Friday, April 19, 2024

Blackhawks Looking To Lock In Another Long-Term Defenseman With Recent Move


A few weeks ago, I wrote about the pleasant surprise that has been Alex Vlasic this season – and about how he won’t be the last one through the pipeline. As the “next Alex Vlasic”, defenseman Wyatt Kaiser has been just one year behind his star counterpart for the past several seasons.

On Monday, the Blackhawks announced Kaiser would be joining Vlasic and the rest of the big-league club, recalling him from the Rockford IceHogs. It won’t be Kaiser’s first stint in the NHL this year, as he played in 23 games in Chicago before being sent down earlier this season. But like Vlasic, being with the team for most of the home stretch of the season could be a major indicator of his future with the team.

Last season, Vlasic was recalled to the NHL on March 28, playing in six games before returning to Rockford for the AHL playoffs. With 14 games remaining in Chicago’s regular season and the IceHogs likely positioned for another playoff run, it should come as no surprise if the team does the same with Kaiser. Plus, with veteran defenseman Connor Murphy still on injured reserve with a week-to-week label, Kaiser will have every opportunity to show he belongs in the NHL.

Comparing Kaiser to Vlasic and expecting the former to live up to what the latter has already done is a tall order, as Vlasic has already become one of the best statistical defensemen in the league – he’s more than sound defensively at 22 years old. But Kaiser has been just one step behind his counterpart for the last several years, from their drafts being one year apart to each spending three years in the NCAA one season apart. That trend now continues with Kaiser potentially staying on the big-league roster for most of the remainder of the season. If he makes the jump to the NHL full-time at the start of next year, who’s to say he won’t have similar success?

It’s unclear what the future holds for Kaiser, but one thing is certain: if his teammate’s past performance is any indication, the next few games are crucial for the 21-year-old. He’ll have to prove he belongs at the game’s highest level but has the perfect opportunity to do so with a month to go. If he’s able to turn into anything close to what Vlasic has, the Blackhawks’ blue line could be set for years to come.

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