The Blackhawks' 2021 Draft Class is Emerging

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The Blackhawks’ 2021 Draft Class is Emerging

Chicago Blackhawks

The 2021 NHL Draft was the final class orchestrated by Stan Bowman as general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks. And so far, it’s been difficult to measure the actual impact of those selections (the Blackhawks made eight picks that year, none of which have yet appeared in a regular season NHL game).

HOWEVER, four of those prospects have signed an entry-level contract with the organization since Kyle Davidson assumed the role of general manager. And while one of those four (Jaylen Luypen) hasn’t played this year because of injury, the other three (and one other prospect) are off to strong starts: Nolan Allan, Colton Dach, Ethan Del Mastro, and Ilya Safonov.

So let’s take a look at how those four players — three in juniors and one in the KHL — are performing this year, as each might factor into the Blackhawks’ future.

Nolan Allan, D — Prince Albert (WHL)

The Blackhawks’ first-round pick in 2021 (No. 32 overall) is the captain of the Prince Albert Raiders. He scored his third goal of the season last night to go with three assists. He had a good summer with the Blackhawks and has been solid in ten appearances for the Raiders this season.

Allan was a bit of a reach for the Blackhawks at the end of the first round in 2021; they used the pick they received from Columbus (originally Tampa’s) in the Seth Jones trade on him. He projected as a mid-second round player but the Blackhawks liked him as a defensive defenseman with some size. When Corey Pronman re-ranked players from the 2021 draft, he had Allan at 53 — which is closer to where he was projected than where the Blackhawks picked him. He’s a solid defender; the Blackhawks have a lot of those coming, however.

Colton Dach, F — Kelowna (WHL)

The Blackhawks drafted Kirby’s “little” brother (he’s 6-4) in the second round (No. 62 overall) of the 2021 NHL Draft after he posted 20 points in 20 games in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 WHL season with Saskatoon. His rights were traded to Kelowna after the draft and he had a tremendous next season, scoring 29 goals with 50 assists in 61 games.

This summer and into the practices leading up to the prospect showcase games in September, Dach had a great camp — even after the Blackhawks traded his older brother. There was an adjustment for Colton; it was obviously awkward coming to the development camp in Chicago days after Kirby was moved. But to his credit, Colton showed very well and appeared to be a more mature player this summer.

He suffered a concussion in the first period of the first game against Minnesota’s prospects in the showcase and missed the rest of that weekend and a significant part of training camp. He appeared in one preseason game for the Blackhawks, though, and performed very well. Hopes were high for him heading back to junior.

Colton was named the captain for Kelowna when he returned and got off to a good start, posting three points in three games. But another concussion slowed his season. He’s close to returning and we hope he can get back to being an impact forward because he has potential to help the Blackhawks.

Ethan Del Mastro, D — Mississauga (OHL)

The third Blackhawks’ selection from the 2021 draft currently in junior is the third player to serve as his team’s captain this season. That’s a strong statement about the character of Allan, Dach and Del Mastro. And it’s something the new Blackhawks’ front office values as they work to not only grow the talent in the organization but also place high value on character.

I wrote about Del Mastro a number of times over the summer after a strong showing in the development camp and then his participation with Canada at the World Juniors. He came back for the prospect showcase and looked terrific, and showed very well in preseason games against NHL competition. He’s a big player (listed at 6-4 and 206 pounds) and his confidence has grown exponentially since the Blackhawks selected him 105th overall in the fifth round of the 2021 draft.

When Pronman re-ranked the 2021 draft, Del Mastro was one of the biggest risers in the entire exercise; he jumped all the way up to No. 46. He’s turned heads in and out of Chicago over the past year, earning an entry-level contract and an opportunity to play against NHL teams during the preseason. Thus far, he has 12 points in 10 games to start this season for Mississauga and has shown more offense than many thought he had when he was drafted. I’m incredibly high on Del Mastro’s future with the Blackhawks.

Ilya Safonov, C — Kazan Ak-Bars (KHL)

Safonov was long-shot sixth-round pick (No. 172) in the 2021 draft who had good size (6-4) and decent hands. He’s been playing in the KHL primarily since his age-19 season and has done well, though the stats don’t show his value. Pronman had Safonov climb all the way to 66th when he re-ranked the ’21 draft, a jump of more than 100 spots.

He’s already matched his career-high of eight goals in just 22 games in the KHL this season and might be a late-round gem for the Blackhawks. The hang-up is that he’s a Russian player playing in Russia, so politics and his contract might impact his ability to join the NHL organization. But he appears to have been a really good value pick for the Blackhawks.

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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