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The Chicago Blackhawks are in the midst of a four-game losing streak, which has fans focusing back on the tank. Not that we had visions of a long Stanley Cup Playoff run at the United Center, but it was nice to talk about some winning hockey for a change. No matter if the NHL squad is winning or losing, Mario Tirabassi and Greg Boysen will update you every week on how the Blackhawks’ prospects are doing around the globe. Mario has the North American college and junior ranks covered, while Greg brings you updates from the professional ranks.
Mario’s Notebook: College ‘Hawks Stepping Up
- Let’s get to the “potential” future Blackhawks prospects first, even if the chances of maybe landing one of these two players are growing slimmer. Across the board, the top three prospects in the 2023 Draft Class have been Connor Bedard, Matvei Michkov, and Adam Fantilli, mostly in that order. But the start to the season for Fantilli and the unknown surrounding Michkov in Russia have pushed many to rank Fantilli second behind Bedard, jumping Michkov in the class rankings.
- Friend of the show Chris Peters has Fantilli second behind Bedard for FloHockey, saying, “The size, the speed, and the skill make Fantilli one of the draft’s premier players and, as we wrote not so long ago, way more than a consolation prize.”
- Another friend of the show, The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler, also has Fantilli moving up to second on his draft board behind Bedard. “At 6-foot-2 and about 200 pounds, he might be the best skater in this draft. It’s not often we see players his size who can move like him. His skating is balanced. It’s powerful when it needs to be and light and adjustable when it needs to be. Within his movement patterns, he can handle the puck on a string. He’s going to be a transition monster.”
- As the Blackhawks have started the season 4-4-2, the tank standings are not favorable for Chicago to land either player. But there is still a lot of this season still to play, and the way that the Blackhawks have won their games is relatively unsustainable. A crash back to Earth is likely coming, but they may have more work to get back into that bottom-three range.
- If it wasn’t clear before, watching Bedard and Fantilli as they have begun their draft year seasons has been a sight to see.
- Fantilli is the real deal, and I cannot wait to see him play in person on November 11 when the CHGO Blackhawks crew heads to South Bend, IN, to watch Notre Dame and Michigan square off.
- Bedard isn’t coming to the area any time soon to see him in person, but even from afar, you can see the skillset he possesses that makes him a slam-dunk at No. 1 this year.
- Bedard leads the WHL in scoring with 13 goals and 29 points through 15 games with the Regina Pats.
- Staying in the WHL, good news on the injury front as Kelowna Rockets Captain Colton Dach was moved from a “week-to-week” designation to a “day-to-day” designation while he is in concussion protocol. A good sign for the 2021 second-round pick.
- 2021 first-round pick Nolan Allan tallied his third goal of the season for the Prince Albert Raiders on Tuesday night.
- Allan has three goals and six points through his first 10 games this season.
- 2022 first-round pick Kevin Korchinski is tied for second in the WHL in points for defensemen with 16 in his first nine games with the Seattle Thunderbirds this year. He has one goal and 15 assists on the season after notching three assists in his last game on Tuesday night. Korchinksi has points in eight of his nine games this season and began the year with a seven-game point streak.
- Korchinski is tied with Gavin Hayes for the most points by a prospect in the Blackhawks’ system. Both have 16 points on the year, with Hayes tallying eight goals and eight assists in 13 OHL games with the Flint Firebirds. Hayes is currently on a five-game point streak.
- Staying in the OHL, 2021 fourth-round pick and Mississauga Steelheads Captain Ethan Del Mastro is tied for fourth in the league for scoring gaming defensemen. He has two goals and 12 points in ten games to begin the OHL season.
- It was a big week for the Blackhawks’ college prospects, especially for a Minnesota-Duluth team that bolsters forward Dominic James and defenseman Wyatt Kaiser.
- James scored not one but two goals in a 4-2 win over Cornell last weekend.
- The 2022 sixth-round pick has three goals and three assists in eight games this season.
- Not to be left out, 2020 third-round pick Kaiser tallied his second goal of the season in the same game.
- Kaiser also tallied a goal in the first of two wins for the Bulldogs over Cornell last weekend and had a good enough performance in the pair of games to be named the NCHC Defenseman of the Week!
- After dealing with a minor injury, Blackhawks goaltending prospect Drew Commesso was back in the net for Boston University last weekend. He made 29 saves in a 2-1 overtime win for the Terriers over UMass-Lowell, including this breakaway save in overtime.
- It has been a rough start to the season for Commesso. A 2020 second-round pick by Chicago, Commesso does hold a 2-1-0 record to begin his third NCAA season, but his .877 save percentage, and 3.66 GAA tell a bit of a different story. Hopefully, he’s now fully healthy and can get back to the form he had in the second half of last season, where he won nine of his last 14 starts.
- The other NCAA goaltending prospect for the Blackhawks, St. Cloud State’s Dominic Basse, is off to the best start of his college career. After two seasons with Colorado College, Basse transferred to St. Cloud State and has helped them to the No. 4 ranking in the NCAA to begin the year.
