The Blackhawks’ 6-2 victory over the Red Wings marked their second straight victory, with four of the six goals were scored by two: rookie forwards: Pius Suter (the first three goals of his NHL career) and Philipp Kurashev (his second of the season)
In net, Kevin Lankinen made 25 saves on 27 shots for a .926 save percentage and his second straight win. It appears he’s taken over the starter net and he’s the only goaltender on the Blackhawks’ roster with a save percentage above .900 (currently at .909).
The one common factor behind all of these rookies is Chicago’s European scouting.
Mats Hallin — who’s served as the Blackhawks’ director of European scouting for the last six years — and the rest of the Blackhawks’ European scouting staff has continually delivered, by bringing aboard these players.
That staff is made up of Niklas Blomgren (head European amateur scout), two more amateur scouts in Europe (Karel Pavlik and Mikko Luoma), one in Russia (former Blackhawks forward Andrei Nikolishin) and European pro scout Peter Sundstrom.
That means the Blackhawks’ biggest successes over the last few years — namely Artemiy Panarin, Dominik Kahun and Dominik Kubalik — have been influenced by Hallin and his staff. David Kampf is another European import discovered during Hallin’s time.
Kubalik is has been particularly special, as all he cost the Blackhawks was a sixth-round pick. So far, he’s delivered a 30-goal season that left him in third place in Calder Trophy voting as the league’s top rookie last season and four points through six games this season despite a lack of ice time.
Hallin had an impact in the decision to trade for Kubalik, per this report from ESPN’s Emily Kaplan. Kubalik caught Hallin’s attention in the Swiss League and Hallin suggested Kubalik to Stan Bowman, who ultimately worked out a trade for Kubalik from the Los Angeles Kings.
Of the Blackhawks’ roster, five players were results of Chicago’s European scouting. That includes four of the 15 who have played every game. Adam Boqvist was drafted from the Swedish Hockey League, Lankinen was an undrafted free agent who the Blackhawks signed from the Finnish Liiga. Suter and Kubalik are the last two Swiss League MVPs. Kampf came over from the Czech League.
So far this season, five of the Blackhawks’ 19 goals have come from European-scouted players and 11 of their 52 points. The Blackhawks’ sole European goaltender has also collected both wins and all five points.
In addition, Kurashev played for Switzerland internationally but was actually drafted from the QMJHL. Lucas Carlsson, who’s on the taxi squad and played six games with Chicago last season, was drafted from Sweden.
Of the prospects the Blackhawks are currently developing, 10 more are from European scouting. That includes Lukas Reichel, Chicago’s No. 17 overall selection in the 2020 Draft. Other key names include Artur Kayumov, Michal Teply, Niklas Nordgren, Matej Chalupa, Tim Soderlund and Andrei Altybarmakyan. The success of that European scouting department certainly raises hopes about the upside of Reichel, who has seven points (3 G, 4 A) in nine DEL games this season. Chicago’s success so far this season has been highly influenced by their European scouting and its long-term success is reliant upon the current prospects found by European scouts.
European scouts like Hallin could be making a case for themselves as a future NHL GM, given their recent success at identifying talent now. The Blackhawks will continue to see the impact of their European scouting for years to come. Right now, those six scouts are some of the most valuable front office staff the Blackhawks have.