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The Chicago Blackhawks might not be at the bottom of the NHL standings at the moment, but don’t fret. One win in every three games would give them around 54 points in the standings, which would very likely put them in a good position for the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. Although, right now, the San Jose Sharks and the *checks notes* Minnesota Wild (?!) are making it hard on the Blackhawks’ tank early on. With that in mind, here is the latest installment of the Rebuild Report from Greg Boysen and Mario Tirabassi as the Rockford IceHogs get the AHL season underway and two marquee Blackhawks prospects are put on the shelf.
Mario’s Notebook: Injury bug hits key prospects
- For the NCAA, USHL, and CHL prospects in the Blackhawks system, the theme this week has, unfortunately, been surrounding injuries. Both Frank Nazar and Colton Dach are facing potentially lengthy injury stints that don’t sound great for two players who were entering crucial times in their development journeys and were going to be focal points for Blackhawks fans when paying attention to the prospect system.
- Regarding Nazar, it appears he is having surgery to take care of a lower-body injury that he sustained sometime between the U.S. World Junior camp and reporting to the University of Michigan. According to Michigan interim head coach Brandon Naurato when speaking with The Athletic’s Scott Powers, there is potential for Nazar to return at some point in February, but it is also possible the recovery timeline rules him out for the entire NCAA season.
- In the case of Dach, after being named the Captain of the Kelowna Rockets and scoring an overtime game-winner in the first week of the WHL season, he sustained a concussion after taking a high hit earlier this week. You’ll remember that Dach missed a significant portion of Blackhawks training camp due to a concussion he suffered during the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase. This would mark the second concussion for Dach in the span of just about a month. Not good. Dach is in concussion protocol and is considered week-to-week by the Kelowna Rockets.
- In more uplifting news, a number of Blackhawks prospects are playing at point-per-game or better paces early in the 2022-23 season.
Kevin Korchinski (WHL – Seattle): eight points in five games
Ethan Del Mastro (OHL – Mississauga): seven points in five games
Ryder Rolston (NCAA – Notre Dame): six points in four games
Ryan Greene (NCAA – Boston University): four points in three games
Paul Ludwinski (OHL – Kingston): three points in two games
Colton Dach (WHL – Kelowna): three points in three games
Connor Kelley (NCAA – Providence): three points in three games
- In net, top goaltending prospect Drew Commesso had a rough outing in his last start, allowing six goals on 19 shots faced in a 9-2 loss for Boston University against Michigan. Commesso was pulled in the second period.
- On a better goaltending note, Dominic Basse is 2-0-0 to begin the season with St. Cloud State. Basse recorded a 15-save shutout against St. Thomas earlier this month and followed it up with a 19-save performance in a 2-1 win over Wisconsin.
- Future potential prospects to keep an eye on for the upcoming 2023 Draft Class include guys like Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli, obviously. Bedard leads the WHL in scoring this season with nine goals and 20 points in 11 games. Fantilli is currently in a four-way tie for second in the NCAA in scoring, with eight points in his first four games as a freshman at the University of Michigan. Ho hum.
- As far as future potential prospects, we haven’t been keeping as close of tabs on them because they are not considered one of the top three in the draft class, here are a few to make a note of just in the off-chance that the Blackhawks will not be drafting in the first three selections of the 2023 NHL Draft.
Brayden Yager (WHL – Moose Jaw): Three goals and 11 points for Yager in his first nine WHL games of the season. He’s pretty much the fourth-best prospect in the draft class by most accounts. At 6-foot and 165-pounds, he’s not the most physically imposing centerman, but his shot and hockey sense are what scouts love about him and what makes him an elite-level prospect. He was the WHL and CHL Rookie of the Year last season.
Matthew Wood (NCAA – UConn): A versatile winger with desirable size (6’3″, 195lb), Wood tore up the BCHL last season with 40 goals and 85 points in 46 games, earning the rookie of the year award and ending the 2021-22 season as the league’s top scorer. He comes to UConn with a major opportunity to lead as a freshman at a non-power university.
Calum Ritchie (OHL – Oshawa): After leading Canada in points (10) at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament and winning a Gold Medal, Ritchie is off to a hot start for the Generals in the OHL with four goals and nine points in the first seven games of the season. He’s another centerman with desirable size at 6’2″ and just about 190-pounds and was named to the OHL All-Rookie team last season.
Greg’s Notebook: IceHogs Split Weekend in Manitoba, Kayumov’s Big Week & more
- The Rockford IceHogs opened their season over the weekend by splitting a pair of games at the Manitoba Moose. On Saturday, they erased a 3-0 third-period deficit on their way to a thrilling 5-4 overtime. They could not find the late-game magic in Sunday’s rematch, a 4-0 loss to the Moose.
- Top prospect Lukas Reichel did not disappoint in Saturday’s season-opening win. The young forward had a goal and two assists and was one of three IceHogs to finish with three points. Reichel had two shots on goal and was on the ice for all four goals against Sunday.
- Luke Philp had an excellent debut for Rockford on Saturday. He scored the team’s opening goal, then sent the game into overtime by scoring again late in regulation. He also picked up the secondary assist on Brett Seney’s game-winning goal in extra time. Philp is coming off a career season with the Stockton Heat, putting up 21 goals and 44 points in 66 games.
- David Gust was the third player who had a three-point game on Saturday. He assisted on the opening goal, scored the next one, and had the primary assist on the overtime tally. The Orland Park native was a big contributor to the Chicago Wolves’ Calder Cup championship last season and will look to add the same to Rockford’s lineup now.
- Arvid Söderblom is the best goaltending prospect in the professional ranks and is looking to build on a solid rookie season. He started both games over the weekend and gave up seven goals and 72 shots. He has a 3.47 goals-against average (GAA) and a .903 save percentage (SV%). Those numbers will improve as the season progresses. He will likely get the start for the home opener on Saturday versus the Wolves. With the quick turnaround in hosting Manitoba on Sunday afternoon, Jaxson Stauber should get his first AHL start.
- Before the team headed north of the border, they announced their leadership group for the new season. Garrett Mitchell will serve as captain for the third straight season. He will be joined by defenseman Adam Clendening and forwards Josiah Slavin and Dylan Sikura as alternate captains.
- Meanwhile, in the ECHL, the Indy Fuel lost to the Cincinnati Cyclones in a pair of preseason contests over the weekend; 4-1 on Friday and 5-4 on Saturday. Recent draft picks forward Chad Yetman and goaltender Mitchell Weeks will be on the opening night roster. They begin the season on Friday night by hosting the Fort Wayne Komets.
- In Czechia, 2020 fourth-round pick Michael Krutil finally made his season debut for HC Sparta Praha after missing the first month due to injury. He had no points in three games with two shots on goal. He played over 16 minutes in each of the last two games.
- The Blackhawks’ 2016 second-round pick Artur Kayumov had a big week for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. On Saturday, he had two primary assists in a 3-2 victory over Dinamo Minsk. He followed that up on Tuesday with the game-tying goal in a 5-4 overtime win over Severstal Cherepovets. Kayumov has two goals and 10 points in 18 KHL games.
- Ilya Safonov’s up-and-down season in the KHL continues. After scoring four goals and six points during a five-game point streak, he has gone pointless in his last three contests for Ak Bars Kazan. The 21-year-old center now has five goals and seven points in 17 games.
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