July 32-in-32: Chicago Blackhawks

Puneet Sharma

2023-07-06

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The 32-in-32 Series is an annual event here at DobberProspects! Everyday in August we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s draft and insights into their off-season movements. In September, we will dive into each team’s prospect depth charts with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming season. Check back often, because we plan on helping your hockey withdrawal all off-season long!

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Feeling Run Down

The echoes of the final horn have faded, signalling the end of a tumultuous NHL season for the Chicago Blackhawks. As the dust settled, fans bid farewell to a year that left them feeling tired and discouraged. However, amidst the disappointment and frustration, a glimmer of hope emerged as the Blackhawks found themselves in possession of the ultimate consolation prize—the first-overall pick in the highly anticipated 2023 NHL Draft. Though Kyle Davidson may be fairly new to the GM role, he has been preparing for this moment since the season’s inception. The number-one pick is a sure shot and you could also say the same for the 19th pick, as the talent in this year’s draft was like none other. Davidson aimed to make a resounding impact on the organization and catapult the Blackhawks back into contention.

Draft Recap

Let’s face it, the 2022-2023 season wasn’t exactly a highlight reel for the Chicago Blackhawks. It felt like they were skating on banana peels instead of ice, stumbling through injuries, inconsistent performances, and a depth chart that looked more like a comedy sketch than a winning lineup. But fear not, dear fans, brighter days are ahead.

With the acquisition of four draft picks in the first two rounds, on top of the two picks that Blackhawks already had, things were starting to look up. The Blackhawks’ draft table was buzzing with activity as scouts poured over player stats and Kyle Davidson conversed with other GM’s on possible deals and occasionally consulting the team psychic for good measure (hey, everyone needs a little extra edge, right?). They left no stone unturned in their quest to find the perfect fit for Bedard and the organization.

At the beginning of last season, Davison had zero first-round draft picks, and the team looked like it would be going through a very painful rebuild for some time. But then he managed to trade away two key players (Debrincat and Dach) in order to obtain solid high-end prospects and picks (although some including myself felt they could have gotten more) for what is now looking to be a re-tool more than a rebuild and a very optimistic future for the Blackhawks organization.

Round One, First OverallConnor Bedard, C

This was a no brainer.  Connor Bedard put up an astonishing 71 goals and 72 assists in the WHL this year with the Regina Pats, which was nearly 40 points ahead of Chase Wheatcroft in second place. Bedard is turning 18 in July. He was granted exceptional status in the WHL, allowing him to join the league as a 15-year-old. Despite his young age, Bedard made an immediate impact in the WHL, winning the IIHF Male Player of the Year, WHL Player of the Year, and WHL Most points (Bobby Clarke Trophy) among many others. Connor Bedard’s skill set gives him the potential to be a franchise-changing player. He has the capability to elevate the performance of his teammates, inspire a winning culture, and generate excitement among fans. His impact on the ice can influence the team’s success not only in terms of immediate production but also in establishing a strong foundation for sustained competitiveness in the long run.

Round One, 19th OverallOliver Moore, C

During the draft, Davidson indicated that the team was trying to trade up in order to get Moore. Luckily that was not required, as he fell right in their laps.  Moore is widely known for being the fastest skater in the draft class; his speed is definitely his standout skill along with his puck-handling abilities. You can expect that he will be a solid point producer, but he also plays a responsible defensive game and understands his role well. A native of Minnesota, he scored 31 goals and assisted on 44 more, accumulating a total of 75 points during the season. He showed improvement compared to his previous year’s performance with the US National Team Development Program, where he scored 24 goals at the U17 level. Do not get too excited to see him in the NHL just yet, though. He still needs some time to develop and has committed to playing for the University of Minnesota in the upcoming season.

