With the Blackhawks being a team built for the future, the prospect pool is among the best we’ve ever seen. Though the group is headlined by obvious names like Bedard and Kevin Korchinski, GM Kyle Davidson has done a great job acquiring talent at every level. The pipeline to Chicago is a deep one, and there’s serious talent throughout the team’s top 25 prospects and even beyond. With that being said, some young stars will have a better chance to make an impact than others, creating a need for a comprehensive ranking of the top 25 prospects in the Blackhawks’ system, plus a few extras.
Below is Part 5 of the series, which features a group of players that can make significant impacts this season. These players have bided their time with the IceHogs and other organizations in the past few years, and their time to contribute at the NHL level has finally come. The below group is primarily an elite crop of defensemen who collectively represent the next generation of Chicago blueliners.
10. Alex Vlasic
In my defensive lines projection in early July, I slotted Vlasic in at LHD on the second line, paired with Connor Murphy. He also played with Seth Jones in last year’s preseason, so either way, it’s safe to say he’ll be among the top lines for Chicago as he transitions to the NHL full-time. He’s a big-bodied, polished defender who had a good season last year in Rockford, and Vlasic is more than ready for the big show.
9. Isaak Phillips
Phillips and Vlasic find themselves in similar situations, both making the jump to the Blackhawks at the same age, experience, tenure, and position. One key difference: Phillips was taken in the fifth round a few years back, representing a huge value for the team. He also has a chance to immediately make an impact as a starter this year and can help lead the new youth movement in Chicago.
8. Ethan Del Mastro
Del Mastro was a fourth-round pick back in 2021 but has continued to prove that he’s one of the best defensemen in the Blackhawks’ system. The 20-year-old is a great 1-on-1 defender with massive strength and size with good range. He was even among the best at World Juniors last season for Team Canada, logging three points in seven games as the squad’s alternate captain. He’ll join the professional ranks in Rockford this season, where he should be able to quickly progress, given his experience against top-tier talent. Once Del Mastro is brought to the NHL, he’ll be a staple of the Blackhawks’ defense for years to come.
7. Wyatt Kaiser
Fresh off his 21st birthday, Kaiser will hopefully return to the Blackhawks team he ended the season with last year. He’ll face stiff competition for one of the final spots on the roster, but if he can earn the job, Kaiser possesses enormous upside that could be huge for Chicago. His quickness makes forecheckers look silly, and he has the ability to create abundant opportunities for his teammates along with his own attacking talent.
6. Gavin Hayes
Hayes is one of the best scorers in the Blackhawks’ system, plain and simple. He’s a creative, powerful shooter, but his game does have a few holes, which can get ironed out when he returns to the Flint Firebirds of the OHL this fall. The 19-year-old should be a superstar during that campaign, as he amassed 81 points in 66 games in the same spot last year. If he can flesh out the rest of his game, Hayes could eventually become one of the best scorers in Chicago. Blackhawks fans will have to be patient with the young star, but when he’s ready for the NHL, he certainly has the skills to be big for the team down the road.