How Do Recent Blackhawks Draft Classes Stack Up Now?

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How Do Recent Blackhawks Draft Classes Stack Up Now?

Chicago Blackhawks

Earlier this week in our morning bullets, we briefly discussed a couple pieces from Corey Pronman of The Athletic looking back at recent draft classes. Pronman has been re-ranking recent drafts now that those players have had a year (or two or more) to develop since they were selected. The two we looked at in our bullets were the 2021 and 2020 draft classes.

But as the week progressed, Pronman also looked back at 2019 and 2018. So I hit the pause button on just looking at that day’s specific re-rankings and decided to bring it all together in one spot so we can consider his evaluation of the class as a whole and how the Blackhawks’ picks look now versus where the players were selected in those years.

There are three reasons for doing this. First and foremost, I have respected Pronman’s candid prospect analysis for years; he’s critical and gives praise and admits when he whiffs on a projection/prediction. Second, he does a good job in each of these posts of evaluating a significant part of each draft class (150 players). And third, most importantly, these four draft classes could/should play an important role in the future of the rebuilding Blackhawks.

I’m going to bring back some of what I previously wrote about the last two classes and add some more to the discussion here, but we’re going to start with the two drafts we haven’t considered yet.

Pronman put the prospects into tiers based on how he projects their potential impact in the NHL.

  • TIER 1: Projected NHL All-Star
  • TIER 2: Projected bubble NHL All-Star and top-of-the-lineup player
  • TIER 3: Projected top-of-the-lineup player
  • TIER 4: Projected bubble top and middle-of-the-lineup player or quality starting goaltender
  • TIER 5: Projected middle-of-the-lineup player or starting goaltender
  • TIER 6: Projected to play NHL games
  • TIER 7: Has a chance to play games

I’m going to list which tier in which the Blackhawks’ prospects appeared, and then note which players were risers, fallers or relatively break even from where they were drafted.

Alec Regula

2018 NHL Draft

The Blackhawks had eight total selections in the 2018 NHL Draft, including two first-round picks: defensemen Adam Boqvist (No. 8) and Nicolas Beaudin (No. 27). Obviously Boqvist was traded to Columbus for Seth Jones before last season.

  • Tier 1: None
  • Tier 2: None
  • Tier 3: None
  • Tier 4: None
  • Tier 5: Boqvist (No. 25), Philipp Kurashev (No. 30)
  • Tier 6: Alec Regula* (No. 44)
  • Tier 7: Nicolas Beaudin (No. 75)
    * — Regula was acquired from Detroit via trade in Oct. 2019

Risers: Kurashev (No. 30 — picked 120), Regula (No. 44 — picked 67)

Fallers: Boqvist (traded, don’t care any more), Beaudin (No. 75 — picked 27)

Break Even: N/A

My Take: The fact that Kurashev skyrocketed up 90 spots makes him the biggest climber in this draft class. And Regula climbing nicely is encouraging, though I think he has a higher ceiling than a fringe NHL player. The one guy I think Pronman missed on his list was Josiah Slavin (picked 193 — 7th round). I think he would be a solid Tier 6 based on this system as a productive fourth-line forward.

2019 NHL Draft

The Blackhawks had six total picks in the 2019 NHL Draft, headlined by the third overall selection (Kirby Dach). And, like Boqvist, Dach is no longer with the organization.

Tier 1: None
Tier 2: None
Tier 3: Dach (No. 10)
Tier 4: None
Tier 5: None
Tier 6: Alex Vlasic (No. 45)
Tier 7: Michal Teplý (No. 74)

Risers: Teplý (No. 74 — picked 105)

Fallers: Dach (traded, don’t care any more)

Break Even: Vlasic (No. 45 — picked 43)

My Take: Take this for whatever it’s worth, but Pronman had Dach rated higher than the No. 2 overall pick in ’19, Rangers forward Kaapo Kakko (keep this in mind when the Rangers are mentioned in Patrick Kane trade rumors). Kakko was a Tier 4 player. Teplý was a nice climber, moving up more than 30 spots. One guy to keep an eye on who didn’t get a mention is goaltender Dominic Basse, who is having a good year at St. Cloud State and was a sixth-round pick (No. 167).