Round One, 35th Overall – Adam Gajan, G

Gajan was named the top goaltender during the 2022 World Juniors after putting up an impressive performance for Slovakia that included beating Team USA in a 33-save shutout. He also played a stellar game against Team Canada, allowing only three goals in a 57-shot performance by the Canadian team, ultimately losing to an overtime goal to now-Blackhawk-teammate Connor Bedard. Chicago management is very happy with this pick and his potential, as they are very impressed with this aggressive play, skating, and mobility. Gajan is only 19 years old and still a ways away from any NHL performance. This past year, he played 34 games with the Chippewa Steel, posting a .917 save percentage and 2.57 goals against average. He has committed to playing with the University of Minnesota-Duluth. However, Davidson indicated that Gajan may return to Tier II junior hockey for a season before making the jump over to Minnesota, giving him a substantial amount of playing time over the course of the year. 

Round Two, 44th OverallRoman Kantserov, RW

Kantserov is another pick that fits what Blackhawks management likes – a strong skater, smaller in size with a snipe of a shot. His entry into the NHL may be a little more difficult than others as he is 5-foot-9. However that has not stopped the Blackhawks before from drafting under-sized players that they believe have potential. He had a good season in the MHL last year, putting up 27 goals and 27 assists in 45 games, and he will be heading back to Russia to get some solid playing time in Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk. He has one year left on his MHL contract in Russia. 

Round Two, 51th Overall – Traded to the Flyers for pick 167 and LA Kings 2024 2nd round pick.

Round Two, 55th OverallMartin Misiak, C/RW

Misiak spent the beginning of the season playing in Slovakia before making the difficult decision to join the Youngstown team in the USHL. He felt that this gave him more exposure and playing time rather than staying with the HC Nove Zamky. The Blackhawks took Misiak a lot earlier than many expected, however he has been projected to have similar playing style to that of Brendan Saad. The Blackhawks liked that he was versatile in playing both centre and right wing, as he played the centre position for the Slovakian national team and currently is on the wing with Youngstown. He has a big frame and knows how to utilize it when battling for the puck, and he plays an average two-way game. However, he does need a lot of work when it comes carrying the puck. There is potential for him to get into some NHL games down the road, but there is still a lot work that needs to be done to get there. 

Round Three, 67th OverallNick Lardis, RW

One of Lardis’ notable strengths is his powerful shot, making him a significant scoring threat from near the dots. While he possesses some playmaking abilities, he lacks vision and decision-making skills on the ice. It is also important to note that Lardis is yet another undersized winger, which could naturally pose challenges at the professional level. It remains unclear whether his talent alone will be enough to overcome the obstacles posed by his size. However, his natural goal-scoring abilities provide him with a chance to succeed. He had a challenging year playing for the Peterborough Petes, but his fortunes turned around after a mid-season trade to the Hamilton Bulldogs. He recorded an impressive 25 goals and 46 points in just 33 games after the trade. This surge in performance showcased his skating and skills just in time for the draft.

Round Three, 93rd Overall – Jiri Felcman, C

At 18 years old, Felcman possesses an athletic profile as a prominent centre with average skating abilities. Over the course of 40 games for the Langnau Under-20 team in Switzerland, Felcman accumulated an impressive 31 points, comprised of 10 goals and 21 assists. He exhibited his skill and determination in the postseason, contributing eight points in nine games. Although his projection suggests a role as a bottom-six centre, his attributes, such as size and hockey intelligence, make him a valuable asset down the middle.

Round Four, 99th Overall – Alex Pharnad, C/RW

Pharand’s physical presence as a large forward, combined with his impressive skating skills, piques interest in his potential. He displays commendable puck handling abilities and exhibits finesse when finishing plays, further adding to his appeal. However, his offensive capabilities alone are not particularly outstanding. Specifically, he doesn’t appear to create a significant number of scoring opportunities or serve as a true catalyst for his team’s chances.  

