When the tandem of Connor Bedard and Oliver Moore was drafted this summer with Chicago’s first two picks, the draft was practically over. The Blackhawks could walk away with the best class of players and not look back.
However, when GM Kyle Davidson and his staff opened the second day of picks at 35th overall, they selected a player that could develop into something special in his own right. And with that development, goaltender Adam Gajan could one day find himself between the pipes for the Blackhawks on a nightly basis.
When Gajan was drafted with the Blackhawks’ third pick, in the early second round, his position was what surprised the common fan most. In a year where the focus was on the attacking front, which had been woeful in the previous few seasons, Chicago instead opted to continue to flesh out its goalie prospect pool. The abundance of prospects at the position is what made the pick so initially puzzling – Arvid Soderblom finally seems ready for full-time work at the NHL level, while Drew Commesso recently broke into the professional game and will play for the IceHogs this year.
Though his route to the NHL will be blocked by premier talent for the foreseeable future, Gajan could still be a big part of this team’s long-term vision. He’ll head back to the Green Bay Gamblers this fall in the USHL, where he posted a .906 save percentage in six games last year, in a season where he also played for the Chippewa Steel of the NAHL. Gajan is perhaps best known on a global level for stunning Team USA at the most recent World Juniors, where he saved 33 shots to help Slovakia to a 6-3 win over the Americans before falling to Bedard and the Canadians in overtime in the following game. After another year in Green Bay, he’ll play at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, which will hopefully serve as a springboard to begin his professional career.
A Vote Of Confidence
Davidson is obviously a huge believer in Gajan’s game, and not just due to his high draft selection. His athleticism and performance on the global stage were big factors in the decision, says the GM:
The 19-year-old going undrafted last year can be attributed to the nature of the goalie position today, where it’s become increasingly common to choose overage goalies because of their experience advantages. Still, he’s the youngest at his position in the Blackhawks’ system, giving him a longer runway to become an NHL-caliber talent. He’ll need it, given his plans for the next few years.
Part Of Future Plans?
Where does he fit in with the system in Chicago? With the contract of 31-year-old Petr Mrazek ending after this year, the Blackhawks will have to wait and see where Commesso’s game is at before considering an extension for the veteran. If they opt to go the younger route in 2024-25, a spot at the professional level will be open sooner than anyone expected. Though Gajan is likely tied down from the pros for another two years or more, he could eventually slot in with the IceHogs, where he’d get the opportunity to prove he belongs.
It’s clear the Blackhawks didn’t just throw a dart with their valuable second-round pick this year. Instead, Gajan seems to be a big part of their long-term plans. Though we won’t see the touted prospect for quite some time, he definitely won’t be forgotten.