Ranking the Blackhawks’ top 10 prospects after the 2021 season

Ranking the Blackhawks’ top 10 prospects after the 2021 season

Eisbaren Berlin forward Lukas Reichel tops the Blackhawks’ prospect rankings. | Courtesy of Chicago Blackhawks

Lukas Reichel and Henrik Borgstrom headline a list that experienced much turnover this season as prospects graduated to the NHL.

The Blackhawks’ end-of-season prospect rankings look tremendously different than they did entering the season.

Four of the 10 players listed in the November edition of this list — Ian Mitchell (then No. 1), Philipp Kurashev (No. 3), Brandon Hagel (No. 4) and Wyatt Kalynuk (No. 6) — became regular NHL players for the Hawks this season, and Lucas Carlsson (No. 8) was traded.

All told, six of the 10 players on this list are being ranked for the first time. But most may stay for a while — the Hawks will be more focused on developing their preexisting young players than integrating new ones next season — and a few may be bumped out by the Hawks’ 2021 draft class.

As always, the order of these rankings is determined partially by NHL readiness and partially by upside. Players in Rockford have five games left, so their stat lines aren’t quite complete.

No. 1. Lukas Reichel, wing/center, age 18

Previous Ranking: No. 2

Stat line: 27 points in 38 games with Berlin (Germany)

Reichel, the 2020 17th overall selection, is the clear top prospect in the Hawks’ system right now.

The young German forward greatly impressed Hawks general manager Stan Bowman this year, ranking fifth on Eisbaren Berlin in scoring as an 18-year-old facing adults.

Berlin’s season ended Friday, when they won the league championship. The Hawks would like to sign Reichel this summer and bring him to North America next season. He was originally projected as an NHL wing, but he played a lot of center this season and now looks even more versatile.

No. 2. Henrik Borgstrom, center, age 23

Previous Ranking: N/A (acquired from Panthers)

Stat line: 21 points in 30 games with HIFK (Finland)

After Borgstrom scored 18 points in 50 NHL games with the Panthers in 2018-19, it would’ve been difficult to justify classifying him as a prospect. But after falling out of favor in Florida and playing this season overseas, he’s a prospect again.

Borgstrom is overflowing with natural offensive talent — Bowman described the University of Denver product as the best college player he’s ever seen — and could be a difference-making center in the NHL if he can finally put it all together. The Hawks hope to sign him this summer, too.

No. 3. Nicolas Beaudin, defenseman, age 21

Previous Ranking: No. 7

Stat line: Six points in 17 games with Blackhawks; 10 points in nine games with Rockford (AHL)

Eleven of Beaudin’s 17 Hawks appearances this year came before Feb. 20. The 2018 first-round pick possesses a high hockey IQ and strong offensive instincts but needs to improve defensively. His 40.1% on-ice scoring-chance ratio is the worst on the team.

“When he’s at his best, he’s moving the puck, he’s skating the puck, he’s getting us out of the ‘D’-zone, he can give us something on the offensive blue line,” Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said recently.

No. 4. Evan Barratt, center, age 22

Previous Ranking: No. 5

Stat line: 14 points in 26 games with Rockford (AHL)

Barratt is the top prospect scorer on the IceHogs this season. He has enjoyed a beneficial first pro season, gaining maturity and becoming more comfortable with the puck.

He should see some NHL time next season, although Rockford coach Derek King said this week he doesn’t think Barratt is quite ready yet.

“The big thing [he must improve] is his first two strides,” King said. “But…he’s getting a full boat of everything. It’s nice to see a prospect like that just get better every day.”

No. 5. Wyatt Kaiser, defenseman, age 18

Previous Ranking: Unranked

Stat line: 10 points in 28 games with Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)

Kaiser’s stock skyrocketed during his freshman year. The Hawks’ 2020 third-round pick was one of the top defensemen on a Frozen Four team, as evidenced by his now-famous 59:39 ice time in a quintuple-overtime win over North Dakota.

No. 6. Alec Regula, defenseman, age 20

Previous Ranking: No. 10

Stat line: Four points in 16 games with Rockford (AHL)

Regula, an ex-Red Wings prospect obtained in the Brendan Perlini trade, made his Hawks debut Thursday. He’s a big body (6-4, 208 pounds) with surprising patience and poise with the puck. He projects as a third-pairing defensive defenseman at the NHL level.

No. 7. MacKenzie Entwistle, wing, age 21

Previous Ranking: Others to watch

Stat line: 12 points in 22 games with Rockford (AHL)

Entwistle has also played three games so far with the Hawks, recording his first NHL point Tuesday. His upside is relatively low, but his likelihood of establishing himself as a reliable bottom-six grinder is very high.

No. 8. Isaak Phillips, defenseman, age 19

Previous Ranking: Unranked

Stat line: Seven points in 23 games with Rockford (AHL)

Phillips, seeking to become the first Jamaican hockey team alum to reach the NHL, has more than held his own as one of the youngest defensemen in the AHL this season. He was skating, confidence and defensive instincts were already solid, and his development has only accelerated.

No. 9. Landon Slaggert, center, age 18

Previous Ranking: Unranked

Stat line: 22 points in 25 games with Notre Dame (NCAA)

The Hawks picked Slaggert in the third round last October and he rewarded them with a very good freshman year at Notre Dame. He ranked third on the team in points, trailing only two juniors: his older brother Graham Slaggert and Maple Leafs signing Alex Steeves. He’s a good defensive center, too.

No. 10. Alex Vlasic, defenseman, age 19

Previous Ranking: Others to watch

Stat line: Eight points in 16 games with Boston University (NCAA)

Vlasic took a huge step from his freshman to sophomore years of college, doubling his point total in half as many games and adding strength to his huge 6-6 frame. The Hawks drafted him 43rd overall in 2019 because of his raw tools, knowing he’d take a while to develop, and their patience may eventually pay off.

Honorable mention: Artur Kayumov, wing, age 23

Stat line: 29 points in 57 games with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (Russia)

Kayumov would not only appear but fall in the upper echelon of these rankings if it was more certain he’d one day come over from Russia and join the Hawks’ organization. He’s already a dynamic skater, shooter and playmaker in the world’s second-best league. But he has at least one year left with Lokomotiv.

Other prospects to watch: Drew Commesso (G, 18), Michal Teply (W, 19), Andrei Altybarmakyan (W, 22), Josiah Slavin (W, 22), Jakub Galvas (D, 21), Cam Morrison (W, 22), Antti Saarela (C, 19)

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