Second City Hockey’s 2022-23 preseason Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the organization’s top 25 players under the age of 25 by Oct. 1, 2022. The rankings are determined by a composite score from all four SCH writers. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. All four ballots will be released after the series is completed.
There’s been much ado about the Chicago Blackhawks’ inability to develop defensemen, but they’ve been just as barren in terms of goalie prospects over the years as well. Granted, Corey Crawford was the undisputed No. 1 for so long that it didn’t matter, but the team now desperately needs a successor to Crow. Currently, there are two prospects in the system who have the best highest potential to achieve that feat in years: 2021 European free-agent signing Arvid Söderblom — already discussed here — and 2020 second-rounder Drew Commesso. Söderblom is closer to NHL ready, but Commesso is still considered the prospect with higher long-term potential.
Commesso has been an overachiever since before he was drafted: he put up some of the best numbers seen in the US National Development Program. This included a .920 save percentage and 2.05 goals against average (GAA) with the U18 team and .917 save percentage and 2.01 GAA in the USHL during the 2019-20 season. He continued those impressive numbers with a steady .915 save percentage and 2.99 GAA in his freshman season with Boston University — a strong start to his collegiate career behind a so-so defensive team.
Despite a slow start to his sophomore season — a team wide issue for a hurt, depleted Terriers team — Commesso performed better as the season progressed and ended once again as a top goaltender in the NCAA. Overall, he posted a .914 save percentage and 2.52 GAA, and while those general numbers may not seem otherworldly, he had a .930 in his last 20 games of the season and was twice named Hockey East Goaltender of the Month in the latter half of the season.
#Blackhawks prospect, Drew Commesso (#29 in white) had an excellent game last night for Boston University. He made 26 saves on 27 shots and led BU to a win. Here he makes a pair of saves. #HawksProspects #GoBU #HockeyTwitter pic.twitter.com/YcoUTzLHyx— Chicago Prospects (@Chi_Prospects) January 8, 2022
It was looking like another disappointing tournament season for Commesso this past year as the 2022 World Juniors were cancelled — though he did get to play in one game where he was a standout. Instead, Commesso made US Olympic history by being the youngest goaltender ever to be a part of the Olympic men’s hockey team at age 19. He went 2-0 for Team USA at the ‘22 Winter Olympics with a .964 save percentage, including a .923 save-percentage performance against reigning silver medalist Germany.
Honestly, Commesso probably should have gotten the nod as starter in the medal round, too, as he was the best USA goaltender in group play. But his age and relative lack of international experience likely played a role in Strauss Mann receiving the starting nod instead.
In terms of what type of goalie Commesso is, he’s a moderately athletic netminder who is positionally sound and poised in net. At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, he’s not the biggest goalie, but he knows how to fill the net well to limit space and opportunity for shooters. In a lot of ways, Commesso plays a style reminiscent of Crawford: he relies on structure and technique to make consistent saves. Commesso is a bit more aggressive than Crawford was 2013 onward, which led to some over-commitment and desperation moves to keep the puck out of his net. It’s great that he can occasionally make those saves — his excellent skating and agility comes in handy — but it’s something Commesso still needs to work on as he develops. His blocker side is not as advanced as his glove hand, either.
Overall Commesso is a goalie with a good toolkit and positional foundation who just needs to hone those skills as he advances against higher quality of competition.
The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler ranked Commesso No. 8 in his list of top-10 goalie prospects under the age of 25 not in the NHL yet. Considering the list includes highly touted goaltenders like Jesper Wallstedt and Yaroslav Askarov, it’s a nice acknowledgement of Commesso’s standing with those outside the Blackhawks organization.
Like most other NCAA players on this list, Commesso will be returning to college, this time for his junior season at Boston University. Although he ended the season strong with the Terriers, it’d be nice to see him advance his numbers more consistently from the start. With Commeso only 20 years old and the Blackhawks looking at a longer, more patient rebuild process, Commesso isn’t expected to become an NHL regular for a few years yet (if everything works out, anyway). Hopefully, we’ll see him getting a majority of starts with the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL by 2023-24.