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NHL Draft: Blackhawks' biggest needs, top prospects

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Only five teams in the NHL were worse than the Chicago Blackhawks this season, and all of them have a first-round pick to help a rebuild.

The Blackhawks are without one this year after trading their first-round picks in 2021 and 2022, and eighth-overall selection Adam Boqvist for Seth Jones. It’s a trade that will haunt Chicago for the next decade.

The team attempted to acquire back a first-round pick in exchange for Marc-Andre Fleury, but the conditions of the pick were not met, so it became the 55th-overall selection. Chicago did acquire an extra first in 2023, but looking at the slump this team is in, 2023 seems a long way off.

Should GM Kyle Davidson be able to convince Patrick Kane and/or Jonathan Toews to move at the deadline this year, it’s an opportunity to turn the trajectory of this club around. Still, there is hope in Chicago with a deep group of younger players already in the NHL. How they’re able to step forward as a team is yet to be seen.

Lukas Reichel is the crown jewel of the Blackhawks' system. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Lukas Reichel is the crown jewel of the Blackhawks' system. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Top Prospects

Lukas Reichel - The 17th-overall pick in 2020 is an elite playmaker. He tallied 57 points in 56 games as an AHL rookie this season, his first in North America. He joined the AHL with experience playing against the older professional competition in Germany’s DEL.

Reichel’s AHL scoring didn’t translate into an 11-game stint with Chicago, which most attribute to a lack of physical strength. Reichel could benefit from another year to develop in the AHL, but the Blackhawks may not wait if they believe he can stick in the top-six.

Nolan Allan - Chicago reached forward in the 2021 draft to select Allan 32nd overall despite the fact the defender was rated to go as low as the third round. Allan will not dazzle offensively, but the 6-foot-2 blueliner will give opponents headaches in his relentless defensive zone coverage.

In the long term, he’ll benefit an NHL blue line with his stability. He'll return to the WHL next season, so Chicago will have to wait a little longer.

Drew Commesso - He got the unique opportunity this season as a teenager to play with Team USA at the Beijing Olympics, where he posted a shutout and allowed only two goals in two games. The Boston University netminder was also named to the American World Junior roster before the tournament was shut down.

Technically sound, Chicago has found prospects to challenge the second-round pick after signing Swedish standout Arvid Soderblom and NCAA star Jaxson Stauber. If Commesso wants the net, he’ll need to fight for it.

One To Watch

After a spectacular 2020-21 SHL season with Skellefteå AIK as a 21-year-old, the Blackhawks signed netminder Arvid Soderblom to an entry-level contract and brought him to North America. In 38 games this season with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, he posted a 2.76 GAA and .919 save percentage.

Soderblom, whose brother Elmer is a top prospect in the Detroit Red Wings system, was among the AHL’s best goalies. He struggled in a brief call-up to Chicago but is still young at age 22. He’ll compete for playing time this year.

Ready To Step In

This year, the group looking to crack Chicago’s lineup will be a trio of defenders - Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin, and Alec Regula. All have seen NHL action, with Beaudin and Mitchell having extended stays. The Blackhawks kept the pair almost exclusively in the AHL this season, shielding them from the on-ice and off-ice struggles of the franchise. Neither has shown the consistency they’ll need at the NHL level.

Ian Mitchell has been the more effective of the two at both the AHL and NHL level thus far, and as the older player at 23, he’s likely the frontrunner to join the Blackhawks for what will certainly be another difficult campaign.

Reichel is the most NHL-ready prospect in the system, but Chicago would be wise to insulate its top prospect.

Needs At The Draft

Without a pick until the second round at 38th overall, the Blackhawks will certainly approach the selection with a "best-available" mentality. Given the depth of players in this range, it’s very likely a first-round talent will still be available. They pick again at 55th overall in Round 2.

Chicago has a crop of serviceable defenders in its system, and won’t find a top-four talent at this position in the draft. That said, the Blackhawks could benefit from adding a defender with offensive upside to complement the group they’re currently amassing.

With the other pick, shooting for offensive support to play alongside a young core that includes Kirby Dach, Philipp Kurashev, Alex DeBincat, MacKenzie Entwistle, and Taylor Raddysh would be a wise plan. As Toews and Kane continue to age, replacing their superstars will be a focus. They’re likely to find the best value at the forward position at 38th overall.

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