Before the 2022 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks prospect system was ranked in the lower third and often at or near rock bottom depending on the ranking. After the draft, though, the Hawks anecdotally catapulted into the middle third even if in the latter half of this tier.
If the Hawks are trending in an upward trajectory, then they could get into the upper third after next summer's 2023 draft then ideally into the top 3-5 or even best overall once the 2024 draft has come and gone. Gaining more 1st round picks in each draft wouldn’t hurt either.
With all rankings, they must be taken with a grain of salt as so much can change and be factored in over time. After all, rankings such as those for prospects are based on the realization of potential which can go either way -- positive or negative -- for each individual player.
Furthermore with prospect rankings, results are deferred so a highly rated prospect system today could end up with more flops than anticipated down the road once careers start running their course. The opposite is possible, too, with a lowly rated system unearthing several diamonds in the rough.
The proof will be in the pudding no matter each system's composition and outlook or each prospect's potential and timeline. The previous paragraph could be hyperbole yet it’s not far fetched for any system to have its share of success stories, horror stories, and everything in between.
Additionally, there’s no immediate return on investment on the whole for an entire franchise’s system. A small subset of all prospects include blue chippers who make it to the NHL right away or at least in short order. Most prospects need some or a lot of time marinating in lower leagues.
The Blackhawks are no different, of course. With Chicago’s prospects, there are comparatively fewer who are on the fast track and virtually just as many who project to be top 6 forwards, top 4 defensemen, and starting goalies which are exactly what the Hawks need more of.
Of the Hawks prospects, how many are forecasted to be 1st liners or 1st pair blueliners? Perhaps two of each tops? Lukas Reichel and Frank Nazar up front and Wyatt Kaiser and Kevin Korchinski in the back. Sure there could be surprises but there don't seem to be many dark horse candidates.
Where the Hawks may be in good shape is in net as they have goalie prospects Drew Commesso and Arvid Soderblom who could give the team a solid tandem for a decade or longer as early as the 2024-25 season. Having at least one hit potential would be wonderful. Both would be icing on the cake.
So where does that leave everyone else? All other system prospects will inevitably find their water level as role players, NHL/AHL tweeners, career minor leaguers, Europe bound, or even out of the sport. So how exactly has the Chicago pipeline improved since the 2022 draft?
General manager Kyle Davidson may have made lateral moves with new prospects that are in his likeness -- i.e. have high doses of speed and compete level -- while jettisoning those that aren’t. Davidson has received criticism for purging anyone who is of the regime of his predecessor Stan Bowman.
Assuming there’s a kernel of truth to that notion, is that fair that anything Davidson touches is golden and anything that Bowman touched was junk? Exaggerations aside, Davidson still has no track record to rest his hat on besides the platitudes of many claiming he vastly improved the system.
Again, it’s still too early to determine returns whether those investments were made by Davidson or Bowman. That’s the engrained yet expected issue with all systems so this isn’t foreign to all other teams. Regardless, the Hawks seem to be going in the right direction with prospects.
Or is that necessarily the case? Something to keep in mind is the concept of recency bias. For example, the new kids on the block are frequently the shiny new objects that fans and even analysts drool over then figuratively bump the prospects already in the system down a peg on the depth chart.
But are Paul Ludwinski, Ryan Greene, and Gavin Hayes better than Evan Barratt, Josiah Slavin, and Mike Hardman? Are Aidan Thompson and Samuel Savoie better than Philipp Kurashev and Andrei Altybarmakian? Is Sam Rinzel better than Ian Mitchell? Are these just updated versions of one another?
How much really has the system improved? Or was it merely updated?
See you on the boards!
Sources: Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, NBC Sports Chicago, The Athletic Chicago