When it comes to the NHL, even the most casual of fans know that every rebuild starts with a good farm system. The Chicago Blackhawks clearly know it too. A few weeks removed from a hectic trade deadline, they now boast one of the best prospect pools in the league, with players like Lukas Reichel, Kevin Korchinski, and more coming through the pipeline and hoping to make an impact soon.
The already-strong group just added one more to its ranks. Chicago announced Monday afternoon that it would be signing 21-year-old Ryder Rolston to a three-year, entry-level contract. The deal, which runs until the end of the 2025-26 season, carries with it a cap hit of $895,000 annually. It doesn’t technically come into effect until next season, so for now, he will play on a professional tryout (PTO) contract. Rolston is expected to report to the Rockford IceHogs, where he’ll likely remain for at least the rest of this campaign.
Ryder Rolston, despite being only 21 years old, has a long history of living up to expectations in important games. He began gaining attention while representing the USA on the National U17 team, where he played in 52 games and scored 37 points. The following year, he played on the National U18 squad and logged 54 games along with 33 points. In the 2019-20 season, he joined the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL where he again tallied 33 points in 42 games.
Rolston then took his talents to the University of Notre Dame for three seasons. His biggest step forward came in his sophomore season, amassing 27 points. His bottom-line numbers took a slight hit this past season, and he put up seven goals and 13 assists. However, he was out for the last ten games of the year after he suffered a broken collarbone and underwent season-ending surgery.
His lingering injury will likely keep him off the ice in Rockford for at least the near future. Without a known timetable for his return, time will tell if Rolston is able to get comfortable with his new team at some point this season, or if we will have to eagerly anticipate his return in the fall.
The rights to Rolston were acquired by the Blackhawks at the 2021 Trade Deadline from the Avalanche. Colorado took him with their fifth-round selection in the draft the year before, and sent him and forward Josh Dickinson to Chicago in exchange for Carl Soderberg.
Rolston appears to have all the tools to be a valuable asset in Chicago. At 6’2” and 190 pounds, he can slot in at either wing or center. With skating as one of his biggest strengths, he knows how to stretch a zone. His speed coupled with lateral mobility also makes him a defensive force, and he’s more than serviceable on the backcheck. He also has no shortage of puck-handling skills, as he’s crafty and evasive in the offensive zone.
No one can question that the Blackhawks are a team focused on the future, and many of their recent roster moves prove as much. Forward Ryder Rolston is the most recent addition to a system that’s now loaded with young talent. While we won’t see him right away, Rolston will hope to eventually step in on the NHL roster and be a key part of their run to a championship down the road.