© 2023 BSN LIVE, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
We began this “Rebuild Report” with the idea that this season would be more interesting for Chicago Blackhawks fans to pay attention to the youth and prospect system rather than the product on the ice. Well, Chicago is off to a 4-2-0 start to the year, so hopefully, that has garnered your attention to begin this season.
Sure, the way the Blackhawks are winning isn’t sustainable, but maybe the way they are playing will knock them out of the running for the best odds at the top overall selection in the 2023 NHL Draft, thus hurting their chances of landing Connor Bedard. Hopefully not, but the “Rebuild Report” moves forward as there is plenty to keep an eye on, still, for the future of the Blackhawks.
So no, the “rebuild” is not over after just six games.
Mario’s Notebook: Could Fantilli Narrow Gap Between Him and Bedard?
- There’s little-to-no question that Connor Bedard is the top overall prospect in the 2023 NHL Draft class. This has been the case for well over a year now. But with the peculiar case of Shane Wright in this past summer’s draft and how he has been handled by the Seattle Kraken, there are no guarantees when it comes to prospects. Often thought of as the third-best prospect in this year’s draft class, could Michigan phenom Adam Fantilli close the gap between him and Bedard and be considered a potential first-overall selection?
- Bedard is still the leading scorer in the WHL this season with ten goals and 22 points in 13 games with the Regina Pats. He registered an assist in his last outing, extending his current point streak to 12 games.
- He’s still the consensus No. 1 overall prospect. But Fantilli is no slouch himself, leading the NCAA in scoring as a freshman with five goals and 15 points in just six games. 15 points in six games!
- It was a big week for Fantilli last weekend as he recorded seven points and was named the Big Ten Hockey First Star of the Week.
- The debate between the top three draft prospects in this 2023 class, regarding Bedard, Fantilli, and Matvei Michkov, is usually held to “what would team ‘x’ do with the second or third pick?” But if Fantilli continues on this kind of pace at Michigan, and the perception of Michkov and his Russian/KHL future don’t improve, there could be real cases to be made that Fantilli could be the top player in the draft. But he’s going to have to continue this kind of historic pace to enter those conversations.
- The other question is, will the Blackhawks even be in the conversation for Bedard or Fantilli once the draft rolls around? This 4-2-0 start suggests otherwise…
- If that’s the case, well, here’s the first list from NHL Central Scouting of the 2023 Draft class who received ‘A’ ratings, meaning they are considered first-round talents.
- Maybe it would be a good idea to keep an eye on a couple more of these names as the season goes on, as the chances of being in the mix for Bedard or Fantilli might become slimmer. Might.
- Regarding current Blackhawks prospects, 2022 seventh-overall selection Kevin Korchinski is also lighting up the WHL. He is tied for the lead in the league for scoring amongst defensemen with 12 points in just six games played. Of players in the WHL that has played more than one game, Korchinski is one of six players in the league with a 2.00 point-per-game pace or better to begin the season.
- Not to be outdone among the Blackhawks’ CHL prospects, 2022 third-round pick Gavin Hayes also has 12 points to begin his OHL season with the Flint Firebirds. Hayes has six goals and six assists through his first 11 games of the year, looking to lead Flint again in a deep postseason run.
- Also in the OHL, Paul Ludwinski is back healthy after suffering a concussion in the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase and is off to a hot start with the Kingston Frontenacs. In his first five games of the year, the 2022 second-round pick has notched a goal and four assists.
- The concussion Ludwinski suffered earlier this summer in Chicago was his first. Not that those are something you want to count, per se, but the experience was a daunting one for Ludwinski, as he told The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler, but it won’t stop the aggressive centerman from playing his style of hockey.
- Speaking of players who suffered concussions at the Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase, Kelowna Rockets Captain Colton Dach is still listed as week-to-week with an Upper-Body injury by the club. He was placed in concussion protocol last week.
- In college hockey notes, three Blackhawks prospects are playing at point-per-game paces in the NCAA to begin this season. Jake Wise has eight points in eight games for Ohio State, Ryder Rolston has six points in six games for Notre Dame, and Ryan Greene has five points in five games for Boston.