2020 NHL Draft

The Blackhawks had eight picks in the 2020 NHL Draft and I consider this to be the first really important draft class to the rebuild. Three players from this class have signed with the Blackhawks and two — Lukas Reichel and Isaak Phillips — have seen NHL action. Three more are still in college but have played well for USA Hockey internationally.

Tier 1: None
Tier 2: Lukas Reichel (No. 11)
Tier 3: None
Tier 4: None
Tier 5: Wyatt Kaiser (No. 46), Landon Slaggert (No. 74), Drew Commesso (No. 75)
Tier 6: Isaak Phillips (No. 102)
Tier 7: None

Risers: Reichel (No. 11 — picked 17), Kaiser (No. 46 — picked 81), Slaggert (No. 74 — picked 79), Phillips (No. 102 — picked 141)

Fallers: Commesso (No. 75 — picked 46)

Break Even: N/A

My Take: The third prospect with Reichel and Phillips to have a contract is Louis Crevier, a defenseman in Rockford this season who was a seventh-round pick (No. 188). As I noted in bullets earlier this week, Pronman has been pessimistic about Commesso all along so this isn’t a shock. The significant climbs from Kaiser and Phillips are impressive, though.

2021 NHL Draft

The Blackhawks had eight picks in the 2021 NHL Draft, with the first coming 20 spots later than it was originally thanks to the Seth Jones trade. Based on Pronman’s rankings and what I have personally seen of this group, they could make a significant impact on the rebuild as well.

Tier 1: None
Tier 2: None
Tier 3: None
Tier 4: None
Tier 5: None
Tier 6: Colton Dach (No. 38), Ethan Del Mastro (No. 46), Nolan Allan (No. 53), Ilya Safonov (No. 66)
Tier 7: Connor Kelley (No. 118), Victor Stjernborg (No. 124)

Risers: Dach (No. 38 — picked 62), Del Mastro (No. 46 — picked 105), Safonov (No. 66 — picked 172) and Kelley (No. 118 — picked 204)

Fallers: Allan (No. 53 — picked 32), Stjernborg (No. 124 — picked 108)

Break Even: N/A

My Take: The three risers other than Dach being some of the biggest climbers in the entire exercise for Pronman. Jalen Luypen — the Blackhawks’ seventh-round pick (No. 216) was not mentioned despite having a strong junior season last year and signing his entry-level contract. He is still out because of an injury. Taige Harding was also not mentioned from the Blackhawks’ draft class in 2021.

What Does It All Mean?

What I like about Pronman’s rankings is they give us a little relative value on each draft class’ depth as well as placing players within their classes year(s) later. For example, the 2020 draft has more players projecting at an elite level than 2019; Dach (No. 10 overall) is a Tier 3 player while Reichel (No. 11 in his class) is Tier 2.

Further to that point, the player selected with the pick the Blackhawks traded to Columbus in 2021 (No. 12 overall — Cole Sillinger) is ranked eighth overall in 2021, but he’s the top Tier 4 player in that year’s rankings.

I don’t need to remind everyone that the Blackhawks’ drafts in 2018 and 2019 were abysmal; frankly, those two are sufficient evidence for a general manager to get fired on face value (nevermind the fact that Alex DeBrincat has been the only player from 2014-17 who made a significant impact in Chicago so far).

However, Pronman appears to really like what the Blackhawks have coming from 2020 and 2021, at least relative to where the players were selected and relative to their draft class as a whole. Half of the Blackhawks’ 16 picks from those drafts are ranked higher by Pronman now than they were selected in their respective drafts, which is a good sign they’re developing well and/or the Blackhawks found good value with their picks.

Reichel remains the only top-end player in the system from these four drafts in the eyes of Pronman (and others). But the depth for a solid foundation is there, and there are players like Kaiser and Del Mastro who could become bigger impact players with more professional development time.


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Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab