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Blackhawks Prospect Report: Lukas Reichel injured; IceHogs defensemen showing promise

Despite Rockford facing some offensive woes at forward, the blueline prospects are chipping in.

Photo by Todd Reicher

Much like their parent club the Blackhawks, the Rockford IceHogs have been limited offensively in recent games — only scoring two goals per game in regulation in four of their last five games. The good news is, though, that the IceHogs’ blueline has improved in that span the most, especially offensively.

2017 second-rounder Ian Mitchell led the defensemen — and all IceHogs players in general — in points (4) over the last five games while Jakub Galvas (fifth-round, 2017), Isaak Phillips (fifth-round, 2020), and Alec Regula (acquired via trade in 2019) have all contributed one goal and two assists in the same span. Only Nicolas Beaudin (first round, 2018) hasn’t notched a point in recent games. The transition work, passing, and shooting has been noticeably strong from these defenders.

Of note, the defenders have all rotated around in terms of pairing and roles on the team. In most recent games, Galvas has been with Beaudin in a more traditional defense-first pairing while Mitchell and Phillips are together in offensive situations. Regula tends to be paired with the extra defenders, including Chad Krys (second-round, 2016) — who is technically still a Blackhawks prospect but has faded in term of priority for the organization and has been healthy scratched all but five games this season so far.

For the forwards, some of the production woes is due to both Lukas Reichel (first-round, 2020) and Josiah Slavin (seventh round, 2018) having cooled off since their hot starts, producing just two points and one goal in the last five games, respectively. Reichel still leads the IceHogs with seven goals and 12 points in 15 games. Slavin is tied for third with eight points in 15 games, and he was moved to be second-line center Sunday due to a shortage of centers — it’ll be interesting to see what he does in such a role.

Unfortunately, Reichel was injured during Sunday night’s game against the Milwaukee Admirals after a bad hit from behind threw him into the boards head-first. After the game, coach Anders Sorensen said Reichel was to be evaluated now and an update on his status will likely come on Tuesday.

Luckily for Rockford, 2019 trade acquisition Alexander Nylander and 2017 third-round picks Andrei Altybarmakyan and Evan Barratt have found a bit of a spark recently. Nylander has three points in his last five games, including the game-winning goal in Sunday night’s game against the Admirals, and was moved to the top line for Sunday after Brett Connolly was injured the night before. Altybarmakyan had two assists in his last four games and was also moved to the top line due to injuries, while Barratt had four points (2 G, 2 A) in his last five games and remains on the second line.

Unfortunately, that’s were the production ends for forward prospects as none of Michel Teplý (fourth round, 2019), Jakub Pour (European free agent, 2021) or Cam Morrison (NCAA free agent, 2020) have registered a point since the last prospects update. None have been particularly impressive in other aspects of the game in that span either.

European free agent Arvid Söderblom has remained solid in net with a .916 save-percentage in three games, including stopping 36 of 37 shots in a 2-1 victory Sunday night. It’s be interesting to see what Söderblom could do when facing a lighter workload consistently.

In the NCAA:

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

2020 second-round pick Commesso has improved slightly over his last three starts but still lacks consistency. He posted back-to-back .935 or better save percentages against Northeastern University last weekend — a team that is top three in Hockey East conference — but then allowed six goals against on 29 shots Sunday night against Colorado College — a team at the bottom the NCHC.

After a quiet start to the season, Vlasic (second round, 2019) racked up three assists in his last three games while maintaining his strong defensive play on the top pair for the Terriers. While he’ll never be a speedster at his size, Vlasic has seen noticeable improvement to his skating this season which could help when he makes the inevitable transition to professional hockey in the coming years.

Stanislav Demin (D), University of Massachusetts-Amherst

After moving to UMass in hopes of better playing opportunities, Demin has been fine but not particularly noteworthy for the Minutemen this season. He’s played at the No. 4 or 5 among defenders in a predominantly defensive role and earned just his second point (an assist) of the season before the Thanksgiving break. Demin was acquired from Las Vegas in 2020 as a part of the Robin Lehner trade.

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

Arguably the best skater among Blackhawks defensive prospects, Kaiser (third round, 2020) missed a couple of games due to illness recently, but otherwise continues to be impressive in his two-way play. He had one assist and played nearly 25 minutes on average in his last two games.

His typical partner, Kelley (seventh round, 2021), missed a game before the Thanksgiving break himself as a precaution for an injury but looked great upon return, notching two assists in two games this past weekend.

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

Ryder Rolston — acquired in 2021 from Colorado as part of the Carl Soderberg trade — doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon as he picked up another three points (2 G, 1 A) in his last two games.

Despite playing well, Landon Slaggert had zero points in his two games. Hopefully he’ll be rewarded for his good play soon.

In juniors:

Taige Harding (D), AJHL

Harding (third-round, 2021) was named AJHL Defensive Player of the Week for the second week in a row and fourth time this season. He has six points in his last six games, including two game winning goals against North Division rivals.

Ethan Del Mastro (D), OHL

Although fellow 2021 draft pick Del Mastro (fourth-round) is primarily known for his defensive game, it’s his offensive instincts that have been getting rave reviews recently. The captain of the Mississauga Steelheads has solid production — three points (2 G, 1 A) in his last six games — and is driving the play to start other offensive efforts that haven’t shown up on the scoresheet.

Louis Crevier, D (QMJHL)

Crevier (seventh-round, 2020) continues to have a quietly effective season as the No. 1 defensemen for the Québec Remparts. He may never wow offensively — he has only two assists over his last six games — but he has displayed a calm, disciplined approach to defense so far this season.

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

The typically defense-first Allan (first-round, 2021) may need to be considered a two-way defenseman going forward because his newly found offense seems to be legit. He earned another four points (all assists) in his last five games with the Prince Albert Raiders, putting him in the top 30 among defenders in the WHL. That latter point may not seem like a big deal, but it is considering offense hasn’t been a major component of Allan’s game the last two seasons.

Dach (second-round, 2021) has cooled a bit over the last six games with only two goals, but he’s contributed to other goals by living in front of the net on the top line and first power-play unit. He did score a nifty shootout goal to help secure the Kelowna Rockets a 2-1 win over the Spokane Chiefs Saturday.

Luypen’s torrid production rate is still going strong, going a point-per-game over his last five games with the Edmonton Oil Kings. He’s now 17th in points in the WHL — not bad for a seventh rounder (2021).

In Europe:

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

After putting up four points in four games with Peliitat in Mestis, Nordgren (third-round 2018) earned a promotion to the Lahden Pelicans in Liiga. He’s been on the second line and has one goal in two games.

2019 fourth-round pick Saarela’s strong productive start continued with two assists in three games with Ilves in Liiga. He keeps getting bumped up the lineup as well and has been the top-line left wing for a handful of games now.

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

Kayumov (second-round, 2016) saw a small uptick in his production over the last seven games due to a three-point outing on Nov. 15, bringing his points total to 13 points (9 G, 4 A) in 30 games. This 0.43 points-per-game rate is still below his rate from last season but above where he was the season before.

After missing five games with an injury, Safonov slotted back in as fourth-line center for Ak Bars Kazan on Sunday. He didn’t register any points, but he played a solid checking role, with his line having the lowest chances against rate for the game.