Prospect Thoughts, Nazar Coming Back? Bettman’s Anniversary, Columbus’ Win and Loss, and Other Blackhawks Bullets
We’re half-way through a full week without Blackhawks hockey. Do you miss it as much as I do? Even with the losses, having games to watch is better than the alternative. Let’s wait until the postseason for another drought this long without a game, okay?
- With the trade deadline comes thoughts about the next draft. If there’s one silver lining to the losing this season, it’s that the Blackhawks’ prospect pool has been impressive this season. Very impressive. The group of defensemen looks to be closer to making a significant impact on the NHL roster than the crop of forwards (except Lukas Reichel) but there’s a lot to be hopeful about in the system now. More than really at any point in the past six or seven years, in fact. I updated our BN rankings of the top 20 prospects in the system this morning.
- One player I did not include in the top 20 — because he hasn’t played this season — is Michigan freshman forward Frank Nazar. Well, we got an encouraging update on Nazar from Michigan head coach Brandon Naurato on his radio show this week. He’s optimistic that Nazar, the 13th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, will play this season.
“I’m not sure. Crossing my fingers. We’re optimistic,” Naurato said Tuesday on the Inside Michigan Hockey radio show. “If Frankie does play, it’s because he’s at 100% and he’s ready to go.”
- Happy anniversary to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman! Today is the 30th anniversary of Bettman being named the head of the league. As Sean McIndoe wrote in his piece below, “He’s the most influential figure in the history of the NHL, and it’s not close.”
- I invite you to read McIndoe’s breakdown of Bettman’s tenure because it makes a marvelous case for both the good parts of Bettman’s tenure and the frustrating underlying realities. Bettman inherited a trainwreck from the previous regime and had led through some truly remarkable financial climates for the game. But, as McIndoe points out, every sport has seen record revenue increases. And the NHL is still well behind the other major sports in the United States. There have been labor stoppages, friction with the players association and fans; there has also been expansion and more people watching and playing the game than ever before.
- How do you feel about Bettman’s 30 years as the NHL’s top guy? Let me know in the comments.
- The Columbus Blue Jackets lost last night — but they did it in overtime. And that’s a good thing for the Blackhawks. The Jackets are still in the top spot in the draft lottery race, but they have now played three more games than the Blackhawks. Chicago can do themselves a big favor in the standings with their first two home games after the All-Star Break being against Anaheim and Arizona. Chicago has the fewest games played in the top five in the tank race.
- With Bo Horvat off the board, the trade market is turning its attention to other top names who might be available. San Jose’s Timo Meier is at the top of the list, but another popular forward name was Columbus’ Gustav Nyguist. Was. News this morning is that Nyquist’s regular season is over. My guy David Pagnotta at The Fourth Period asks an important question regarding his playoff availability, but this thins the trade market for teams that need an impact forward. Enter Andreas Athanasiou, Max Domi, and… just about any/every other Blackhawks forward.
- Ben Pope at the Chicago Sun-Times wrote about some of Seth Jones‘ issues defensively. As Pope writes, Seth is coming off one of the best stretches of his career offensively in January. But the defenseman’s… defense… continues to be a problem. Especially when teams come right at him.
Opponents’ carry-in and entries-leading-to-chances rates against Jones have surpassed the league averages for years now, although not as excessively as they do now. In 2021-22, those rates against Jones were 65.0% and 4.7, respectively. In 2020-21 with the Blue Jackets, they were 66.0% and 4.1, respectively.
- Seth goes as far as to acknowledge that Jake McCabe covering his tail has helped him play with more confidence offensively, but he acknowledges that his defensive issues are still there.
- Finally, if you haven’t heard by now, the actual, legitimate, singular GOAT — Greatest Of All-Time — Tom Brady announced he is retiring. Again. And, if you believe him this time, for good. His resume may never be matched. Someone might throw for more yards or touchdowns. But I struggled to believe another quarterback will win seven Super Bowls. You’re on deck, Mr. Mahomes…