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We’re approaching the point in the NHL season when everyone starts to take a look down the Chicago Blackhawks prospect depth charts and start thinking about who will be coming up soon to replace the players that are likely out the door. Is Lukas Reichel back on his way up? Will Isaak Phillips find his way back into the NHL lineup? Will we finally see Cole Guttman? It’s all on the table, as the NHL Trade Deadline is just five weeks away.
Even with six wins in a seven-game stretch this month, the Blackhawks only made a small dent in their “Tank” armor, and it took just two games for them to find themselves again back in the driver’s seat of the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. And you all were worried again.
Mario’s Notebook: We’re Number One!
- With a couple of timely wins and overtime games from the Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets this week, the Blackhawks have again found themselves at the bottom of the NHL standings.
- The “Tank” is going swimmingly.
- Look, the Blackhawks were never going to go 0-82-0. No NHL team will ever. And even if they did, they would still have the same lottery odds at landing the No. 1 pick as they would if they finished in last place by just one point in the standings.
- So embrace the “Tank” and have fun with it like our CHGO Blackhawks friend Matt has…
- That’s dedication.
- Speaking of the man of the hour, Connor Bedard and the rest of the best draft-eligible CHL players took part in the CHL Top Prospects game this week in British Columbia. In a showcase setting against some of the best of his peers across the Canadian Junior leagues, Bedard was surprisingly held off the scoresheet.
- But don’t let one scoreless game in a prospect showcase fool you. Bedard is unquestionably the best player in the 2023 Draft Class and the prize on everyone’s mind in the NHL who is tanking this season.
- Yes, Gary, they are tanking. You twit.
- Another fun little nugget from the CHL Top Prospects game was seeing former Blackhawk Brent Seabrook behind the bench opposite Bedard.
- Could “Coach Seabrook” be a real thing in the future? Why not?
- As far as current Blackhawks prospects, starting in the QMJHL, Samuel Savoie has been on a tear this season. After being selected in the third round of the 2022 NHL Draft and quickly becoming the apple of Jay Zawaski’s eye, Savoie has been one of the marquee prospects in Chicago’s system.
- Savoie has matched his goal total from last season (18) in nearly half the amount of time and is playing at over a point-per-game pace this season, with 41 points in 38 QMJHL games.
- With a pair of assists in Saturday’s win for Gatineau, Savoie now has a total of 10 points in January as the Olympiques sit tied for first in the QMJHL Western Conference.
- In the WHL, it was a big weekend for the last pick of the Stan Bowman era and the first pick of the Kyle Davidson era.
- The duo of Kevin Korchinski (Seattle) and Jalen Luypen (Tri-City) each had two assists in their games last Friday. Korchinski followed up his two-point night on Friday by scoring his fifth goal of the season on Saturday night. He leads the Seattle Thunderbirds defensemen in points with 37 in 28 games this season.
- Luypen missed a significant portion of the WHL season due to offseason shoulder surgery but has come back at a point-per-game pace since his debut with the Tri-City Americans. With four goals and eight assists, Luypen has 12 points in 12 WHL games this season.
- Speaking of duos having big games, in the OHL, Gavin Hayes (Flint) and Ethan Del Mastro (Sarnia) both tallied two-point nights last Friday for their respective teams.
- Hayes has been flying under most people’s radars concerning the Blackhawks’ prospect system. So often, when we focus on the return in the Kirby Dach trade, we talk about Frank Nazar, which is warranted. But the other piece of that trade’s puzzle is Hayes.
- With 43 points in 42 OHL games, Hayes is one of five players in Chicago’s system playing at or above a point-per-game pace in their Junior leagues this season. Hayes’ 43 points are also the most of any Blackhawks prospect in the Canadian Junior leagues.
- For Del Mastro, he continues to be a rock defensively while also seeing his offensive game take another step forward in his young development. That should make Blackhawks fans salivate after seeing his game at the World Junior Championships with Canada. Del Mastro and Hayes are now looking at OHL Playoff positions with their respective clubs. The Sarnia Sting are fifth in the OHL Western Conference, with the Flint Firebirds behind them in sixth.
- Updating the American-based Junior league in the USHL, Blackhawks prospects Sam Rinzel (Waterloo) and Nils Juntorp (Dubuque) faced off against each other this past week. Juntorp scored his tenth goal of the season in the game, a 3-2 win for the Fighting Saints over the Black Hawks. Rinzel also chipped in an assist for his 20th point of the season.
