the players playing professionally across Europe.
Mario: Landon Slaggert’s goal-per-game pace is totally sustainable, Martin Mišiak pacing OHL prospects
A prospect that Chicago Blackhawks fans might have forgotten about over the past year because of the hoopla surrounding the Connor Bedard sweepstakes and the eventual drafting of him and Oliver Moore in the first round, along with with emergence of offensive options like Frank Nazar and Lukas Reichel, is Notre Dame’s Landon Slaggert. The 2020 third-round pick enters his fourth season of college hockey serving as the captain of the Irish and is off to a hot start with seven goals in seven games to start the year as one of the top goal-scorers in the NCAA.
- Obviously the headline is tongue-in-cheek, but Slaggert’s hot start is likely a product of his health to start this season, the expectations of wearing the “C” for one of the nation’s top programs, and being out to prove that last season’s down year was a fluke for the South Bend native.
- Slaggert’s seven goals to begin the season have him ranked in a four-way tie for second in the country, behind Macklin Celebrini‘s eight goals to begin the year. He was also named the Big Ten Third-Star of the week for his four-goal performance this past weekend.
- Speaking of Macklin Celebrini, the top prospect in the 2024 NHL Draft Class has eight goals and 11 points in his first six NCAA games with Boston University.
- His Boston University teammate and maybe future Blackhawks teammate Ryan Greene is having a good start to his second year at BU. With two goals and five points in six games for the Terriers, Greene ranks tied for fourth on the team in scoring.
- With a three-assist night against Lindenwood on Saturday night, Frank Nazar moved his point total to seven through eight games to begin his second year at Michigan. His seven points match his total in his shortened season last year as a freshman after missing most of the year due to hip surgery.
- After being ranked at the top of the NCAA for a week, Oliver Moore and Sam Rinzel were both held off the scoresheets as the Golden Gophers were upset in a weekend sweep against the Wisconsin Badgers. Moore has six points in six games to begin his freshman season, tied for second on the team in scoring. Rinzel’s three points lead all Minnesota defensemen.
- I just had to get that note in there as a Badger.
- A defenseman that the Blackhawks might be keeping tabs on in his third NCAA season this year is Providence’s Taige Harding. The six-foot-seven defender had 13 points in 37 games last season for the Friars and was able to score his first goal of the season this past weekend with a tally against Vermont.
- Harding’s frame made him a project pick when he was taken in the third-round of the 2021 NHL Draft, but I think that gives him a bit of an inside track to making an impression on the Blackhawks, who have grown to really like sizable defensemen in recent years.
- Moving on to the CHL (OHL) portion of the North American pipeline, Kingston’s Captain Paul Ludwinski was named the OHL’s Performer of the Week after a two-goal, two-assist performance for the Frontenacs.
- Ludwinski is one of four Blackhawks prospects playing at or near a point-per-game pace to begin the year in the OHL, alongside Gavin Hayes, Nick Lardis, and Martin Mišiak.
- 2023 third-round pick Nick Lardis is off to a hot start in Brantford with a goal-scoring pace of 48 in 68 OHL games if he were to keep up his eight goals in 11 games pace he has started the season with. But, he has just one assist in these first 11 games, so he would finish the season on this pace with 48 goals and seven assists.
- That would be a hilarious stat-line to finish with.
- Gavin Hayes is another point-per-game player in the OHL with six goals and ten points in ten games for the Flint Firebirds.
- Hayes spent the final days of his 2022-23 season with the Rockford IceHogs as they pushed into the postseason and was an extended-stay prospect in training camp with the Blackhawks this season, both bode well for his status within the organization. Also, Hayes looks to be at least an invitee to Team USA’s World Junior Championships camp in December, which would be a great accomplishment for the 2022 third-round pick.
- Also likely to join Hayes at the World Juniors this December and January is Slovakian prospect Martin Mišiak, who ranks third on the Erie Otters in points this season as an OHL rookie with five goals and 12 points in 13 games. Mišiak was held off the scoresheet in the most recent game for the Otters, which ended a five-game scoring streak for the 2023 second-round Blackhawks pick that saw him record three goals and eight points over that stretch.
