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Blackhawks Prospect Report: Reichel, Slavin, Söderblom are standouts with Rockford

The two linemates are obviously the cream of the forward crop for the Blackhawks AHL affiliate team.

The IceHogs haven’t been particularly impressive this season, but both Lukas Reichel and Josiah Slavin have been the clear standouts so far.

Lukas Reichel, Chicago’s 2020 first-round pick, has stayed around a point-per-game pace all season while showing strong ability with and without the puck. Despite being drafted as a winger, Reichel spent a majority of time at center with Eisbären Berlin last season and the Blackhawks have decided to keep developing him in that role. He currently has nine points (6 G, 3 A) in 10 games and has spent time on both special teams.

As far as potential call-ups go, it sounds like the Blackhawks are content to allow Reichel to develop more in the AHL for now. Interim head coach Derek King said specifically said they’re “sticking to the plan” for Reichel: “We’re gonna let him just keep playing and playing. Let’s get another hat trick and let’s get another hat trick — then maybe we’ll talk about it.”

Reichel’s linemate Josiah Slavin (seventh round, 2018) has also been impressive with eight points (3 G, 5 A) in 10 games. Slavin was somewhat of a surprise signing last season after a good but not necessary spectacular sophomore season with Colorado College, but he’s been a bright spot for the IceHogs so far this season. He’s already 22, which likely helped some with the transition to professional hockey.

Alexander Nylander is the next top producing prospect for the IceHogs, but his five points (4 G, 1 A) in 10 games is pretty underwhelming considering his NHL experience. Some of this is due to the lack of offensive depth in Rockford, so it’d be interesting to see what he could do with Reichel or Slavin. One area where Nylander has improved is in his play away from the puck, including his forecheck ability.

Conversely, 2017 third-round picks Evan Barratt and Andrei Altybarmakyan are having a rough beginning to their second professional season. They’ve gone cold offensively compared to last season — Barratt has 3 points (1 G, 2 A) and Altybarmakyan has only 1 assist in 7 games — and have been healthy scratches in recent games.

Other forwards of note: Michel Teplý (fourth round, 2019) has zero points in seven games, Jakub Pour (European free agent, 2021) has three points (2 G, 1 A) in nine games, and Cam Morrison (NCAA free agent, 2020) has three points (all assists) in seven games.

On defense, Ian Mitchell (second round, 2017) and Nicolas Beaudin (first round, 2018) have been getting top-pair minutes together and look comfortable in that role. Interestingly, Mitchell has been operating as the more defense-first player on the pair, allowing Beaudin to activate more offensively. Mitchell has two assists and Beaudin has four assists in eight games.

Fifth rounders Jakub Galvas (2017) and Isaak Phillips (2020) typically round out the top-four for the IceHogs. Phillips’ good play this season and last earned himself a short call-up to the Blackhawks this season while Galvas has arguably been the most defensively sound blue-liner in Rockford. Galvas has one assist in 10 games and Phillips has two in four games.

While Phillips was with the Blackhawks, Wyatt Kalynuk (NCAA free agent, 2022) paired with Galvas on the second-pair for two games, racking up two points (1 G, 1 A) in the process. He looks fully recovered from the injury he sustained way back during Blackhawks training camp.

Alec Regula — acquired from the Red Wings in the Brendan Perlini trade in 2019 — played in his first game of the season Saturday. He missed time due to a lower-back injury sustained during Blackhawks training camp.

Finally, in net, Arvid Söderblom has looked comfortable with his move from the SHL to the AHL. His 0.917 save-percentage is tied for 19th among the 40 AHL goaltenders, but he faces a league-leading 40 shots a game. With an average workload, Söderblom would jump to the top 10.

In the NCAA:

Ryder Rolston (RW) | Landon Slaggert (LW), Notre Dame

The leading scorer among Blackhawks NCAA prospects is one many may not recognize, but 2020 fifth round pick Ryder Rolston has been hot to start his sophomore season. He has nine points (2 G, 7 A) in 12 games for Notre Dame, which is three more points than he had in 28 games last season. Rolston is on the Fighting Irish’s offensive third line, where his speed and tenacity has been key in his productive start.

Also at Notre Dame, Landon Slaggert isn’t producing at the same blazing 0.88 points-per-game as last season, but his eight points (4 G, 4 A) is still top-six on his team and he’s been facing a higher quality of competition. Slaggert tends to produce more as his seasons progress, so it wouldn’t be surprising for his point totals to rise into the new year.

Drew Commesso (G) | Alex Vlasic (D), Boston University

At Boston University, Commesso (second round, 2020) is having a rough start in net to his sophomore season, posting only a .891 save-percentage and 3.17 goals-against average in 11 games. That’s a far cry from the .915 he put up in the same number of games last season. Going into the season, Commesso was the best American goalie in the NCAA with the graduation of Spencer Knight and Dustin Wolf, but he’ll need to turn around this season quick if he wants to be the starter for team USA’s 2022 IIHF World Junior team in December.

