© 2023 BSN LIVE, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
The World Juniors have come and gone, and there is still no doubt what the top prize is in the NHL Entry Draft. Focus shifts to Seattle, which is becoming the epicenter of the Chicago Blackhawks’ prospect pool following another WHL trade. Also, the Rockford IceHogs struggled to score over the weekend with some of their biggest weapons in the NHL. Mario Tirabassi and Greg Boysen bring you another edition of the Blackhawks Rebuild Report to keep you up to date on the future of the franchise.
Mario’s Notebook: Thunder…Thunder…ThunderHAWKS?
- Last season in the WHL, it was Blackhawks prospect Jalen Luypen and the Edmonton Oil Kings lifting the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champions over the Seattle Thunderbirds. It appears that Seattle isn’t messing around this season. Led defensively by Blackhawks 2022 first-round draft pick Kevin Korchinski, Seattle has looked to two other Blackhawks prospects to solidify their chances in the WHL this season with the additions of Nolan Allan and now Colton Dach.
- Dach, who was injured in the World Junior Championships with Canada, is expected to return later this season from a shoulder injury that thankfully will not require surgery. Seattle is currently leading the WHL Western Conference with a 29-6-2 record and 60 points on the year through 37 games.
- Dach is likely to extend his season with Seattle rather than with the Kelowna Rockets, with whom he had been playing his second season and was team Captain.
- The 2021 second-round pick was part of a quartet of Blackhawks prospects that took home a Gold Medal with Canada at the recent World Junior Championships. Two of the other Blackhawks prospects are his now teammates in Seattle with Korchinski and Allan.
- Allan has been playing a lesser role since coming to Seattle than when he began the season with the Prince Albert Raiders. In 10 WHL games with the Thunderbirds this season, Allan has two goals and two assists, including his most recent helper coming on Tuesday night against the Brandon Wheat Kings.
- Combined with his time with Prince Albert and Seattle this season, Allan has tallied six goals and nine assists in 26 games. Both Allan and Seattle are likely hoping his production can go up a tick as the second half of the WHL season carries on.
- Not having to worry about offense from the blue line in Seattle is Blackhawks’ 2022 first-round pick Korchinski. Following a less-than-stellar performance at the World Junior Championships, Korchinski has stormed back into the Seattle lineup with five points (all assists) in a three-game point streak since returning.
- With a pair of helpers in last night’s overtime win for Seattle, including a secondary assist on the game-winning goal, Korchinksi has surpassed 100 career assists in his WHL career. He now has three goals and 33 points in 24 games with the Thunderbirds this season.
- Dach and Seattle weren’t the only players or teams impacted by trades across the CHL this past week following the World Junior Championships. Joining fellow prospects on the move like Allan and Dach, fellow World Junior Gold Medalist Ethan Del Mastro was also shipped to a new OHL team before the OHL trade deadline, which passed on Tuesday.
- Del Mastro had been serving as Captain of the Steelheads for his second season this year and had seen his offensive numbers jump from last season’s pace. After posting 48 points in 68 games last season with Mississauga, Del Mastro is on a nearly point-per-game pace this season with two goals and 21 points in 22 OHL games. He joins a Sarnia Sting team sitting in third place in the West Division and fourth place in the Western Conference with an 18-12-6 record.
- Speaking of Blackhawks’ prospects in leadership positions, after the Kingston Frontenacs traded Seattle Kraken prospect Shane Wright, they needed a new captain. On Wednesday, Blackhawks 2022 second-round pick Paul Ludwinski was named the new leader of the Frontenacs.
- Ludwinski ranks fourth on the Frontenacs this season in points with 25 in 32 OHL games. He is currently riding a three-game point streak.
- In the QMJHL, the only Blackhawks prospect in the league is tearing things up. Samuel Savoie, 2022 third-round pick and Jay Zawaski man-crush, is third (among full-season players) on his Gatineau Olympiques squad with 37 points in 32 games this season. Savoie has blown past his season total for points last year (32) in half as many games this season.
- Savoie missed three games following the Christmas Holiday break in the QMJHL, but he jumped back on the ice on Jan. 4 and tallied three points in his return. He has a three-game point streak heading into tonight’s action for Gatineau and recorded six points over that streak, earning Player of the Week honors in the league.
- Savoie and Gatineau are back in action tonight when they host the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
- Heading to the NCAA, last night, Boston University took on Mass in the only action of the night. Blackhawks 2020 second-round pick Drew Commesso was in net for the Terriers and held his own in a 6-2 win for Boston. Commesso stopped 17 of 19 shots faced to earn his tenth win of the season. He is 10-4-0 this year with a .910 save percentage and a 2.58 GAA.
- Commesso still tracks as one of the best goaltending prospects the Blackhawks have had in their system since Corey Crawford, but injuries have hampered him at times earlier this season, and that has left a bit to be desired from the third-year goaltender.
- I wonder if a jump to the professional ranks is in the cards for Commesso following the conclusion of this season, and we see him playing with the Rockford IceHogs in 2023-24?
- Some good news for Commesso, and for fellow Blackhawks goaltending prospect Dominic Basse at St. Cloud State, the duo are part of the initial 41-play watch list for the Mike Richter Award this year, awarded to the Best Goaltender in the NCAA.
- Also, in the NCAA this past week, a Blackhawks prospect we haven’t talked a lot about had a two-point night and continued a solid season with Princeton University.
- Liam Gorman, acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2022 NHL Draft, leads his Princeton squad this season with eight goals and 13 points in 18 NCAA games this season. He is in his Senior season with the Tigers and has doubled his career point total (12) over the past three seasons just this year. Speaking of players who may jump to the professional ranks next season, I’d suspect Gorman is in the plans for the IceHogs next year.