- Mišiak’s 12 points leads all Blackhawks OHL prospects.
- Finally, cheers to Sudbury Wolves forward and 2023 fourth-round pick Alex Pharand getting his first goal of the season this past weekend!
- Pharand has that goal and two assists in 12 games to begin his second OHL season in Sudbury.
Greg: Drew Commesso is a wall in the AHL, while Jiri Felcman stays hot in Switzerland
The Rockford IceHogs had a successful weekend defending home ice at the BMO Center. First, they rolled the Iowa Wild 6-2 on Friday night. They followed that up with a 3-0 shutout of the Grand Rapids Griffins the next night. The IceHogs are now 3-2-0 in the young season and are just two points behind the Texas Stars and Manitoba Moose, who are tied for first place. They will play a pair of games north of the border at the Moose this weekend.
- Jaxson Stauber rebounded nicely in his first start since giving up seven goals to the San Jose Barracuda opening weekend. He made 22 saves to earn his first win of the season against the Wild. He didn’t give up a goal until late in the second period when the IceHogs already had a 5-0 lead. Stauber even picked up his first AHL assist on David Gust’s opening goal.
- Ryder Rolston was named Friday’s First Star of the Game for his goal and assist. I had a feeling his game would translate well to the AHL, and so far, he’s proving me right. He has two goals and an assist in his first five AHL games.
- Rolston’s assist came on Michal Teply’s second-period goal. This could be Teply’s final season with the organization unless he has a breakout year. The 2019 fourth-round pick is off to a solid start with a pair of goals.
- After picking up his first professional point with an assist on Friday, Ethan Del Mastro notched his first professional goal to open the scoring on Saturday. He crashed the net and banged home a rebound for the eventual game-winning tally.
- Speaking of professional firsts, Drew Commesso stopped all 18 Griffins shots he faced to earn his first AHL shutout. The young netminder is 2-1-0 with a .928 save percentage (SV%) and 2.02 goals-against average (GAA) as he settles in nicely to the rigors of an AHL season.
- Cole Guttman assisted on two of the three IceHogs’ goals Saturday night. Since being reassigned to the AHL, he has three assists in three games.
- Marcel Marcel could be making his AHL debut this weekend. He was medically cleared to play on Sunday after missing the start of the season with a right-hand injury.
Let’s make our weekly trip overseas to check in on the Blackhawks’ prospects playing in Europe. This season the organization is represented in Russia, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, and Czechia.
- Starting in the KHL, Ilya Safonov notched a goal on Friday, giving him goals in two straight games. That streak came to an end in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk. The 2021 fourth-round pick has six goals and nine points in 23 games for Ak Bars Kazan, with half of his goals coming in the last seven contests.
- Roman Kantserov has gone pointless in his last six games for Metallurg Magnitogorsk while averaging under 11 minutes a night during that span.
- In Sweden, Victor Stjernborg had an assist in Växjö Lakers HC’s 4-2 win over Örebro HK. The 20-year forward has two goals and four points in 13 SHL games.
- Milton Oscarson was on the losing end to Stjernborg and Växjö last week, but he was the offensive star for Örebro by scoring a goal and assisting on the other. This was the 2023 sixth-round pick’s first multi-point game in the SHL.
- Making the quick trip over to Finland, where Riku Tohila scored his first career Liiga goal on Friday. This is the lone point for the 6-foot-8 center in eight games in his native country’s top league. He has three goals and an assist in seven games in the U20 league.
- Jiri Felcman had a big week for Langnau in Switzerland’s U20 league. He had a goal and an assist on Wednesday and added another helper on Sunday. The 18-year-old center has six goals and 15 points in 12 U20-Elite games. He has played three games in the National League, two for the SCL Tigers and one on loan to the Bellinzona Rockets, where he picked up an assist for his first professional point. Felcman was also named to the Czechia U20 national team for the upcoming Five Nations tournament.
- Finally, in Czechia, defenseman Michael Krutil scored for HC Stadion Litoměřice. The fourth-rounder from 2020 has two goals and four points in his last four games in Czechia’s second-tier league.
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