- St. Cloud is off to a 7-1-0 start to the year, with Basse having a perfect 4-0-0 record in his four starts after getting a 4-1 win last weekend over Bemidji State. The 2019 sixth-round pick holds a .945 save percentage and a 1.25 GAA with a shutout as well this season. Good enough to garner the HCA Goaltender of the Month honors.
Greg’s Notebook: IceHogs’ offense starts clicking
The Rockford IceHogs had a very busy and eventful week, playing three times since the last time we met. They earned a pair of victories over the weekend against the Chicago Wolves and Belleville Senators before dropping a School Day Game to the Milwaukee Admirals on Wednesday.
- The week started with the IceHogs avenging their home opener loss to the Wolves by beating the reigning Calder Cup champions 5-3. Former Wolves forward David Gust factored on every scoring play with two goals and three assists. Brett Seney scored his fourth goal of the season, while defensemen Jakub Galvas and Alec Regula both found the back of the net for the first time.
- The IceHogs doubled-down on their victory by destroying Belleville 8-2 on Saturday night. At one point, Rockford had an 8-0 lead and a 22-1 shot advantage. Dylan Sikura scored his first two goals of the season, while top prospect Lukas Reichel added two more tallies. Carson Gicewicz, Buddy Robinson, Regula, and Mike Hardman also lit the lamp for the home team.
- Gust was named the AHL’s Player of the Week on Monday. He added two more helpers on Saturday night to finish the weekend with two goals and seven points.
- Following the two-goal weekend, Regula was recalled by the Blackhawks as they put star defenseman Seth Jones on IR with a thumb injury. The young blueliner was a healthy scratch for Tuesday night’s game against the New York Islanders.
- The entire Blackhawks organization is feeling the woes of goaltending injuries. IceHogs starter Arvid Soderblom was recalled by the Blackhawks after Peter Mrazek went down with a groin injury. This gave the Rockford net to Jaxson Stauber and Dylan Wells. Stauber was injured on Saturday when a shot broke through his mask and hit him in the eye. Wells signed an NHL contract on Wednesday, leading the IceHogs to recall Mitchell Weeks from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel and sign Owen Savory to a PTO.
- Weeks made his AHL debut versus the Admirals on Wednesday morning and gave up six goals on 31 shots. The IceHogs trailed 4-1 midway through the second period but got to within one goal before Cole Schneider’s empty-netter gave Milwaukee a 6-4 win. Gust continued his hot streak with two more goals. Robinson and Adam Clendening also scored for the IceHogs, while Hardman and Isaak Phillips each picked their fourth assists.
- Alex Vlasic picked up his first career AHL point with an assist during the loss to Milwaukee. He is a plus-5 through five games with six shots on goal and four penalty minutes.
- Gust leads the team with five goals, eight assists, and 13 points. Seney and Reichel each of four goals, while Luke Philp has three. Seney is second on the team with seven assists and 11 points. Reichel sits third with six assists and 10 points.
- The IceHogs are 3-4-0-0 on the season, and their six points have them in fifth place in the AHL Central Division. For the second straight season, 23 teams will qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs. The top five teams in the Central will advance to the postseason. The Manitoba Moose sit in first place with 11 points, five of which came at the IceHogs’ expense. Rockford will be home this weekend, hosting the Grand Rapids Griffins Saturday night and the Iowa Wild on Sunday afternoon.
- Chad Yetman, a sixth-round pick in 2020, is off to a hot start for the Fuel. He posted his second two-goal game of the early season in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Reading Royals. He had four goals and six points in four ECHL games. He played in 18 AHL games for the IceHogs last season.
- In the KHL, Ilya Safonov had three points in his last two games for Ak Bars Kazan. He had a goal and an assist in Sunday’s 5-2 win over Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk. He followed that up on Tuesday with a goal during a 3-2 loss to CSKA Moscow. The 2021 sixth-round pick now has eight goals and 11 points in 22 games.
- Staying in Russia, the elder statesman of the Blackhawks’ prospect pool, Artur Kayumov, had a big week. On Saturday, he had two goals in Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s 2-0 victory over Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. He assisted on the only goal of Monday’s 1-0 win against Dinamo Minsk. The 24-year-old is up to four goals and 14 points in 23 KHL games.
- Riku Tohila continued his big season for JYP’s U20 team in Finland. The 6-foot-8 center scored a goal in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Karpat. He has 11 goals and 15 points in 19 games.
- Antti Saarela has been out of action since suffering a leg injury on 10/14. The latest update from Lukko on 10/31 said he is still rehabbing and did not give a timeline for a return to game action. He has three goals and five points in 11 Liiga games.
- Victor Stjernborg had an assist and two shots on goal during Tuesday’s 4-2 win for Vaxjo Lakers HC over Frolunda. The 2021 fourth-rounder has three assists in 16 SHL games, averaging just over 12 minutes of ice time per contest.
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