- Often forgotten in the Blackhawks goaltending prospect discussion is former 2019 sixth-round pick, Dominic Basse. That should start to change after the beginning of his first season with St. Cloud State. After transferring from Colorado College, Basse is 3-0-0 with a shutout and a .944 save percentage (SV%) in his first three games with the Huskies. He recorded a 34-save performance over the weekend in a win over Minnesota State to keep St. Cloud State perfect to begin the year at 6-0-0. With a two-game sweep over Minnesota State, St. Cloud jumped to No. 2 in the country in both the USA Hockey and USCHO rankings.
- Basse is one of just three goalies in the NCAA to start at least three games for their program and have a perfect record.
Greg’s Notebook: IceHogs off to a slow start, European update
- The Rockford IceHogs opened their home schedule last weekend at the newly rebranded BMO Center. Fans were treated to the unveiling of a new jumbotron over center ice, LED ribbon boards around the rink, and upgrades to the concourse. However, the team dropped their first two home games of the season; 4-1 to the Chicago Wolves on Saturday and 6-3 to the Manitoba Moose on Sunday.
- Lukas Reichel picked up right where he left off last season in the American Hockey League (AHL). He had the lone goal versus the Wolves and the primary assists on both Brett Seney’s goals against the Moose. He had two goals and six points through the first four games of the season and 23 goals and 63 points in 60 career AHL contests.
- A worrisome stat from the weekend was that Reichel only had one shot on goal in each of the two games. I asked IceHogs’ play-by-play voice, Joseph Zakrzewski if this was something to be concerned about.
“There is no question the opposition took note of what Reichel can do. You could see the progression he’s made in his game, especially being stronger with the puck. He drew two or three slashing penalties because of his speed. There has been extra attention to a playmaker like Lukas’ ability. He’s got some scorers around him, and that’s helped his hot start along with the development and progression he made in the offseason.”
- Seney scored twice on Sunday and is tied with Luke Philp, who also lit the lamp against Manitoba, for the team lead with three goals. He also had an assist on Reichel’s goal versus the Wolves. Seney (3 G, 1 A), Philp (3 G, 1 A), and David Gust (1 G, 3 A) are all tied for second on the team in scoring with four points.
- Alex Vlasic made his AHL debut by playing in both games. He finished with one shot on goal and two penalty minutes. He finished Sunday’s game as a +1 in a game the IceHogs allowed six goals.
- Goaltender Jaxson Stauber made his professional debut over the weekend. He made his first AHL start versus the Wolves and gave up three goals on 28 shots. He came in the game to relieve Dylan Wells on Sunday after he allowed five goals through 40 minutes. Stauber stopped seven of the eight shots he faced in the final frame. He has a 3.07 goals-against average (GAA) and a .889 SV% through the first four periods of his pro career. He will get an extended look as Arvid Soderblom remains with the Blackhawks while Petr Mrazek is dealing with a groin injury.
- Cole Guttman, who was impressive during training camp, entered concussion protocol dating back to Oct. 15.
- Two prospects left the system on Wednesday. Defenseman Nicolas Beaudin, a first-round pick in 2018, was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for forward Cameron Hillis. The 22-year-old started the season in the ECHL but has five goals and nine points in 24 career AHL games. Evan Barratt, drafted in the third round in 2017, was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers for defenseman Cooper Zech. The 5-foot-9 left-hander has four goals and 36 points in 131 AHL games.
- In Europe, defenseman Michael Krutil was loaned from HC Spart Praha to HC Banik Sokolov of the Chance Liga. This is the Czechia equivalent of being sent down to the AHL from the NHL.
- Ilya Safonov had a goal in last Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Salavat Yulaev Ufa. He now has six goals and eight points in 20 KHL games for Ak Bars Kazan.
- Riku Tohila continued his big year in Finland with a huge weekend for the JYP U20 team. He had a goal in a 6-3 win over SaiPa on Saturday. The 6-foot-8 center followed that up by scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory against Kiekko-Espoo on Sunday. He now has 10 goals and 14 points in 17 games this season.
- Victor Stjernborg had an assist during Vaxjo Lakers HC’s two-game weekend. The 2021 fourth-round pick has a pair of assists in 13 games this season, with both coming in the last five games.
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!