Commesso’s teammate, Vlasic (second round, 2019), is having a quieter season so far with just two assists in his first 12 games. However, he’ll still be a force on the defensive side of the puck playing 1D minutes for the Terriers.

Wyatt Kaiser (D) | Connor Kelly (D), University of Minnesota-Duluth

Another pair of teammates, Kaiser (third round, 2020) and Connor Kelly (seventh round, 2021), are often deployed together as an almost shutdown pair for UMD. Kaiser has also contributed with five points (1 G, 4 A) in 10 games while Kelley has 2 assists in 9 games.

Jake Wise (C), Ohio State University

Wise (third round, 2018) is having a rejuvenated season after transferring to Ohio State University with seven points (3 G, 4 A) in 10 games. Injuries derailed his first three years in college, but he’s looked very good as the second-line center and on the power play for the Buckeyes.

Dominic Basse (G), Colorado College

Last among notable Blackhawks NCAA prospect, goalie Dominic Basse’s season has been underwhelming so far with a 0.898 save percentage and 2.74 goals against average in 11 games for Colorado College.

In juniors:

Nolan Allan (D), Colton Dach (C), Jalen Luypen (C/LW), WHL

The Blackhawks selected three players in the 2021 NHL Draft who are in the WHL this season and they’re all off to decent starts.

Allan, the team’s 2021 first-round pick, already has 6 points (2 G, 4 A) in 13 games, tripling his output from 16 games last season. Considering Allan is billed as a defense-first defenseman, the additional production is an added bonus and something to watch as the season progresses. He’s been playing second pair-minutes with time on both special teams.

Prior to the start of the season, center Dach (second-round) requested a trade from the Saskatoon Blades, likely in hopes of gaining a more prominent role with a new team. He’s found that with the Kelowna Rockets where he’s played as the top-line center as well as on the top power play unit. As a result, Dach has 12 points (6 G, 6 A) in 11 games and was riding a seven game points streak until Sunday’s game.

Seventh-round pick Luypen has been exceeding expectations with his performance so far this season. After starting the season on the third line for the Edmonton Oil Kings, Luypen was promoted to second line center at the start of November and has been on a tear ever since with 10 points (4 G, 6 A) during an eight-game points streak. In total, he has 18 points (7 G, 11 A) in 17 games.

Taige Harding (D), AJHL

Harding was an unexpected selection for the Blackhawks in the third-round in 2021 as he was relatively unknown outside of his size, but he’s been impressive so far this season with 22 points (6 G, 16 A) in 23 games for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. The 6-7, 234-pound defenseman was also promoted to captain this season and recently declared his commitment to Providence College next year.

Ethan Del Mastro (D), OHL

The Blackhawks swung big (pun intended) with defensemen in the 2021 draft, and Del Mastro was no exception at 6-4, 210 pounds a size in which he has used to his best advantage this season with Mississauga Steelheads. Del Mastro (fourth-round, 2021) has a respectable five points (2 G, 3 A) in 13 games while playing top-pair and penalty-kill minutes. He was also named captain in the off-season.

Louis Crevier, D (QMJHL)

Yet another large individual, 6-8, 215-pound Crevier (seventh-round, 2020) is having a good enough start to his year-two post draft season that the Blackhawks opted to sign him to an ELC earlier in November. He has seven points (4 G, 3A) in 12 games.

In Europe:

Artur Kayumov (RW) | Ilya Safonov (C), KHL

2016 second-round pick Kayumov’s season to date has been lackluster with just 9 points in 23 games and he’s been demoted to the third-line with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL. This 0.39 points-per-game rate is down from his 0.51 points-per-game last season.

At 6-4, 205, Safonov was yet another large prospect selected in 2021 (sixth-round), and he’s been using his size and wingspan well enough with Ak Bars Kazan to earn a promotion to the third line and penalty kill unit. He also has 6 points (3 G, 3 A) in 28 games.

Niklas Nordgren (RW) | Antti Saarela (LW), Finland

After missing a lot of time due to injuries over the last few season, Nordgren (third-round 2018) has been on loan with Peliitat in Mestis — the second-tier league in Finland — for a majority of the season so far. He has 9 points (2 G, 7 A) in 10 games. Hopefully, his strong play there will earn him a promotion back to the Pelicans in Liiga.

Saarela (fourth-round, 2019) is off to his most productive start in the past three season with Ilves in Liiga. His 9 points (5 G, 4 A) in 17 games is only five points less than his total in 47 games last season and three more in 40 games the season before that. Saarela played in a predominantly third-line defensive role last season but was elevated to the second-line after a few weeks into this season.

Victor Stejerborg (C), SHL

Considered a bit of a steal in the fourth round, Stejerborg unfortunately won’t be able to show his development progress much if at all this season as he suffered an injury after just eight game with Växjö of the SHL. He underwent surgery on a lower-body injury in October that will definitely keep him from playing with Sweden at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship of which he was a lock to make and may potentially keep him out the entire season. He had one assist in those eight games playing a predominantly defensive role.