If you haven’t been following along, the point of this Draft Wishlist series is to identify and examine the draft-eligible players that could help push the Blackhawks back into the postseason.
So far, our wishlist includes forwards Mason McTavish, Chaz Lucius, Cole Sillinger, and Matthew Coronato, as well as goaltender Jesper Wallstedt. Today, we’ll look at a position the Blackhawks have emphasized in recent drafts, but are still lacking: a top-tier defenseman.
So today’s draft prospect on my wishlist is future Wisconsin Badger Corson Ceulemans.
Why He Fits
The Blackhawks already have a pretty decent farm system when it comes to defenseman. Young players like Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, Wyatt Kalynuk, Ian Mitchell, Alec Regula, and Alex Vlasic have either already made their NHL debuts or are highly regarded in the prospects department. The problem the Blackhawks face is that they don’t have a bonafide No. 1 defenseman among them in the group.
Enter Corson Ceulemans.
Ceulemans, 18, has a solid NHL-frame at 6’2″ and 200-pounds. His skating and athleticism pull him near the top of the pile of 2021 NHL Draft-eligible defensemen, with scouts noting his quick decision-making ability and his instincts at both ends of the ice. Chicago needs a defenseman in their system that can be a do-it-all kind of player. While Boqvist has made strides defensively, he’s still an offensive-minded player (ditto Beaudin and Mitchell). Vlasic, Regula, and Kalynuk all fit better on the defensive-side of the game, as well.
As I’ve watched some of his video, Ceulemans reminds me of a young Brent Seabrook(ish) type of player.
— Brooks Bandits (@BrooksBandits) October 17, 2020
Ceulemans helped Team Canada win Gold at the U18 World Junior Championships this Spring and his eight points in six games was the highest point-per-game pace among Canada’s defensemen and tied for the most points on the team for defensemen in the tournament.
The Canadians go to a 5-on-3 power play, and Corson Ceulemans makes the Swiss pay for their lack of discipline with a one-time goal. #2021NHLDraft.
That goal gives Canada a 6-0 lead over the Swiss in the #U18Worlds.
— Elite Prospects (@eliteprospects) May 1, 2021
Without Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and possibly without Calvin de Haan next season, the Blackhawks have an incredible opportunity to give their young defensemen a long look at the NHL level.
Ceulemans is headed to the University of Wisconsin for the 2021-22 season (On Wisconsin!) so he won’t factor into the lineup for at least the next year. Giving him an opportunity to grow at a top-tier program like Wisconsin can give him time to physically mature more and sharpen his skills before making the jump into the Blackhawks organization, should they use their 11th overall pick on him.
• Future Considerations: 12th
• Sportsnet: 26th
• TSN (Bob McKenzie): 18th
• NHL Central Scouting: 14th (North American Skaters)
• McKeen’s Hockey: 27th
• TSN (Craig Button): 22nd
What The Experts Are Saying
Ceulemans is one of the better skating defensemen in this range. He has good offensive instincts and gets up into the rush quite a bit, often with the puck on his stick. Ceulemans has a strong shot, but often is looking to make the pass. He’s solid in getting pucks out of his zone, making good reads off of his retrievals and making quick decisions to get pucks up ice…As he gains strength, he could be a force. Headed to the University of Wisconsin next season, there have been plenty of young defensemen who have developed remarkably well in Madison, with both K’Andre Miller and Wyatt Kalynuk making NHL debuts last season.
There’s a lot to like about Ceulemans’ package. He’s right-handed. He’s big, and sturdy, and athletic and he uses his heaviness to play a rugged style against the rush and in his own zone along the wall (though he can also settle into lackadaisical defensive posture a little too often and get caught puck-watching). He’s also capable offensively, with an attacking style which is complemented by a hard point shot (off of his snap shot and his low slap shot) and quick offensive-zone instincts through holes as they open…a bet on Ceulemans is a bet on his raw pro tools. If he can put it all together, he’ll be a very good pro defenceman.
The big right-shot defenseman is an outstanding skater who can lead the rush and use his speed to create chances in transition and the offensive zone. He also knows how to use his mobility and long reach to keep opposing forwards to the outside.
Ceulemans will likely be on the board for the Blackhawks with the 11th overall pick in the first round.
The plan for Chicago in the draft is reportedly going to be to pick the best player available, rather than fill a need. But Chicago has needs help everywhere, so … it may not really matter. Anyone could fit.
Defensively, the Blackhawks have a good pipeline in place, but with the potential to use some of those prospects in trade packages leading up to the draft, and the loss of Duncan Keith, the Blackhawks are still going to be looking to their future on the blue-line. Ceulemans has all the tools to the a solid defenseman at the NHL level, if he can hone them correctly, he could end up being a new big minutes-eater with the Blackhawks.