- Someone who is NOT in the plans for the IceHogs next season, or ever, is Connor Bedard.
- Like that transition? Smooth.
- Bedard is ridiculous. I cannot think of any other words to describe what he is doing this season. In his first game back with the Regina Pats after winning a Gold Medal and being named the MVP at the World Junior Championships with Canada, Bedard had a ho-hum six points, which included scoring four goals.
- That performance was statistically his best of this season, which is truly saying something if you’ve been paying attention to him this year. Which I don’t know how you are here and haven’t been doing so.
- Even with Bedard leading the WHL in scoring this season with 70 points in 29 games…70 in 29…the Regina Pats are sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, hanging on to a playoff spot by two points. I’m not sure if the Regina economy hinges on Bedard selling tickets to Pats games this season, but with how insane Junior hockey trades are (i.e. trading seven future draft picks and two players for Shane Wright), the Pats chose to hold onto Bedard as the WHL trade deadline came and went this week.
- Not that it won’t matter for much longer, as Bedard is headed to the NHL in a few months as the presumed No. 1 draft pick (by the Blackhawks) this summer. He headlines the upcoming CHL Top Prospects game that features some of the best players across the CHL (comprised of the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL) that are 2023 NHL Draft-eligible.
- Another reason for Blackhawks fans to watch this game, besides Bedard and several other CHL players to keep tabs on heading into this NHL Draft is that Brent Seabrook will be behind the bench as a coach in this game. Should be fun.
- Speaking of Bedard being the No. 1 draft pick, Elite Prospects ran their first 2023 NHL Mock Draft of the season, and Blackhawks fans will be ecstatic to see the results. Also, a few surprises as the draft moves beyond Bedard at the first-overall pick.
- And if you are looking for even more Bedard content in your life, EA Sports just rolled out their post-World Junior Championships update for NHL23 and Bedard headlines Team Canada with an 80 overall rating.
- How long before he’s into the 90s? I give it one and a half NHL seasons.
- Bedard’s ratings will probably go up a bit through the rest of the season. I wonder if he’ll be the highest-rated player on the Blackhawks if/when they draft him.
Greg’s Notebook: IceHogs miss top guns, Safonov strikes again.
- The Rockford IceHogs are going through what all American Hockey League (AHL) teams must endure during a long season. Since the Blackhawks have a rash of injuries, the IceHogs are without four top players in Lukas Reichel, Brett Seney, Isaak Phillips, and Ian Mitchell. Missing those key components caught up with Rockford as they dropped a weekend series at the Iowa Wild.
- The IceHogs earned a point with a 2-1 overtime loss in Iowa on Saturday night. Top prospect Marco Rossi netted an early power-play goal to give the Wild a 1-0 lead. About 11 minutes later, Mike Hardman tied the game on the man advantage by getting to the front of the net and swatting home his second goal of the season. The game remained even until Dakota Mermis won the game for the home team 34 seconds into overtime. Mitchell Weeks made 22 saves in the losing effort.
- The offense again only came up with one goal in Sunday’s rematch in Des Moines. Adam Beckman put Iowa up just 33 seconds after the opening draw. Defenseman Alec Regula stayed hot by tying the game with his fifth goal of the season midway through the frame. After allowing a goal in the opening minute of the period, Steven Fogarty scored in the final minute to give the Wild a 2-1 lead. Nick Swaney and Beckman added goals in the third period to ice the game. Jaxson Stauber gave up three goals and 28 shots.
- Seney’s time in Chicago only lasted two days, as he was reassigned to Rockford on Wednesday morning. In return, Stauber headed to the Blackhawks as Alex Stalock deals with the bug going around the locker room these days.
- Later that day, Seney was one of three players named to represent Rockford at the AHL All-Star Classic. He will join Reichel and David Gust, although Reichel will likely still be in the NHL for the festivities. Laval, QC, is the host city for the All-Star Classic, with a skills competition on Sunday, Feb. 5, and the All-Star Challenge on Monday, Feb. 6.
- Despite missing two games, Seney still leads the IceHogs with 24 assists and 38 points. His fellow All-Star, Gust, has a team-high 18 goals, tied for third in the AHL.
- The IceHogs are 19-11-2-2 and sit in third place in the Central Division with 42 points. The Texas Stars lead the pack with 46 points, followed by the Milwaukee Admirals with 44. The top five teams in the Central Division will qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs. The IceHogs have a 14-point cushion over the sixth-place Chicago Wolves.
- Rockford will make a rare trip out west this weekend for a pair of games against the Colorado Eagles on Friday and Saturday. They will return home to host the last-place Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday.
- Chad Yetman, the Blackhawks’ sixth-round pick in 2020, was signed to a professional tryout contract (PTO) by the Belleville Senators last week. He played three games for the Senators and picked up an assist in Saturday’s 6-1 win over the Manitoba Moose. He has 14 goals and 28 points in 24 ECHL games for the Indy Fuel.
- Ilya Safanov scored the game-winning goal versus Avangard Omsk on Wednesday. The 2021 sixth-round draft pick is up to 12 goals and 22 points in 45 KHL games for Al Bars Kazan.
- Victor Stjernborg has yet to return to action for Växjö Lakers HC in the SHL after captaining Sweden at the World Junior Championship.
Get Chicago's Best Sports Content In Your Inbox!
Become a smarter Chicago sports fan with the latest game recaps, analysis and exclusive content from CHGO’s writers and podcasters!
Just drop your email below!