Tuesday was the second day of the Blackhawks’ development camp. The prospects were split into four teams on Monday and worked with their group beginning Tuesday in advance of scrimmages coming later in the week.
After focusing our eyes on the defense on Monday, today we paid attention more to the forwards who were on the ice. With the Blackhawks using nine of their 11 draft picks on forwards last week, we weren’t alone in wondering how these young players would look as they received additional attention and work from the coaching staff.
I got to the rink early enough on Tuesday morning to catch three specific forwards doing work together with the coaching staff and top goaltending prospect Drew Commesso. Frank Nazar and Dominic James, both 2022 draft picks, and Landon Slaggert did a drill together for about 15 minutes before the other skaters joined them on the ice.
The first practice on Tuesday saw Teams Mikita and Murray on the ice. Here are a few impressions on players from the first practice:
Nazar, the 13th overall selection in the 2022 NHL Draft, has really good wheels and clearly doesn’t lack confidence with or without the puck. As you can see from his work in the early drill, he was getting plenty of attention from the Blackhawks. He showed off an extra gear in some drills and handled the puck well in traffic as well. I’m excited to see him later in the week in a scrimmage format.
Yesterday we talked about the size the Blackhawks have coming on the blue line, and that was evident again on Tuesday. Last year’s top pick, Nolan Allan, is listed at 6-2 and 195 pounds and was easily the smallest defensemen in the first session on Tuesday.
The forward group doesn’t share the size that the defensive one does, but there are a few players who looked and played bigger than their listed size. Ludwinski, the Blackhawks’ first second-round pick last week, was one of those player. He looked bigger than his listed 5-11 and 183 pounds.
Ludwinski’s hands looked good and he skated well. It was easy to see in this development camp format how he would have caught the eye of scouts who were at his games last year to watch Shane Wright.
The Blackhawks’ third-round pick (No. 79) in 2020, Slaggert has spent the last two seasons at Notre Dame in the Big Ten (yes, Notre Dame plays hockey in the Big Ten). On Monday, Slaggert’s game looked mature and he just appeared to be more physically comfortable than some of the younger players. Maybe two years of college hockey has given him enough reps to be better; maybe he’s comfortable with his ability and isn’t trying to prove anything.
Slaggert turned 20 in late-June and has been solid in his two collegiate seasons. With another year or two of development in the college ranks he could be in the mix for a spot in Rockford and, eventually, Chicago. He’s a better skater than some other recent Big Ten players (Evan Barratt) and showed a nice finish around the net.
We’ve noticed very clearly that the forwards selected last week share two attributes: they can skate, and they play bigger than their listed size.
For a guy who lasted until the sixth round last week, James has been noticeable the first two days of development camp. Listed at 5-11 and 165 pounds, he isn’t the biggest guy on the ice but he maneuvers his way around the ice confidently. Like Slaggert, you can tell James has some college seasoning to his game (he appeared in 39 games for Minnesota-Duluth last season).
He’s a later round pick we’re going to keep an eye on this year because I like what I’ve seen early from James in camp.
In the second half of the practice when teams Savard and Esposito went to work, there were three more forwards who stood out.
Chicago’s third, third-round pick (No. 90) and University of Denver forward has been impressive both days. Though he’s listed at 5-11 and 181 pounds, he did a nice job in the various drills working his way through contact and moving the puck.
At one point during the drill in the tweeted video above, Thompson went between his legs and made a perfect pass to a skater in the middle of the ice for a shot on net. It was the prettiest play of that part of practice. He looks like a potentially dynamic playmaker with some skill. We’ll see how his development continues at DU.
Before the rest of the skaters were on the ice on Monday morning, Colton Dach was the first player to make an appearance. He got some focused time with the coaches before the day began. On Tuesday, he looked more physically engaged throughout practice. He showed good jump and appeared to be a decent passer.
Obviously we don’t know how the relationship between the Blackhawks and Colton will progress with his older brother no longer being with the organization, but he was a noticeable player on Tuesday morning.
Savoie, who told the media there’s a little Brad Marchand in his game, has looked the part in the first two days of camp. Listed at 5-10 and 189, Savoie is a grinder who seems to always have a smirk, if not smile, on his face. And he’s totally cool with throwing his hands around, too (see tweet below). He was a third-round pick by the Blackhawks last week who could be a nice add to the pipeline as well.