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!

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate Chicago Blackhawks Community!

Chicago Blackhawks Rebuild Report: The Postseason is nigh in the prospect world

Mario Tirabassi Avatar
March 9, 2023

The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, so fans for many teams can start focusing on the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That is not the case for us as Chicago Blackhawks fans, but several future Blackhawks are getting ready for postseason runs of their own. Mario Tirabassi and Greg Boysen have crossed the globe to keep you up to date on all things prospects as we get closer to the 2022-23 season’s end.

Mario’s Notebook: NCAA and CHL Postseason Time is Nearly Here

  • Hey, there are no Blackhawks playoffs coming this season, or for the foreseeable future, but the IceHogs are in a playoff push, and there are plenty of Blackhawks prospects that are going to be playing significant hockey into the spring. Both in the NCAA and across the CHL, the Blackhawks will be well represented and have a good chance at having someone playing for either a National Title or even a Memorial Cup.
  • Starting in the NCAA, here’s a quick rundown of where Blackhawks prospects are in their respective conference tournaments as we inch closer to the NCAA Tournament and the Frozen Four.
  • Jake Wise (Ohio State) – Big Ten Semifinal vs Michigan
    Frank Nazar (Michigan) – Big Ten Semifinal vs Ohio State
    Landon Slaggert (Notre Dame) – Eliminated from Big Ten
    Ryder Rolston (Notre Dame) – Eliminated from Big Ten
    Wyatt Kaiser (Minnesota-Duluth) – NCHC First Round vs St. Cloud State
    Dominic James (Minnesota-Duluth) – NCHC First Round vs St. Cloud State
    Dominic Basse (St. Cloud State) – NCHC First Round vs Minnesota-Duluth
    Aidan Thompson (Denver) – NCHC First Round vs Miami (Ohio)
    Liam Gorman (Princeton) – ECAC Second Round vs Harvard
    Ryan Greene (Boston) – Hockey East First Round vs Vermont
    Drew Commesso (Boston) – Hockey East First Round vs Vermont
    Slava Demin (Merrimack) – Hockey East First Round vs Boston College
    Taige Harding (Providence) – Hockey East First Round vs Northeastern
    Connor Kelley (Providence) – Hockey East First Round vs Northeastern
  • All of these games begin this weekend!
  • One name from the NCAA ranks that is getting around the Blackhawks channels this week has been Minnesota-Duluth defenseman, Wyatt Kaiser. According to The Athletic’s Scott Powers, the Blackhawks’ plan for Kaiser appears to be that once his season ends, he’ll sign his entry-level contract and burn the first year of that deal with the NHL Club this season.
  • Count me in for as many new faces on this team to end the season that likely has a future with the Blackhawks beyond the 2022-23 season.
  • Kaiser finished the regular season with Minnesota-Duluth playing in 32 games with four goals and 19 points and earned himself a spot on the NCHC Conference Second Team.
  • Another player that could be joining the Blackhawks organization very soon is Notre Dame forward Landon Slaggert. With Notre Dame eliminated in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, there is a 99% chance the season is completely over for Slaggert and the Irish.
  • This season was rough for the third-year forward, playing in 35 games with seven goals and 14 points on the season. There’s a likelihood that Slaggert also signs his entry-level contract very soon and joins the organization, but there’s a sense that he may stay for his Senior season with Notre Dame. Slaggert’s dad, Andy, is the head coach of the Irish and his younger brother is going to be a freshman at Notre Dame next season, so there are family connections to maybe sway his decision to stay one last year.
  • Or he jumps at the opportunity to become a pro, with little left to prove at the NCAA level. We shall see.
  • Yet another name with “turning pro” rumors swirling around him is Boston’s goaltender Drew Commesso. He’s had an up-and-down season in his third year at Boston, but Commesso still factors into the plans between the pipes for Chicago in the very near future.
  • A deep run in the Hockey East tournament and a run in the NCAA tournament could postpone Commesso’s jump to the professional ranks, but with the situation in net for the Blackhawks not really mattering next season, there’s no need to rush him if he and the organization feel one final year in college would be more beneficial. Commesso has a .910 save percentage this season with a 2.59 GAA and a 19-7-0 record.
