Nazar Talks Return, Commesso Getting Attention, McCabe’s Offense, Kravtsov Wants Out of NY, and Other Blackhawks Bullets
With the Blackhawks in Montreal tonight, it appears Jonathan Toews won’t be in the lineup (again). According to Ben Pope, Toews is still working out in Chicago and is probably out until Ottawa on Friday at the earliest. Toews was at the United Center on Friday night and has been working out for a few days.
- Scott Powers chatted with Blackhawks prospect Frank Nazar on Monday and shared their conversation in a Q&A format. Nazar didn’t speak about anything specific regarding his injury, but said missing three-quarters of his freshman season was tough (understandably). His positivity comes through all over the interview, however. And his perspective for a teenager with a lot of hype following him is impressive as well.
- The final questions are about the Blackhawks. While Nazar wouldn’t commit to anything, he did say he can see himself returning to Ann Arbor for a sophomore season. As I’ve said before, that makes sense for both the player and the Blackhawks; get him some more reps against tough Big Ten competition in a top-tier program… and the Hawks aren’t going to compete again next year, so there’s no rush. This answer made me light up like a Christmas tree, though. Powers asked him “How do you look at the Blackhawks and where you fit into their future?”
“When I got drafted by the Blackhawks, it was pretty much exactly how I wanted draft night to go. I don’t mean this in like a cocky way, but I go first round to an Original Six team and to an amazing franchise who just brought in a bunch of new people who are very smart and intellectual. It’s even better that they’re rebuilding for me because then I could get in there and try to do my best to help the team win and kind of find a spot in their organization. And, yeah, it might take a few years, but I think there’s no better spot to be.”
- Michigan will face their hated rival, Ohio State, outside this weekend at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. The game should be exciting because they’re both highly-ranked teams. And Blackhawks fans will have someone to watch on both rosters. Jake Wise, the Blackhawks’ third-round pick (No. 69) in 2018, is a fifth-year senior for the Buckeyes. He’s currently sixth in fan voting for the Hobey Baker Award according to this update. Wise has 10 goals and 15 assists in 30 games for Ohio State this season.
- Let’s talk about the Blackhawks’ goaltending future for a moment. Yesterday I was happy to see three Blackhawks prospects crack the top-25 on Scott Wheeler’s rankings of the top-50 drafted prospects in the NHL at The Athletic. This morning he released his top-10 drafted goaltenders list. Blackhawks prospect and current Boston University netminder Drew Commesso made the list at No. 10. Arvid Söderblom received an honorable mention nod. Here’s part of what Wheeler said about Commesso:
I see a mature makeup as a kid and goalie. At 6-foot-2, he’s not big by today’s standards for a goalie, but he blends a studious approach to the position with sharp angles, sound technique, and a calming, poised demeanour to keep shots in his chest, control rebounds, settle down plays and hold firm to his edges. And while he’s not a dynamic athlete, he can fall back on his athleticism when the play does break down, he’s efficient in his movements, he’s quick on his feet and he doesn’t put himself into many scrambles because of the way he reads the play… I’m not convinced he’s going to be a starter at the next level, but I — and the rest of the hockey world (including USA Hockey, who’ve already brought him to men’s worlds and the Olympics) — fully expect him to become an NHL goalie.
- When the Blackhawks returned from their week off and the All-Star Break, head coach Luke Richardson said the coaches were looking to add some new wrinkles to the systems, especially on the offensive end of the ice. Ben Pope did a nice job of breaking down some of the things we’ve seen from the Blackhawks since the calendar year turned to 2023, with a focus on how Jake McCabe has increased his influence on the offense.
But McCabe, in particular, has flourished more than anyone. On New Year’s Day, he was averaging 1.7 shots per game, of which 65.5% had gotten through unblocked and 50.9% had been on goal. Since then, he has averaged 3.3 shots per game, of which 86.8% have gotten through unblocked and 58.5% have been on goal.
- Forward Vitaly Kravtsov has reportedly asked the New York Rangers for a trade. He hasn’t been happy there for a while and his name has floated around trade rumors since last season. Based on what their head coach, Gerard Gallant, said about him on Monday, it’s being played as a numbers game for the young Russian forward. Kravtsov, 23, is a restricted free agent this coming summer.
- I wouldn’t be mad if the Blackhawks made a play for Kravtsov, who was the ninth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. He has three goals and three assists in 28 games this season after spending last year in the KHL.
- We got another update this morning on the upcoming sale of the Ottawa Senators. As I’ve said before, I’m absolutely all-in on Ryan Reynolds getting a piece of the team when the sale is finalized — he would be great for the organization and a huge add to the NHL in an ownership capacity.
- Finally, speaking of spending a lot of money, the NFL’s offseason has officially begun and the Chicago Bears own two coveted things: the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and the most cap space in the league. While they have plenty of issues to address (they have the top pick for a reason), adding a big-time receiver for Justin Fields is at/near the top of the list. And there’s one name that keeps being mentioned that I happen to love (as does our Bears crew).