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Top Prospects: Defensemen

November 11, 2020, 4:05 AM ET [62 Comments]
Theo Fox
Chicago Blackhawks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Today’s blog is the 2nd installment of a three-part series presenting the Blackhawks prospect rankings at forward, on the blueline, and in net. Monday’s blog focused on the forwards. Here’s the remaining schedule:

* Today, 11/11: Defensemen
* Friday, 11/13: Goalies

Each blog will feature not only the top prospects but also those who are honorable mentions, who are too early to predict, and who have little to no chance of making it to the NHL at least in Chicago’s system.

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Little to No Chance

Joshua Ess just hasn’t stood out ever since being drafted in 2017 and has been somewhat forgettable in the system. If anything -- like they did with other D draft picks Jake Ryczek and Jack Ramsey -- offer Ess an AHL deal to start in Indy then go from there.

Roope Laavainen reminds me of his fellow Finn draftee Joni Tuulola: a defensive defenseman with low potential to make it to the NHL but may be decent AHL depth. To his credit, Laavainen was promoted a few days ago from the non-elite league to the elite league in Finland.

Anton Lindholm came over with Nikita Zadorov in the Brandon Saad trade that also saw Dennis Gilbert go to the Avs. At most, Lindholm gets a cup of coffee this season as an injury fill-in. Yet, I would be surprised if he’s still in the system by summer. He’s simply AHL depth.

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Too Early to Tell

Louis Crevier has intriguing size at 6’8” 216 lbs. plus meat on his frame. It’s doubtful he’s anything close to the next Zdeno Chara. Nonetheless, Crevier is competitive in his zone and focused on locking it down defensively. He uses his large body and long reach to his advantage.

Michael Krutil seems like a prospect who does everything generally well but doesn’t excel at any one of them. What puts him over the top versus past D prospects with the same talent profile is his compete level. Krutil is a candidate for the Czech Republic’s WJC blueline.

Cole Moberg could easily be in the “little to no chance” category but he was one of the best defenders in last year’s prospect camp and Traverse City tourney. He’s lauded as a great teammate on and off the ice. Something about him says give him a shot. He reminds me of Brent Sopel.

Isaak Phillips may have the best potential in this foursome. His physical, relentless style at both ends of the rink is reminiscent of P.K. Subban. He’d be hard-pressed to put up the same offensive numbers as Subban at his peak but having that kind of rearguard on the 3rd pair would be welcome.

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Honorable Mentions

No D prospects in this category. Move along.

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10. Wyatt Kaiser

2020-21 Team: University of Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
Shoots: Left
Slot Potential: 3rd pair
Trajectory: At least two seasons in the NCAA then two seasons in the AHL before being in the mix for an NHL role by 2024-25

Kaiser has been praised as a youngster who already skates like an NHLer. With the team gravitating toward having a mobile D corps, this already gives him a leg up as a viable candidate down the line by aiding in escaping the zone, rushing up ice, and getting back after turnovers.

He has a high compete level, hockey sense, and ability to play physical as a smaller defender. While he claims he needs to push the pace more on offense, he's still reliable in all zones.

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9. Stanislav Demin

2020-21 Team: University of Denver (NCAA)
Shoots: Left
Slot Potential: 3rd pair
Trajectory: At least one more season in the NCAA then two seasons in the AHL before being in the mix for an NHL role by 2023-24

Demin is an excellent technically sound skater who is able to play physical. He has the wherewithal to take care of his end first rather than think up ice and flee the zone before the puck does. He uses his skating, size, and range to his advantage in all zones.

A critique I've seen about Demin is that he needs to be better offensively but I don't view that as an issue given his strengths in skating and defending. Any offense is icing on the cake.

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8. Jakub Galvas

2020-21 Team: Jukurit (SM Liiga, Elite, Finland)
Shoots: Left
Slot Potential: 3rd pair
Trajectory: Finish this season in Finland and spend at least one season in the AHL but likely two then be in the mix for an NHL role by 2023-24

Galvas is undersized yet competes hard in his own end, skates well, and jumps into the play. He shows composure and executes fundamentals by constantly staying between his man and the net, using his stick at opportune times to close off lanes, and not over committing on defensive plays.

Counting this season, Galvas already has five years of pro experience: first playing three seasons in the elite league in his home country of the Czech Republic then two seasons in the Finnish elite league.