  • Speaking of Boston making a run in postseason play, one of their driving factors will be Blackhawks’ 2022 second-round pick Ryan Greene. With nine goals and 27 points in 32 games this season, Greene was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie team.
  • Greene and Commesso enter their conference tournament action ranked fifth in the NCAA, with Michigan, Denver, Quinnipiac, and Minnesota rounding out the Top-Five.
  • Speaking of Michigan, Frank Nazar and Adam Fantilli march on in the Big Ten tournament after making quick work of the Wisconsin Badgers in the opening round. They move on to face arch-rival Ohio State, along with Jake Wise, in the single-elimination portion of the conference tournament.
  • Fantilli continues to have a historically monstrous college season with 25 goals and 56 points in 31 NCAA games.
  • As the third-youngest player in the NCAA right now, Fantilli leads all college players in points and is second in goals. He continues to be the next-best option in the 2023 NHL Draft Class behind Connor Bedard.
  • Speaking of Connor Bedard, the phenom continues his dominance of the WHL with his 60th goal of the season coming on Wednesday night.
  • 60 goals and 124 points in 49 games for Bedard in the WHL this season. If you add in his production at the World Junior Championships this past winter, Bedard has 69 goals (nice) and 147 points in 56 games played. That’s incredible,
  • At the beginning of the month, The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler dropped his latest batch of NHL Draft rankings. At the top of the list, spoiler alert, are both Bedard and Fantilli.
  • Also, for no reason, Wheeler dropped his predictions for next winter’s World Junior Championship Canadian roster as they look to three-peat as Gold Medalists. You’ll see a familiar Blackhawks name in here…
  • Kevin Korchinski continues to be viewed as the top prospect in the Blackhawks’ system and for good reason. In 47 WHL games this season, Korchinksi has eight goals and 63 points, good for fifth in the league amongst defensemen, and he has played over a dozen fewer games than other players ahead of him.
  • Since returning to the Seattle Thunderbirds after the World Junior Championships, Korchinski has recorded at least one point in 23 of 26 games and has racked up 35 points in that span of time.
  • With Korchinksi firing on all cylinders, the Seattle Thunderbirds have themselves locked into a WHL playoff spot and have won the U.S. Division for the first time in seven years. They head into the WHL playoffs with three Blackhawks prospects, along with Nolan Allan and Colton Dach. Unfortunately, it appears Dach is once again dealing with an injury (lower body) that has kept him out of the lineup for the past two weeks.
  • Elsewhere across the CHL, here are where the Blackhawks’ prospects stand as playoff time draws near.
  • Kevin Korchinski, Nolan Allan, Colton Dach (Seattle) – WHL Western Conference No. 1 Seed (Division and playoffs clinched)
    Jalen Luypen (Tri-City) – WHL Western Conference No. 6 Seed (playoffs clinched)
    Samuel Savoie (Gatineau) – QMJHL Western Conference No. 2 Seed (playoffs clinched)
    Gavin Hayes (Flint) – OHL Western Conference No. 5 Seed
    Paul Ludwinski (Kingston) – OHL Eastern Conference No. 9 Seed (not in playoff picture)
    Ethan Deal Mastro (Sarnia) – OHL Western Conference No. 3 Seed (playoffs clinched)
  • While the WHL is being dominated by the Blackhawks-heavy Thunderbirds, don’t forget about 2021 seventh-round pick Jalen Luypen and the Tri-City Americans. Luypen has 13 goals and 29 points in his 31 WHL games this season, including at least one goal in five of his last six games.
  • Luypen is reminding you to tip your servers on your way out.
  • In the OHL, the prospect that is on everyone’s mind is defenseman Ethan Del Mastro. After proving his worth as a defensively-focused defenseman, Del Mastro has turned up the offensive output this season with six goals and 52 points in 45 games between the Mississauga Steelheads and Sarnia Sting.
  • In his last 10 games for Sarnia, Del Mastro has recorded a point in six of them. All six of those games have been multi-point efforts, racking up 15 points in that stretch of time including back-to-back three-point games in his last two appearances for Sarnia.