- Rinzel is having a nice season with the Black Hawks, leading them in points by a defenseman with four goals and 20 points in 29 USHL games this season. He also finds himself in a tie for tenth in the USHL for points by a defenseman this season. Rinzel remains a long-term project prospect for the Blackhawks, but with incredibly high up-side. He’ll look to reach that early potential at the University of Minnesota starting next year.
- Which is a nice way to segue into the Blackhawks’ NCAA prospect landscape.
- Staying in the Big Ten with the upset-minded Notre Dame Fighting Irish from this past weekend with a 2-1 win over No. 6 Penn State. Scoring the game-winner in that contest was prospect Ryder Rolston.
- Rolston is another prospect that flies under the radar for the Blackhawks. Does he have a major NHL career ahead of him? Probably unlikely. But he could find himself with a long professional career once his NCAA days come to an end. He is tied for the team lead in points (17) and is second on the Irish in goals with seven this season.
- Drew Commesso has had an up-and-down season at Boston University this year. After having injuries hamper the start of his season, Commesso has been relatively himself on most nights. That included his outing against Maine last Friday night, where he stopped 30 of 31 shots in a 5-1 win.
- Commesso started the next night against Maine again but was shelled for five goals on 12 shots faced before being pulled. Boston went on to win that game 9-6! Commesso saw his save-percentage drop because of the outing down to a .905 on the year, which is not that great at the NCAA level. Still, there’s no need to panic from Blackhawks fans or the organization about his future in net in Chicago.
- If they are panicking, however, it might not be a bad idea to “kick the tires” on Erik Portillo. Just saying.
- Staying in Boston; Ryan Greene has become one of the 2022 Blackhawks Draft class standouts. He tallied three points last weekend and has five points in his last four games played, all assists. Greene’s 20 points in 21 NCAA games this season ranks him tied for third in points for Boston and the second-highest point-producer among Blackhawks NCAA prospects, behind only Jake Wise (Ohio State) with 23 points in 26 games.
- Quick shoutout to another Blackhawks NCAA goaltending prospect as Dominic Basse and the St. Cloud State Huskies find themselves again ranked No. 1 in the country after a weekend sweep of No. 3 Denver. Basse recorded a 28-save win last Friday over Denver in a 7-3 win, his ninth of the year.
- Now let’s look at two prospects the Blackhawks could draft this summer.
- First, Adam Fantilli. Heard of him?
- It was a big weekend for Fantilli as Michigan traveled to take on Minnesota. He recorded two points in each game, a goal and a primary assist on Friday night in a 4-3 overtime loss, and then a pair of goals in Michigan’s 5-4 overtime win on Saturday night.
- Fantilli is no longer the NCAA’s leading scorer, ranking sixth with 33 points in 20 games, but his 1.65 points-per-game pace does lead the country ahead of Ryan McCallister (Western Michigan).
- Since returning from winning a Gold Medal with Canada at the World Junior Championships, a tournament where he was not that great, Fantilli has seven points in four NCAA games. Still very much the No. 2 prospect in the 2023 NHL Draft Class.
- Someone who is rocketing up the 2023 NHL Draft Class rankings from a mid-second-round target to a guy who should go in the first round is USNTDP forward Gabe Perreault.
- Name sound familiar? It should. Gabe is the son of former NHLer and Blackhawks development coach since 2013 Yanic Perreault.
- Perreault had a monster game in his last outing for the U18 U.S. Development Team in the USHL as he tallied a hat-trick and two more assists in a 7-4 win over Muskegon. In his last five games for the USNTDP, Perreault has 18 points (10G, 8A) and 27 points in his last ten games played.
- Yeah, that’ll get your name headed North on NHL Draft boards.
- Perreault has 96 points in 49 combined games for the USNTDP and is nearly scoring at a goal-per-game pace with 47 in 49 combined games.
- The Blackhawks will have a shot or two in the draft to land Perreault in the mid-to-late first round.
Greg’s Notebook: Rockford IceHogs’ Offense Goes Cold, European Prospects Produce
- The Rockford IceHogs spent their weekend hosting both participants of last year’s Calder Cup Finals. The Springfield Thunderbirds, the reigning Eastern Conference champs, made their first visit to the BMO Center on Friday night. They scored early and often and built a 2-0 lead less than nine minutes into the game thanks to Mitchell Hoelscher and Hugh McGing. Luke Philp’s 14th goal of the season gave the IceHogs some life late in the period. Former IceHog Matthew Highmore scored 38 seconds into the middle frame to double Springfield’s lead. David Gust became the sixth player in the AHL to join the 20-goal club a few minutes later, but that was the last puck that got in behind Vadim Zherenko. The Thunderbirds scored the game’s final four goals to run away with a 7-2 victory. Goaltender Arvid Söderblem returned to action in his first game after leaving with a lower-body injury on Dec. 28. His return was not pretty, as he allowed seven goals on 26 shots.
