Draft and develop is how organizations – in any sport – sustain success. The new Blackhawks front office has said they’re committed to doing that moving forward; their predecessors failed to that, which is why we’re back in a rebuilding situation.
If we look back at the 2018 NHL Draft — players who are now in the 22-23 age range — we should find players who are beginning to emerge in the early stages of the primes of their respective careers. Some players have been slower to NHL prominence while others made a quick jump and are now looking to significant second contracts.
From that year’s draft class, 17 players have appeared in more than 100 regular-season games at the NHL level. The last to join the 100 game club is Edmonton defenseman Evan Bouchard, who has emerged as an important part of the Oilers’ postseason.
Two of those 17 players were drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks, but only one is still with the organization (for now). Defenseman Adam Boqvist was the Hawks’ first-round pick (No. 8 overall) and forward Philipp Kurashev, who was the 120th overall selection in the fourth round. Boqvist was moved to Columbus in the Seth Jones trade; Kurashev currently a restricted free agent.
Chicago has actually received pretty good returns from the Kurashev selection. The rest of the fourth round in 2018 has 65 career games played from four players; 50 of those have come from Jasper Weatherby. So Kurashev’s 121 games played is a nice accomplishment, even if his future with the Hawks isn’t clearly defined.
The rest of that draft is still pending for the Blackhawks, with some questions about potential returns still from the top and bottom of that year’s class.
With the 27th overall pick, the Blackhawks’ second pick in the first round that year, Chicago selected another defenseman: Nicolas Beaudin. Hopes were high for Beaudin and Boqvist to potentially help rebuild a blue line that lacked depth at the time, but Beaudin has since been eclipsed by other prospects in the organization and was a healthy scratch early in the AHL playoffs by the IceHogs.
Chicago’s next pick was nice; at No. 69 overall, the Hawks selected forward Jake Wise. After three underwhelming seasons at Boston University, Wise transferred to Ohio State this past season. He had 28 points in 35 games for the Buckeyes but doesn’t appear to factor in the Blackhawks’ future.
The Hawks had a second pick in the third round in 2018 and used selection No. 74 overall on another forward, Niklas Nordgren. Scott Powers of The Athletic recently reported that the Hawks were not signing Nordgren, allowing his rights to lapse.
After using their fourth-round pick in Kurashev, Chicago came back with another forward in the fifth round (No. 139 overall) with Mikael Hakkarainen. He appeared in 14 games with Rockford between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons but went back to Europe. He, too, is not in the Hawks’ future plans.
Chicago used its sixth-round pick on goaltender Alexis Gravel, who has two games of ECHL experience on his professional resume. In the sixth round you’re really looking for lottery tickets, so Gravel not being an impact player shouldn’t come as a surprise.
However, in the seventh round in 2018 the Blackhawks may have found a nice piece for the coming years. Forward Josiah Slavin appeared in 15 games for the Blackhawks last season and showed some flashed of potential. He scored 18 goals with 14 assists in 49 games with the IceHogs. Only four other players selected in the sixth or seventh rounds in 2018 has appeared in an NHL game.
Slavin, who will turn 24 on New Year’s Eve, has one more year on his contract with a $842,500 cap hit. He won 29 of 67 faceoffs during his limited time in the NHL. The Hawks did show some trust in him when he was with the big club; he averaged 1:04 of penalty kill time per game and 15:34 overall while in the League.
Four of the eight players selected by Stan Bowman’s staff in 2018 have appeared in the NHL, with two — Boqvist and Kurashev — seeing extended action. And the futures appear to be headed in different directions for Beaudin and Slavin.