Greg’s Notebook: Roster Shuffle in Rockford, Postseason Begins in Europe

  • Since the last Rebuild Report, the IceHogs have gone through a ton of roster turnover, thanks to the NHL trade deadline. No legit prospects came to Rockford, but several players who can play key roles down the stretch and into the postseason were still added. Pavel Gogolev was acquired in the trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for Jake McCabe and Sam Lafferty. Andy Welinski came over in the Patrick Kane trade with the New York Rangers, which also saw defenseman Cooper Zech going the other way. Veteran defenseman Adam Clendening was traded to the Hartford Wolf Pack for Zach Jordan. Carson Gicewicz was traded to the Rochester Americans for future considerations. Dylan Sikura was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks for Maxim Golod. The IceHogs also received Rocco Grimaldi and Logan Nijhoff from the San Diego Gulls, the Ducks’ AHL affiliate. Finally, goaltender Dylan Wells was involved in the trade that sent Max Domi to the Dallas Stars. Veteran netminder Anton Khudobin was part of the return and headed to Rockford.  
  • The new-look IceHogs continued their trip through Canada by stopping at the Belleville Senators on Friday night. The visitors had the lone goal of the first period as Bobby Lynch’s eighth tally of the season broke the scoreless tie. Former IceHog John Quenneville tied the game with a power-play goal in the second period. Angus Crookshank scored the game-winning goal early in the final frame before the Senators used empty-net goals by Egor Sokolov and Cole Cassels to pull away to a 4-1 win. Jaxson Stauber made 32 saves in the losing effort.
  • The following night saw a very interesting lineup against the Laval Rocket. Brett Seney and D.J. Busdecker were both injured the previous night in Belleville. David Gust returned home to be with his wife for the birth of their first daughter. Defenseman Jakub Galvas and Alec Regula were placed in concussion protocol, while Grimaldi and Khudobin had not reported to the team yet. Despite having to dress a patchwork lineup that included two defensemen playing forward, the IceHogs used a Herculean effort by Arvid Soderblom to steal a 2-1 shootout victory. Two new additions combined for the game’s opening goal as Gogolev deflected a Welinski shot into the Rocket net in the first period. Laval tied the game when Mitchell Stephens scored off a rebound with just 15 seconds left in regulation. The IceHogs went into overtime for a league-leading 20th time. The game needed an extended shootout to determine the winner. Cameron Hillis scored in the second round before Morgan Adams-Moisan won it in the 11th round. Anthony Richard scored for Laval in the first round before Soderblom kept them off the board for 10-straight rounds. He finished the night with 44 saves, earning his team two huge points in the standings.
  • On Monday, the team announced that Seney and Busdecker were placed in concussion protocol. The IceHogs also recalled Golod and Zach Jordan from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel.
  • In an unexpected and strange move, Gogolev was placed on waivers Wednesday to buy out his contract. Per a team source, the move was a mutual agreement, so Gogolov could return to the Newfoundland Growlers of the ECHL instead of playing for the Fuel. This also opens up a slot for another contract, as junior or college players potentially join the pro ranks in the next few weeks.
  • Once he officially joins the team, Grimaldi will be the IceHogs leading scorer, as he had 27 goals and 56 points in 54 games with the Gulls. Of the players who have been in Rockford all season, Gust leads with 24 goals and 50 points. He and Seney are tied for the team lead in assists with 26. Galvas leads all defensemen with 22 assists and 24 points. Regula’s five goals are the most among the blueliners.
  • The IceHogs currently sit fourth in the Central Division with 62 points. The top five teams will qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs, so they have a nine-point cushion on a postseason berth. The Texas Stars still sit atop the Central with 70 points but have the Manitoba Moose and Milwaukee Admirals on their heels with 69 points. Rockford will spend the weekend on the road, at the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday, and in Rosemont to take on the Chicago Wolves on Saturday. They return home Wednesday night to host the Moose.
  • Let’s head down to the ECHL and check in on the Fuel as they picked up back-to-back 3-2 wins over the Wheeling Nailers and Cincinnati Cyclones. Chad Yetman had an assist in each of the victories. He is up to 23 goals and 47 points in 45 games for Indy.
  • Moving overseas to the European prospects, we will begin in Russia, where the KHL has started its postseason. Ilya Safonov and Ak Bars Kazan are taking on Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk in the Conference Quarterfinals. Ak Bars took a 3-2 series lead with a Game 5 victory on Thursday and can close out the series on Saturday. Safonov has a goal and an assist in the series. The 21-year-old forward has progressed nicely this season and could become a legit NHL prospect if and when he comes to North America.
  • Meanwhile, Artur Kayumov and Lokomotiv Yaroslavl have won three straight over Vityaz Moscow Region after dropping Game 1 of their Conference Quarterfinal. Kayumov had a goal in a 5-2 Game 2 victory.
  • Defenseman and 2020 fourth-round pick Michael Krutil continues to play for HC Banik Sokolov in Czechia’s top pro league. He is still searching for his first point of the season, but he skated a season-high 20:12 in their most recent contest.
  • Riku Tohila, a seventh-round pick in 2022, ended his scoring drought with a goal and an assist for the JYP U20 team on Saturday. These were his first points at any level since Jan. 21. The 6-foot-8 center went ice cold after a tremendous start to his season. He has 18 goals and 24 points to go with 65 penalty minutes in 42 U20 games.
  • Finally, in Sweden, Victor Stjernborg and the Växjö Lakers are preparing for the SHL playoffs, which begin on Saturday. The Lakers will enter the postseason as the top seed, as they will finish the regular season with the most points. Heading into today’s regular-season finale, Stjernborg played in 41 games and picked up six assists. This will be his third trip to the SHL playoffs with Växjö. He has one assist in his previous 12 postseason games.
  • UPDATE: In the final regular season game of the year, Stjernborg scored his first SHL goal in nearly two years. Great confidence booster for him as the Lakers head into the postseason.

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!

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Comments

Share your thoughts

Join the conversation

The Comment section is only for diehard members

Open comments +

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?