The first of June marks one of the most important days of a GM’s year: prospects drafted in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft must be signed by 5:00 p.m. EDT today. Most of the notable names from the Blackhawks’ class have already been signed, so they don’t make it on the following list released by CapFriendly:
The list of players that haven’t been signed is a lengthy one, and many teams have several players that still need to be signed. In cases where teams have three, four, or even five draft picks that haven’t been signed, those teams will only be able to “take what they can get”, as the odds of being able to sign all of them are slim (think Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames). Once a few of those players slip through the cracks into free agency, the Blackhawks can pounce. With their abundance of cap space, Chicago shouldn’t need to hold back when those players enter the feeding frenzy of free agency.
For a young team building from the ground up like the Blackhawks, a few of these names should prove quite intriguing. All of the names on the above list are between the ages of 19 and 22, which seems to be right around the “sweet spot” for Chicago. If these players were to join the team, they would be older than Connor Bedard and the rest of the highly touted 2023 draft class, which will send 11 prospects to Chicago at the end of June. They would also be a bit younger than the majority of the current Blackhawks’ roster. While the starting lineup will likely soon be filled with prospects from the AHL and other leagues, several players are entering their age-24 and age-25 seasons.
Two names, in particular, will be worth keeping an eye on for GM Kyle Davidson:
The highest-drafted prospect on the list, and the only one taken in the second round of his draft, Ben Roger will likely be highly sought after if he hits free agency after a stint with the Ottowa Senators. Taken with the 49th overall pick in 2021, Roger is a big-bodied defenseman who stays balanced with a long reach.
While the competition may be stiff to acquire Roger, the Blackhawks clearly have the finances to do so. They’re even under the salary cap floor, meaning they have to get players like Roger to field a roster. He plays on the right side, which is even better for the Hawks, who have a roster full of lefties on defense.
Drafted in the third round in 2021, Whynot has been a productive defenseman for the Halifax Mooseheads since before he was drafted. He’s a good two-way blue-liner with a smooth skating stride, with a good reach that exemplifies what Davidson wants his defensive roster to look like.
As the deadline to sign the list of drafted players from 2021 approaches, many prospects will likely end up back on the teams they were on before. However, these teams simply can’t sign every player, and a few talented skaters may fall through the cracks. When that happens, the Blackhawks will be there to take advantage of those situations, adding to their young roster as they work toward a championship.