Round Five, 131th Overall – Marcel Marcel, LW

Marcel’s physical presence is indeed a defining attribute. This is what the Blackhawks need to add into their lineup to complement the speed and skill higher up the lineup. Currently 19, Marcel is 6-foot-4, 240 lbs and showcased a noteworthy performance during his time with the Gatineau Olympiques, scoring 14 goals and accumulating 32 points. Additionally, he contributed to Team Czechia’s success at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championships, aiding them in securing a silver medal by registering two goals and six points across seven games.

Round Six 167th Overall – Milton Oscarson, C/RW

Oscarson joined the SHL last year and is considered to be more of a bottom-six forward in the NHL. With all of the smaller sized forwards being drafted by this organization, they also needed to add some size. Oscarson fits that bill, coming in at 6-foot-6 and 216 lbs. I would expect to see him specialize in a penalty killing role while playing up and down the lineup.

Round Seven, 195th Overall – Jaane Peltonen, D

Peltonen, hailing from Oulu, Finland, is a sizeable defenseman who displays impressive skating abilities relative to his size. He is projected to become a reliable defender when facing more experienced players. However, the primary concern regarding his game lies in his complete absence of offensive contributions and skill. Whether or not he can effectively move the puck remains uncertain, making it a critical aspect to monitor moving forward.  

The Off-Season

Now that Davidson has been at the helm for two drafts, it is clear that he has performed admirably, excluding the expected top pick. While the organization faced major challenges, Davidson’s management has demonstrated competence and effectiveness in navigating the team’s future direction.

Incoming 

Main roster: Taylor Hall (LW), Corey Perry (RW), Ryan Donato (C), Nick Foligno (LW)

System: Kevin Korchinski (D), Frank Nazar (C), Sam Rinzel (D), Lukas Reichel (F/LW), Wyatt Kaiser (D), Ethan Del Mastro (D), Drew Comesso (G)

New Signings:

Nick Foligno & Corey Perry

Perry and Foligno have consistently brought a high level of competitiveness to every team they have played for, contributing significantly to their longevity and success in the NHL. Their presence on the team offers a notable contrast to other veterans like Taylor Hall and Tyler Johnson. While they may not possess the same offensive flair at this stage of their careers, their experience and competitive style certainly make up for it. Both players embody the gritty mold that Richardson is known for. Projected lineups indicate that both forwards are likely to play in the middle- to bottom-six positions, with Foligno potentially occupying a higher spot in the lineup than Perry. With an influx of young talent joining the team, it is important to have gritty veterans to guide and inspire them.

Ryan Donato

The addition of Donato from free agency is a good one.  He will make valuable contributions through physical play, energizing shifts, and crucial penalty-killing minutes. He will not play major minutes and in all likelihood will be a middle- to top-six forward. He was primarily brought in to enhance offensive output and provide quality forechecking during his shifts. He is a very versatile player who can play up and down the lineup. 

Taylor Hall

The Bruins and Blackhawks made this trade primarily for cap-related reasons, which benefitted both teams. While Hall may not be as dominant as he was during his time with the Devils, he still displays flashes of brilliance and maintains impressive speed. Hall’s speed will undoubtedly keep him in the mix, potentially paired with Bedard or even slotted into the second line alongside players like Taylor Raddysh, Tyler Johnson, Lukas Reichel, or Andreas Athanasiou. The team has multiple options for the first two lines, which may require some experimentation to find the right fit. Regardless, Hall’s presence represents a significant improvement for the team.

Outgoing

Brandon Hagel C), Patrick Kane (RW), Caleb Jones (D, Alec Regula (D), Ian Mitchell (D)

Re-Signed

Arvid Soderbolm (2 year – $1.95M)

Andres Athanasiou (2 year – $8.5M)

Corey Perry (1 year – $4M)

Nick Foligno (1 year – $4M)

In next month’s 32-in-32 series, we will do a deep dive into organizational depth charts to identify prospect risers, fallers and projected roles for the upcoming 2022-2023 season. Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @Punters_hockey for more prospect content and fantasy hockey analysis.

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