Blackhawks 2021 Draft Class Updates: How Have The Picks Performed?
Earlier this week we looked back at the Blackhawks’ 2022 Draft Class and how the picks in GM Kyle Davidson’s first draft have performed this season. That class will be an important stepping stone in his front office’s rebuild plan, and will forever be tied to this regime because of the significant trades that added picks to the pool.
However, that isn’t the only draft class that is going to influence the next generation in Chicago. For as much as we’ve all (rightfully) complained about Stan Bowman’s draft record (and development debacles), he did not leave a bare cupboard for the new group that took over.
Indeed, Bowman’s last draft class as general manager in Chicago might turn out to be one of his stronger drafts. Based on early returns, there may be some gems in this group of eight selections — four of whom have already signed contracts with the Blackhawks.
1 (32) — Nolan Allan, LHD, Seattle (WHL)
Pick acquired: via trade from Columbus in the Seth Jones trade
Ready for a familiar line? He was the captain of his previous team (Prince Albert) and was traded to Seattle mid-season. And Allan, with Kevin Korchinski and Colton Dach, were part of Canada’s gold medal-winning squad at the winter edition of the World Juniors. Allan emerged as a nice player on Canada’s middle pair and has had a nice run since joining Seattle, scoring six goals in 38 games. He was drafted to be more of a shut-down defender with decent size (6-2, 195) and he’s played to that role well this season. He has already signed his entry-level contract with the Blackhawks.
2 (62) — Colton Dach, F, Seattle (WHL)
Pick acquired: via trade (with Samuel Savoie pick) from Vegas for Nick Desimone and a 5th rounder in 2022
Dach, like Allan, was the captain of his previous team (Kelowna) before he, too, was traded to Seattle mid-season; he was traded after his season took another detour with another injury (shoulder) at the World Juniors. His season started with a strong showing at the Blackhawks’ prospect camp and a goal on the opening shift of the Prospect Showcase games, but he left after the first period with a concussion and returned late in the NHL preseason. He suffered another concussion after joining Kelowna that cost him games, and the shoulder injury has limited him to just six games with Seattle. He does have 23 points in 20 games this season and has already signed his entry-level deal with the Blackhawks, so we’ll have to see how he progresses after a largely lost season. At least the Blackhawks didn’t waste his ELC like they did with his brother.
3 (91) — Taige Harding, LHD, Providence (NCAA)
Pick acquired: via trade from Carolina (pick swap)
Harding stands out — literally — among his peers because he’s enormous (6-7, 238). Not only did he produce a career-best 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 37 games for Providence this season, but Harding was also credited with 35 blocked shots and was whistled for only four penalties. He turned 21 on Jan. 3 but has only played two collegiate seasons. Harding has not yet signed an NHL contract.
4 (105) — Ethan Del Mastro, LHD, Sarnia (OHL)
Pick acquired: via trade from Vancouver for Madison Bowey
Del Mastro is a big player (6-4, 205) who uses that size well. And, like the top two players in this class, he was a captain (at Mississauga) who was traded mid-season. He was a late addition to Canada’s gold medal-winning WJC roster in August, skating as a seventh defenseman. In the winter edition of the tournament, he was an assistant captain and skated top-pair minutes and did so with authority. He’s posted 37 points in 28 games since being traded to Sarnia. While with the Blackhawks, he looked great in NHL preseason action. I am really excited about this player and think he could be a strong contributor in the future in Chicago; he has already signed his ELC.
4 (108) — Victor Stjernborg, C, Växjö (SHL)
Pick acquired: Chicago owned
It’s been a long, frustrating year for Stjernborg with some highs and lows. He was named the captain of Sweden’s team at the World Juniors and performed well, moving up and down the lineup as one of their more relied-upon centers. But he’s struggled to produce offensively in Sweden all year; he has just one goal and seven assists in 42 games and has spent some time with their junior club this season as well.
6 (172) — Ilya Safonov, C, Ak Bars (KHL)
Pick acquired: Chicago owned
Here’s one of the more intriguing prospects in the Blackhawks’ entire system. Safonov is a 6-4, 205 and turns 22 on May 30. The bad news is he’s signed in the KHL through the 2024-25 season. The good news: he’s big and can both skate and score; he’s got 19 goals in 64 games playing at the highest level in Russia. If/When he comes over — and if the Blackhawks can sign him — he might be a steal this late in a draft.
7 (204) — Connor Kelley, RHD, Providence (NCAA)
Pick acquired: Chicago owned
Kelley is on the same Providence team has Harding, though he appeared in 64 games over two seasons at Minnesota-Duluth (with Wyatt Kaiser) before transferring before this season. He isn’t nearly as big as Harding (6-1, 190) and was limited to just six assists in 21 games this season for Providence. Kelley turned 21 on Jan. 30 and has yet to sign an ELC with Chicago.
7 (216) — Jaylen Luypen, W, Tri-City (OHL)
Pick acquired: via trade from Florida with the rights to Henrik Borgstrom, Riley Stillman and Brett Connolly for Lucas Carlsson and Lucas Wallmark.
Luypen was a surprise signing by the Blackhawks last summer after a stellar season. Unfortunately, that season’s playoffs ended prematurely because of an injury that delayed the start of this year. After 29 goals in 66 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings, his rights were traded to Tri-City. After getting healthy and joining the lineup there, he’s scored 15 goals with 18 assists in 37 games. At just 5-10 and 185 pounds, he isn’t the biggest prospect in the group but he’s been productive enough to earn an entry-level contract.