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Pick 6: Defensemen

January 19, 2022, 3:27 AM ET [41 Comments]
Theo Fox
Chicago Blackhawks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

In recent days there have been several news and fan sites providing Blackhawks prospect rankings and season updates. Rather than exactly following suit, I will take a slightly different approach by highlighting the 3 prospects in Rockford and 3 prospects in the rest of the system who the Hawks should lay their chips on.

Those who are in the top 3 lists aren't necessarily untouchables as far as trades. Instead, I view them as the prospects who not only are worth investing in as long as possible but also may bear the most fruit as impact players for the Hawks in years to come. I would hesitate if other teams ask for them in trades.

This also isn't to say all other prospects who don't make the top 3 lists are busts. Some are still worth developing while others are leaving a lot to be desired. Regardless of which category they're in, those not in the top 3 lists may be more expendable as trade bait especially with the TDL coming up on March 21.

Today's blog will focus on the defensemen prospects. Forward prospects will be featured in the next blog. Goalie blog? Perhaps there will be one but the top 3 is easy to predict as it's a much smaller pool. Drew Commesso and Arvid Soderblom are the shoo-ins and Dominic Basse rounds out the trio who the Hawks should invest in.

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Defensemen Prospects

Top 3 in Rockford

1. Ian Mitchell
2. Jakub Galvas
3. Isaak Phillips

Ian Mitchell has grown the most out of the blueline prospects in Rockford. His NHL experience from last season and cups of coffee this season have helped him improve upon his deficiencies. What's to love is that he battles defensively and can be an effective mail carrier if he trusts his skating more.

Jakub Galvas has a leg up on most prospects of any position with 5 years of pro experience in Europe prior to starting his pro career in North America. The benefits of such a resume have been evident with him being the Hogs best defenseman this season then having an inspiring NHL debut. Simply poised, smart, and steady.

Isaak Phillips advances the puck up ice with speed and haste which has been a weakness for the Rockford rearguards on the whole. Another asset is his booming point shot, too. An area for improvement for Phillips is leveraging his size and strength more when engaging in board battles and protecting the crease.

Honorable Mention:

Wyatt Kalynuk was my top ranked D prospect before the season began but he has regressed quite a bit. He's not managing gaps well like he did last year and his defensive coverage has been mediocre. One thing he has going for him is being an excellent power play QB. His skating, puck movement, and shot are top notch.

Top 3 System-Wide

1. Wyatt Kaiser
2. Nolan Allan
3. Alex Vlasic

Wyatt Kaiser (University of Minnesota-Duluth, NCAA) may very well be the top D prospect in the entire organization. He and the other Wyatt (Kalynuk) are the best skaters in the system. Additionally, Kaiser has been known to err toward defending over being an offensive contributor but the latter is getting stronger.

Nolan Allan (Prince Albert Raiders, WHL) headlines the many defensive defensemen who have come into the fold in the most recent drafts. He's tough as nails, provides air-tight coverage, gets stops, shuts down other teams' go-to players, and eats minutes. His gradually growing offense is icing on the cake.

Alex Vlasic (Boston University, NCAA) preceded Allan as the premier defensive defenseman in the system and is still regarded as one who could still fill such a role in the NHL. If Vlasic can harness his immense size, wing span, and strength, then he could be a lot for NHL offenses to deal with down low and in the slot.

Honorable Mention:

Louis Crevier (Quebec Remparts, QMJHL) is a former 7th rounder but that has no bearing on his potential as another shutdown defender who could patrol the Hawks blueline down the road. His defensive metrics have been very good in the QMJHL. Sure, it's only juniors but that's still a great starting point once he goes pro.

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Roster Updates

COVID Protocol

Newly entered into protocol:
* None

Still in protocol:
* Brett Connolly, Winger
* Kirby Dach, Center
* Dylan Strome, Center

Out of protocol:
* Seth Jones, Defenseman
* Mike Gapski, Head Athletic Trainer
* Troy Parchman, Head Equipment Manager

CHI-RFD Shuttle

Back to Chicago:
* None

Back to Rockford:
* Mike Hardman, Winger
* Josiah Slavin, Winger
* Jakub Galvas, Defenseman
* Cale Morris, Goalie

Projected Lineup

With Seth Jones set to return to the starting lineup, the D corps will have an instant upgrade to what the Blackhawks had to roll with while he was in COVID protocol when Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy were tabbed as the 1st pair. It's probable that de Haan will remain on that pair with Jones instead.

Hagel - Borgstrom - Kane
DeBrincat - Toews - Kubalik
Entwistle - Lafferty - Kurashev
Khaira - Carpenter

de Haan - S Jones
McCabe - Murphy
Stillman - Gustafsson

Fleury
Lankinen

Reserve: C Jones
Taxi Squad: None

Given there are only 11 active forwards, one has to expect Kirby Dach and/or Dylan Strome are exiting COVID protocol later this week in time for the next game on Friday. If not, there should be a forward recalled from Rockford, likely one of the usual suspects like Mike Hardman or Josiah Slavin.

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IceHogs Updates

The IceHogs are off until Friday, too, just like the parent club so sending down these players isn't a way to get them into game action. While sending down Hardman, Slavin, and Cale Morris makes sense as they're still not fully baked, reassigning Jakub Galvas raised some eyebrows.

Just like Lukas Reichel, though, it was the right move to let Galvas continue to develop at a more appropriate level for the bulk of or even the full remainder of this season. I would argue that as much as it was exciting to see Reichel's NHL debut, Galvas' debut was moderately more impressive.

No doubt Reichel has a brighter overall future compared to Galvas but that's to be expected as they play different roles. Reichel is a top 6 talent who could state his case that he may have what it takes to play 1C. Galvas could be a dependable #4 but may find his niche anchoring the 3rd pair.

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NHL COVID Protocol

More details from the league should surface in the coming days especially as the Olympic break draws near early next month.

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See you on the boards!

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