Rebuilding the Blackhawks is going to take time. There might be a few more seasons like 2022-23. But there is hope ahead, that their top prospects will start heading to the NHL.
It’s possible all of the Blackhawks’ top five prospects will be in the NHL next season. Frank Nazar’s arrival is expected to come after his college season, but it’s possible if his season goes as planned. The others will most certainly be in the NHL next season.
If you’ve been following our rankings, you can probably guess who the top five are. If you haven’t been following all the leaderboards, you can find the first four parts here:
Part 1: 30-21
Part 2: 20-16
Part 3: 15-11
Part 4: 10-6
3rd round in 2020 | 6 feet | 172 pounds | 20 years (31/07/2002)
Season statistics: 5 goals, 18 assists in 35 games with Minnesota Duluth in the NCAA; 0 goals, 3 assists in 9 games with the Blackhawks in the NHL
Summary: Kaiser has the best mix of offense and defense among Blackhawks defensemen prospects. It all starts with his skating. He moves so easily. Defensively, he uses this skating ability to reach the pucks. Moreover, he is aggressive and physical, even if he is not the tallest. Offensively, he hasn’t produced big numbers in Duluth, but you can see the edge he has in that area playing with better players. After turning pro and playing with the Blackhawks, he became more and more comfortable on offense and created several chances. His main goal is to get stronger and be ready for a longer season. He is expected to be part of the NHL roster next season.
What others say: Blackhawks coach Luke Richardson said, “Excellent footwork; not afraid to compete. Seems like every time he was on the ice (against the Wild, Ryan) Reaves was on the ice and he didn’t show the slightest suspicion, I guess, of feeling intense in that corner. He went all out, fender pucks and pucks moved. I thought he moved them really effectively. He will get to know the league and feel a little more comfortable in position in the league, when to join the rush and all kinds of things that his skating ability will allow him to do.
Kaiser quickly switches from defense to attack:
Kaiser must catch the ice, catch the opponents and defend to the net:
This puck doesn’t go through, but Kasier is able to create a different shot location with his skating:
More reading: What the Blackhawks get at Kaiser
4. Arvid Söderblom, goalkeeper
Free agent | 6-3 | 179 pounds | 23 years old (19/08/1999)
Season statistics: .905 save percentage in 33 games with the IceHogs in the AHL; .894 save percentage in 15 NHL games with the Blackhawks
Summary: Söderblom’s season has by no means been perfect. He played in the NHL more than anyone expected and had mixed results. Allowing him to stay in net for seven goals in his final NHL game of the season probably wasn’t the best move for his confidence. He also had a tough time at Rockford, particularly dealing with his first major injury on the job and missing more than three weeks with a groin strain. He bounced back, however, and finished the season strong. The IceHogs drove him the whole stretch and he helped them make the playoffs with a .922 save percentage over his last 14 regular season games. He is expected to share the Blackhawks net with Petr Mrazek next season.
What others say: Blackhawks goalie development coach Peter Aubry said, “I think Arvid’s game is incredibly well balanced. He’s a complete human being, first and foremost, and I think that leads to what we see on the ice. We all have goalkeepers or elements of goalkeepers that we like, I say that as a goalkeeper coach, and you make sure you train the strengths of the player. But that being said, when I think about my ideal traits or what I think a goalkeeper should look like, Arvid is for me. Someone asked me earlier in the season what goalies I like to watch in the NHL, and right away I was like, Arvid. He’s incredibly balanced in his game. I know a lot of Swedes, but he also has an element in his game where he has both, like good technique, but also his reading and his ability to adapt to react to changes that come produce before him.
Soderblom denies 2-0 breakaway:
Soderblom stops a difficult shot from close range:
More reading: Soderblom overcomes adversities of the season
3. Frank Nazar, striker
1st round in 2022 | 5-9 | 174 pounds | 19 years old (01/14/2004)
Season statistics: 2 goals, 5 assists in 13 games with Michigan in the NCAA
Summary: Nazar opted to have hip surgery ahead of the season instead of postponing it. It was a tough decision but it was in the best interest of his future. The downside is that he missed most of the season and was only able to play 13 games for Michigan in the final period. He had a few moments where he showed why the Blackhawks drafted him in the first round with his speed and skill, but he obviously wasn’t consistently at the top of his game. A full offseason should do wonders for him. He will return to Michigan for his second season and could turn pro after the season.
