Saturday, June 15, 2024

Blackhawks Top Prospects Lighting Up Junior, Collegiate Levels

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After a successful two-game road trip in Florida for the Blackhawks, the team won’t be on the ice today. Bedard and the gang will return to the United Center Thursday night for a matchup with the Lightning before heading to Nashville for a Saturday matinee. Though Chicago’s NHL team isn’t currently busy, their prospects are putting in some serious work at the junior and collegiate levels.

The Blackhawks’ group of young forward prospects is particularly hot right now. As they look to crack the professional ranks as early as next year, the NHL roster could get crowded in a hurry. Frank Nazar, Nick Lardis, and Paul Ludwinski are among a bundle of skaters who have been real difference-makers for their squads early into the fall slate.

Frank Nazar

After spending much of his freshman season off the ice due to a hip injury that required surgery, the Blackhawks’ 2022 13th-overall pick put up a monster performance at Team USA’s Summer Showcase, showing he’s back to full health and hungrier than ever. He’s been the focal point of a dominant Michigan team and has made good on those expectations. The 19-year-old has won more than 65% of his faceoffs and scored six goals and seven assists in 12 games this year. A player I see as the top non-NHL prospect of the Blackhawks right now has Chicago licking its chops – it won’t be long before Nazar is in a Blackhawks sweater.

Nick Lardis

The Blackhawks took Lardis with their third-round pick this year, and he’s already outperformed the expectations of nearly everyone. Though his team, the Brantford Bulldogs of the OHL, sits in last place in the East Division, Lardis has scored 12 goals in 17 games this year and has a point in 10 of his last 11 games. He’s clearly an elite scorer at the OHL level, and if his game can continue to progress, he’ll represent a true diamond in the rough for GM Kyle Davidson and his staff.

Paul Ludwinski

After Ludwinski was drafted 39th overall by the Blackhawks in 2022, his production took a small hit when he was sidelined with injuries near the beginning and end of the season. He showed up to training camp this year fully healthy, though, and hit the ground running when he returned to Kingston to spend this season with the Frontenacs of the OHL. In 15 games, he’s logged 18 points and has a point in nine straight games. It’s his third full year in the OHL, and after signing his entry-level contract this spring, he’ll likely be in Rockford next year. At just 19 years old, he’s one of Chicago’s most anticipated prospects, and if he keeps producing at this incredible level, he’ll be a cornerstone of the Blackhawks’ rebuild before long.

It’s still early in their respective seasons, but more than a few Blackhawks are lighting up the scoreboard at the junior and collegiate levels. With those players all expected to head to Chicago within the next few years, the young Blackhawks are coming, and they’re coming fast.

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