- Things didn’t improve much against the Chicago Wolves the following night. The visitors struck twice in the first period with goals from Jamison Rees and former Blackhawks Brendan Perlini. Adam Clendening cut the lead in half with a second-period power-play goal. The Wolves dominated the final 20 minutes with four goals. The first two came from Noel Gunler and Ryan Suzuki. D.J. Busdeker answered Suzuki’s goal 26 seconds later with his third tally of the season. However, that was the closest the IceHogs got as Chicago iced the game with Rees’ second score of the night and a sixth and final goal from Vasily Ponomarev. Dylan Wells stopped 33 of the 39 shots he faced.
- The IceHogs earned their only point of the week in a 2-1 overtime loss at the Iowa Wild on Tuesday. Marco Rossi opened the scoring in the final minute of the second period. Cole Guttman answered early in the third period to tie the game with his 13th goal of the season. Rossi picked up his second point of the night with an assist on Nic Petan’s overtime goal. Söderblom rebounded nicely by stopping 32 of the 34 shots he faced.
- Since returning to the AHL on Jan. 13, Lucas Reichel has one assist and is minus-3 in five games. He didn’t even have a shot on goal in Saturday’s loss to Chicago. This is a likely factor in why Luke Philp was recalled by the Blackhawks when Tyler Johnson was placed on IR, not Reichel. Also, Filip Roos was recalled to Chicago, with defenseman Isaak Phillips coming back. The IceHogs recalled forward Kale Howarth from the Indy Fuel of the ECHL to take Philp’s spot on the roster.
- Gust leads the team with 20 goals. Brett Seney leads with 26 assists, and he and Gust are tied for the overall scoring lead with 41 points. Adam Clendening leads all defensemen with 19 points. He and Phillips have three goals, the most among the blueliners. Jakub Galvas’ 18 assists lead the defensive corps.
- The IceHogs have fallen to the fifth and final playoff spot in the Central Division with 45 points. However, they are in no real danger of falling out of the playoff race as they have an 11-point cushion on the sixth-place Grand Rapids Griffins. Despite the drop in the standings, they are just two points behind the Milwaukee Admirals for second place. The Texas Stars are pacing the Central with 52 points. Rockford has a big week of divisional games starting Friday at the Admirals, then Saturday at the Wolves before hosting the Manitoba Moose on Tuesday.
- Chad Yetman continued his monster season over the weekend. On Saturday night, he scored a pair of goals in the Fuel’s 4-2 win over the Fort Wayne Komets. The 2020 sixth-round pick has three goals and six points in his last five games and 17 points and 33 points in 28 ECHL games.
- Heading overseas, defenseman Michael Krutil is still looking for his first point of the season in Czechia. He was a plus-5 in his last two games in the second-tier league before getting recalled to HC Sparta Praha in the top league. The 2020 fourth-round pick had a shot on goal in 11:40 of ice time in Wednesday’s 3-2 victory over HC Litvinov.
- Ilya Safonov, a sixth-round pick in 2021, has gone cold in the KHL. He has no points in his last five games for Ak Bars Kazan and has just one goal and two points in his previous 10 outings.
- Artur Kayumov appears to be hitting his stride after missing a month of the KHL season due to injury. He had a goal and an assist in Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s 3-1 win over Vityaz Moscow on Tuesday. The elder statesman of the Blackhawks’ prospect pool has 10 goals and 25 points in 41 games.
- Riku Tohila had an assist on JYP’s lone goal during their 6-1 loss to Ässät on Sunday. The 6-foot-8 center has 17 goals and 22 points in 33 games in Finland’s top U20 league.
- On Tuesday, Antti Saarela picked up an assist in Lukko’s 3-2 loss to Kärpät. He has seven goals and 16 points in 34 Liiga games but has played much better since returning from a leg injury that kept him out of action for a month. In his last 10 games, the 2019 fourth-round pick has two goals and five points.
- The Växjö Lakers HC sent Victor Stjernborg down to the U20 league for the first time since November 2020. The 2021 fourth-round pick has struggled to find his offensive game at the SHL level. He had an assist in each of his first two games in the U20 league, so hopefully, this was the exact spark his season needed.
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