What others say: Mark Eaton, assistant general manager of player development for the Blackhawks, said: “(This offseason will be important,) especially after surgery and then playing very limited, playing well and progressing well when he played and returned to the ice. So it’s not even about getting the reps on the ice. I think it’s just that the hip is back to 100%. This area of his body may feel better than it has in many years, so it’s just a matter of building the right base and the right foundations and in that core area for the first two months of the summer, then to progress on the ice and get back into his normal routine as summer approaches, so he’s ready to go, so to speak, for the start of the season.
It was Nazar’s first collegiate goal. You would expect a lot more of these next season:
Nazar steals the puck and sets up a teammate for a goal:
More reading: Q&A with Nazar
2. Lukas Reichel, striker
1st round in 2020 | 6-0 | 170 pounds | 20 years (05/17/2002)
Season statistics: 20 goals, 31 assists in 55 games with the IceHogs in the AHL; 7 goals, 8 assists in 23 games with the Blackhawks in the NHL
Summary: Like Alex Vlasic, the Blackhawks have decided to remain patient with Reichel this season. He obviously could have played in the NHL, but they wanted him to improve in certain areas before taking the next step. He did that. He improved away from the puck. He worked on driving to the net instead of slowing down and looking for teammates. Towards the end of the season, he got his chance with the Blackhawks and ran with it. After being recalled in March, he played 19 games and produced six goals and six assists. Everything was not perfect. As much as he and Andreas Athanasiou created a lot of chances together, they still had an expected goal percentage of 42.45. Reichel’s defensive game will have to continue to improve. But there’s no doubt he can play and produce in the NHL in the top six. He is expected to join the Blackhawks roster next season.
What others say: IceHogs coach Anders Sorensen said: “There’s a lot (of impressiveness) – his game without the puck, if he’s engaged, if it’s his defensive responsibilities, his defensive reads, his shoulder controls and understanding of threats whether it’s out of the rusher or in the ‘D’ zone has really improved.We can all see the abilities he’s learned offensively, they’re natural abilities. And even in that area, he’s tweaking some parts of his game on his entries or he’s looking a lot better on the entries or he’s carrying it deeper into the zone before stopping and looking for things.
Reichel’s speed and skill is what makes him so special:
Reichel sets up Athanasiou for a goal:
More reading: What we learned from Reichel’s longest NHL stint
1. Kevin Korchinski, defender
1st round in 2022 | 6-1 | 185 pounds | 18 years old (06/21/2004)
Season statistics: 11 goals, 62 assists in 54 games with Seattle in the WHL
Summary: Korchinski can play with a bit of flash, as the Blackhawks have seen in preseason. But his ability to read the game and distribute the puck makes him such an effective offensive defenseman. It helps that he plays with other elite players with the Seattle Thunderbirds, but he also makes them look good. Korchinski was everything the Blackhawks hoped he would be. According Byron Bader’s prospecting model, Korchinski has a 78% chance of being an NHL star at this point. That’s the third-highest percentage among 2022 draft picks. The Blackhawks development team has also worked with Korchinski to improve the rest of his game. He’s not aggressive on defensive entries and can s ‘improve to kill plays in the defensive zone, but he is progressing. It would be surprising if Korchinski wasn’t in the NHL next season. There’s probably nothing else to gain for him playing junior.
What others say: Eaton said, “In training camp you could get a sense of the skill level he had, but I was so impressed with his ability to think about the play with the puck. A lot of times guys with his skill level at the junior level, they want to hang on to the pucks for as long as they can because they can beat a few guys and then make a pass. But he already thinks the game is so fast. If there’s nothing open, if there’s no passing lane open, he has the ability to make a guy or two miss, but once he does that and a way opens, he will make this pass. His puck movement is so effective.
“And then something more general that’s not specific to hockey, it’s just his desire for feedback and his desire to learn, to find ways to improve. He’s always open-minded, whether it’s me or his coaches in Seattle or whoever. If he thinks you have information that will help him improve, then he will give it a try. He will usually be able to implement things fairly quickly when you give him advice here and there.
Korchinski moves the puck, moves and moves the puck again to place a teammate:
Korchinski moves to find a better passing angle and sets up a teammate. It sometimes seems effortless:
Korchinski receives the puck, increases his speed and scores:
More reading: In Korchinski’s development plan
(Photo by Kevin Korchinski: Jon Durr/USA Today)