Let’s face some cold, hard facts and probably accept the reality that the Blackhawks will finish this season in a race to the NHL bottom depths. I don’t mean near the bottom but a Mariana Trench-like finish in the hockey Hades is likely in store for the Blackhawks as this season continues to unravel into a dismal chapter in the story of a great Original Six team.
Can there be any good news?
The answer to that question is a resounding yes there can be a silver lining to the darkness surrounding the Blackhawks’ organization this year. Fans sometimes forget that the consolation prize for the worst NHL team always is the first pick in this summer’s NHL draft. With the name Connor Bedard floating around right now as the top prospect, the Blackhawks have a huge stake in the future direction of this franchise and a new history chapter may unfold this summer during the actual NHL draft. Connor Bedard has been widely compared to another well-know Connor (McDavid in case you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the past few years) and with Canada’s win in the World Junior Championship earlier this month, Bedard put his name out there in the hockey world for everyone to know and remember him.
Putting in an MVP peformance at the WJC only punctuated the franchise-altering value that Bedard could bring to the Blackhawks if they’re lucky to draft him. I watched as much of Bedard as I could on the NHL Network and the pundits are right about this young man – we may be the next McDavid, Crosby or even a Gretzky in the works. In a sad irony for the Blackhawks, they will need to wrap up their dismal performance so far and protect their last-place status until the regular season is over to have a shot at drafting Bedard.
Who do the Blackhawks already have in their system?
Even with all of the potential Connor Bedard madness gripping the Blackhawks and all of the NHL right, this organization still has some top-quality prospect talent already in the pipeline. Fans have already seen what Lukas Reichel can do and with his recent demotion back down to the AHL with Rockford, it’s apparent that (1) the Blackhawks want Reichel to get as much playing time as possible and not get hurt and (2) the Blackhawks don’t want to risk getting any better by having Reichel around which will be counterproudctive for the Bedard sweepstakes competition.
We’ve already seen what Reichel can do and scoring three goals in his recent NHL stint (causing the Blackhawks partly to go on a three-game winning streak) gives us a glimpse to what’t to come down the road. Reichel is ready to play in the NHL today but will probably be held off until next season to make a full-time impact on the big club. Who knows, will a Reichel-Bedard line be in the Blackawks’ future?
The Blackhawks have tucked away a top defenseman in the form of Kevin Korchinski with the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds. The 6’1′, 185 pound blueliner fits the bill was drafted seventh overall in the 2022 NHL draft. Korchinski has registerd four goals and 30 assists in 26 games with the Thunderbirds and could possibly be a defenseman in the Quinn and Jack Hughes-type of style. Imagine a Blackhawks’ top line with Reichel, Bedard and Korchinsi all on the same shift? Well, this could be a scenario in the near future.
The Blackhawks also have four Hobey Baker Award nominees for the best collegiate hockey player this season. Dominic James is a sophomore out of Minnesota-Duluth and has had a strong season for the Bulldogs this year so far with seven goals and seven assists in 20 games. James was drafted last year by the Blackhawks in the sixth round (173rd overall) and looks to be another solid long-term prospect. Defenseman Wyatt Kaiser is one of James’ teammates at Minnesota-Duluth and is having a strong NCAA season this year as well.
Forward Liam Gorman is a forward at Princeton and has put in ten goals and six assists this season for the Tigers. Gorman was acquired by the Blackhawks from the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Princeton junior should have his chance to work his way through the Blackhawks’ prospect system down the road as well. Ohio State center Jake Wise transferred from Boston University and since this transfer has made an impact with the Buckeyese and the Big Ten by scoring eight goals and 15 assists this season.