There’s a lot of things that are populating my 2021 offseason Blackhawks Wishlist. The list seemingly grows every week as I watch more Stanley Cup Playoff hockey and wonder to myself, “how do the Blackhawks get back here?” Today we’ll dive into the NHL Draft side of the wishlist again with prospects eligible for this summer’s NHL Draft that would fit the needs of the Blackhawks as they look to build upon the young talent that emerged on their roster during the 2021 season.
Since we started the Wednesday Wishlist, the Blackhawks have secured the 11th overall draft pick in this July’s NHL Entry Draft. With that in mind, today’s draft prospect on my wishlist is U.S. Development Program standout Chaz Lucius.
Why He Fits
The Blackhawks had a few prospects emerge this season as rookies that made impacts in the forwards group. Brandon Hagel and Philipp Kurashev took big steps forward in 2021 to solidify themselves as players in the NHL. But neither projects to be a high-end goal-scorer or point producer at the NHL level and the Blackhawks have a slight deficiency in that area of their forward prospect group. Outside of 2020 first round pick Lukas Reichel, there’s not too many players that jump off the page as top talent in putting the puck in the net. That’s where Lucius would fit in.
— USA Hockey’s NTDP (@USAHockeyNTDP) February 20, 2021
The past two seasons have been difficult for all hockey leagues to navigate and has hindered the development of a lot of players in this year’s draft class. Having to deal with an injury only makes things more complicated. Lucius missed the U18 World Junior Championships this summer due to injury, but his small sample size with the U.S. National Team Development Program has been enough to catch the attention of scouts around the league that recognize him as a top-ten caliber prospect in this draft class.
Over the past two seasons with the USNTDP in the USHL, Lucius has tallied 21 goals and 40 points in 44 games. He also has skated in 65 games over the past two seasons with the U17 and U18 U.S. National Team, where he has tallied 44 goals and 72 points. He was also named to the U17 World Hockey Challenge All-Star Team last season as he led the tournament in goals (7) and points (10) on his way to a Silver Medal with Team USA.
But it’s not just his goal-scoring ability that has made him a top-tier prospect in this year’s draft class. As profiled by The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler earlier this month, Lucius has a work-ethic and mentality around the sport that is seemingly unmatched by any other prospect in this year’s class.
From his youth program coach Billy Hengen in Wheeler’s profile:
In our mind, he’s the top guy. Chaz was the best goal scorer in the age group and he still is. Some things don’t change. He’s the alpha when he steps onto the ice,” Hengen said. “And he’s a 24/7 guy. You don’t come across those hardly ever. He’s on a level that we don’t see.
While Lucius is a high-end goal-scorer and considered one of the top, if not the top scorer in the draft class, his two-way game is an underrated aspect to his full ability and could develop as he physically matures into a real secondary asset to his all-around game. Lucius is set to play college hockey at the University of Minnesota next season.
• Future Considerations: 12th
• Dobber Prospects: 16th
• TSN (Bob McKenzie): 9th
• NHL Central Scouting: 12th (North American Skaters)
• McKeen’s Hockey: 6th
• Elite Prospects: 18th
What The Experts Are Saying
Lucius’ skating is as good now as it was before he missed the first four months of the season with a knee injury. The forward (6-1, 185) is strong around the net in the offensive zone and has an NHL-caliber shot that he used to score 13 goals in 13 games this season.
I think he’s like God’s gift to the Earth. No bullshit, no coach speak, his mindset is on another planet. He’s not human. I’ve never seen it. He’s the Tom Brady of 17-year-olds. As a coach you’re like ‘whoa, maybe I should be doing what he’s doing.
After missing the start of his draft year to a knee injury, Lucius has come back, regained his form, and wreaked havoc on goalies in the USHL. Lucius, arguably the best shot in this class, has 18 points (13 goals, five assists) in just 12 games.
The most skilled forward on the NTDP, Lucius returned from a serious knee injury and somehow looked like a better skater than before. One of the best goal-scorers in the draft, his shot selection is impeccable.
At 6’0″ and 175-pounds, Lucius doesn’t also solve the Blackhawks’ need for skillful size in their prospect system, but at the same time, these are still 18-year-old kids with access to some of the best athletic training in the world. So it’s safe to say he’ll grow a bit more and get bigger and stronger as he continues his development. Chicago hasn’t drafted a talented goal-scorer at the level of Lucius since Alex DeBrincat and needs a player of that caliber to compliment more “pass-first” style players in the system already like Kirby Dach and Lukas Reichel to build for the future.