Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Recent Performance Indicates Blackhawks Got The Steal Of The 2023 Draft

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When the Blackhawks came out of the first round of last summer’s draft with both Connor Bedard and Oliver Moore, the entire event was already viewed as a huge win. The next six rounds didn’t matter; Chicago was already walking away with the “future of hockey” in Bedard and Moore, the class’s best skater.

If the Blackhawks hadn’t won the draft in the first round, they certainly sealed the deal in the third. After grabbing a few more high-quality prospects in the second cycle, Chicago landed a player who was widely regarded as one of the steals of the entire draft in Nick Lardis. Ranked as the 27th-best North American skating prospect, the Blackhawks landed him at 67th overall.

Upon returning to the OHL’s Brantford Bulldogs, Lardis’s play exceeded the expectations of everyone in Chicago. With 50 points (including 29 goals) in just 37 games, Lardis appeared to be just the scoring threat and sniper that the Blackhawks still need at the NHL level currently.

In mid-January, Lardis’s spectacular regular season came to an end due to a wrist injury. After being shut down for the remainder of the campaign, Brantford targeted the start of their playoffs for a possible return.

As the Bulldogs picked up a game-one win last night, they did so on the back of Lardis. In his first game in well over two months, he couldn’t have come out stronger. With two goals in the first period, Lardis added an assist for a three-point night without missing a beat.

The OHL isn’t exactly a perfect copy of NHL competition, but it has shown the Blackhawks why Lardis is exactly what they’re looking for. The team, which lacks any semblance of offensive firepower, could use a player like Lardis, who specializes in finding the net from any angle. The shoot-first winger’s impressive stats over the past few years are no illusion – he’s a well-developed scorer and clearly one of the biggest steals of last year’s draft.

The lethal scorer seems more NHL-ready than anyone thought. It’s unclear what the future holds between Lardis and the Blackhawks, but if he’s able to transition his scoring ability to the higher levels, there’s no telling what his upside could be.

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