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7. Alex Vlasic

2020-21 Team: Boston University (NCAA)
Shoots: Left
Slot Potential: 2nd pair
Trajectory: At least two more seasons in the NCAA then at least one season in the AHL before being in the mix for an NHL role by 2023-24

Vlasic wasn't drafted to play the same role as Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, or Ian Mitchell. Instead, he needs to be a defensive defenseman who skates well and transitions the puck. Defending with an active stick coupled with has size and reach may prove to be a lethal combination.

What’s missing are holding his own against the toughest opponents and having snarl. If Vlasic can keep pace at higher levels and get stronger, he can mature his ability to overpower the opposition.

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6. Alec Regula

2020-21 Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Shoots: Right
Slot Potential: 3rd pair
Trajectory: At least two seasons in the AHL then be in the mix for an NHL role by 2022-23

Regula is the only RHD prospect signed to an ELC besides Mitchell. There’s a lot to like about Regula: he can play both sides, he skates well with deceptive speed, he has acute hockey sense to make smart plays, and he makes crisp passes.

While he could stand to be more physical, Regula is responsible in his own end. He has the makings of a balanced player who thinks defense first, carries the mail at even strength, and contributes on the powerplay.

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5. Wyatt Kalynuk

2020-21 Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Shoots: Left
Slot Potential: 2nd pair
Trajectory: Capable of earning a cup of coffee this season then be in the mix for a full-time NHL role in 2021-22

Kalynuk is arguably the best skating rearguard in the system. While he isn't necessarily a speed merchant, he’s very agile and technically sound. He could challenge for a spot as the powerplay QB due to his optimal decision making to shoot or pass from the point.

Whether 5-on-5 or on the man advantage, Kalynuk has a knack for getting pucks on net or just in areas so the forwards down low can do something productive with it.

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4. Chad Krys

2020-21 Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Shoots: Left
Slot Potential: 3rd pair
Trajectory: Capable of earning a cup of coffee this season then be in the mix for a full-time NHL role in 2021-22

Krys improved considerably from start to finish in his rookie year at Rockford learning how to protect the high danger areas, not stray out of position, battle for 50/50 pucks, play the body whenever necessary, and manage gaps to angle players off pucks and seal off lanes.

If he can avoid playing fast and loose with the puck, Krys can thrive with his capacity to see the entire ice sheet so he can transition the puck with his powerful skating, sublime edge work, and crafty passes.

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3. Lucas Carlsson

2020-21 Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL) or Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
Shoots: Left
Slot Potential: 2nd pair
Trajectory: Strong chance to crack the Hawks roster right away but may need to wait longer until a spot opens up

Carlsson defends the net and is willing to engage physically. Once the puck is on his blade, he skates fairly well to move it out but can also make one strong pass out of the zone. He also has a cannon from the point that stays low and gets through traffic.

With Olli Maatta’s departure now filled by Zadorov, Carlsson may have to wait a bit longer for his spot to open up. He’s been the Hogs best blueliner the past two seasons and has nothing left to prove in the AHL.

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2. Nicolas Beaudin

2020-21 Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
Shoots: Left
Slot Potential: 1st pair
Trajectory: Capable of earning a cup of coffee this season then be in the mix for a full-time NHL role in 2021-22

Beaudin is a plus skater with dynamic passing and keen hockey sense. His defense needs refining and compete level needs consistency yet he’s cerebral and becoming increasingly reliable at both ends due to execution of sound fundamentals.

Like Krys, what I like about Beaudin is that he’s learning to defend in different ways including battling in the tough areas. He’s capable of rushing the puck with his fluid skating. Not fast but agile with good edges.

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1. Ian Mitchell

2020-21 Team: Rockford IceHogs (AHL) or Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
Shoots: Right
Slot Potential: 1st pair
Trajectory: Strong chance to crack the Hawks roster right away but wouldn’t hurt to start off in the AHL if needed before a mid-season recall

Mitchell has the strongest chance of becoming the team’s #1 blueliner with his poise and tenacity to go along with strong skating, passing ability, hockey IQ, and diverse defensive toolkit. His potential to make the Hawks right away is due to his experience in the NCAA and international tournaments.

Just like his idol Duncan Keith, Mitchell has the traits and acumen to be a two-way rearguard who nullifies plays defensively, flips the ice expeditiously, and generates offense with clever playmaking.

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See you on the boards!

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