Since 2010, the Blackhawks have drafted four players from the University of Notre Dame, with Landon Slaggert being the most recent in 2020. Stephen Johns was a second-round pick in 2010, Vinnie Hinostroza was taken in the sixth round in 2012, and Dennis Gilbert was a third-round pick in 2015. Slaggert hopes to be the next Irish alum to make his NHL debut with the Chicago Blackhawks.
In his first season with the University of Notre Dame, the USNTDP product has one goal and two assists in six games. It may not be the flashiest start to a collegiate career, but by no means does it tell the whole story. What makes Slaggert such an effective player is what he does without the puck. He relentlessly pursues the puck on the forecheck, always gets to the front of the net, and possesses better playmaking ability than he gets credit for.
When you watch Landon Slaggert play hockey, the first thing you’ll notice is his work ethic. He works hard in all areas of the ice, particularly around the opponent’s net and when in pursuit of the puck carrier.
In the clip below, Slaggert beats the opponent to the puck in the corner after being a good two strides behind him. He displays the awareness of where his teammates are by quickly moving the puck behind the net. After making the pass, he gets his feet moving and forces his way to the front of the net. Slaggert’s ability to outwork his opponents to the puck and then to the front of the net is a common trait of his game.
This next clip further exemplifies Slaggert’s perseverance. He starts chasing down the puck from his own blue line with the opponent already at center ice. Slaggert meets him at the puck and forces a turnover without taking a penalty. But Slaggert isn’t done. Once his team enters the offensive zone with possession, Slaggert works his way to the front of the net and eventually gets a shot on goal off a rebound. This is a perfect example of the great Eddie Olczyk’s constant reminders to all those young hockey players to keep their stick on the ice.
Lastly in this next clip, Slaggert lines up at right wing for an offensive zone faceoff. After his team loses the draw, Slaggert forces the opponent to make a quick pass and then pursues the puck around the net. He keeps his body facing the puck and finishes a check before the puck is eventually broken out. All of this doesn’t result in a scoring chance, but it makes breaking the puck out difficult for the opponents, which in time wears them down and creates more scoring chances for his team.
Around the Net
In the following clips, Slaggert shows his ability to always get to the front of the net. He is a big body standing at 6 feet tall, and he uses it effectively. In this first clip, he moves the puck to the outside before entering the offensive zone. After making the pass, Slaggert goes directly to the net and brings two defenders with him. The puck makes its way around to the point, and Slaggert gets in the shooting lane, nearly tipping the shot.
The next clip shows a good, active shift by Slaggert. He starts the play by taking a hit at the blue line to get the puck in. He then works his way to the front of the net and gets a shot off from his knees. Lastly, he cuts off the opponent’s breakout pass at the blue line, which keeps the puck in, and once again goes to the front of the net.
Hockey coaches love a play like the one Slaggert makes in this next clip. He starts at right wing for an offensive zone faceoff. His team wins the draw and the puck moves back to the point. Slaggert knows the defenseman is going to put a shot on goal, so he gets to the front of the net. He outworks his opponent and has the awareness to make a play from his stomach to get the puck to his teammate and brother, Graham, who scores. Coaches love a player who never quits on a play, and Slaggert fits that description perfectly.
Underrated Playmaking Ability
As you can see, the majority of Slaggert’s game is what he does without the puck. He outworks opponents and plays hard every time he’s on the ice. But what some may not notice right away is his ability at making plays with the puck.
In this first clip, Slaggert gets the puck off a turnover in the offensive zone. He realizes he doesn’t have a pass to make right away so he buys time in the corner with the puck. This allows his teammates to get set in front of the net and as support below the goal line. Finally, Slaggert carries the puck up the wall and leaves it for his defenseman. He finishes the shift covering the point for the defenseman he passed to.
At the beginning of this next clip, Slaggert generates a shot on goal. He doesn’t stop there though. He pursues the puck up the wall and helps keep it in at the blue line. This creates an odd-man situation for his line. Later in the play, Slaggert barely misses the puck out in front of the net, nearly setting up his teammate for a scoring chance. The great thing about this play is that Slaggert doesn’t stop to admire his shot. He keeps his feet moving and helps extend the play.
This next clip shows Slaggert picking up a secondary assist. He corrals the puck off a turnover to the side of the net. He does just enough to move the puck to a teammate and uses his big frame to create space. The puck eventually moves back to the defenseman who gets a shot on goal, beating the Michigan goaltender. Slaggert’s ability to make plays with the puck while surrounded by defenders makes him such an intriguing prospect for the Blackhawks.
This final clip was purposefully saved for last. Since you’ve made it this for, your reward is seeing Slaggert’s first, and only, collegiate goal. Once again, Slaggert beats an opponent to the puck. He slips past the defender and is all alone in front of the goalie trying to control the bouncing puck. The goaltender knocks the puck into the air, which allows Slaggert to get his twig on it and put it in the net. Slaggert’s pursuit of the puck, awareness of where he is on the ice, and impressive hand-eye coordination all done at full speed is incredible.
The Future for Slaggert
Next up for Slaggert is representing Team USA at the World Junior Championships, which begins on Christmas Day. This tournament brings together the best under-20 players in the world. Slaggert making the USA roster is a testament to just how good he is.
It is likely that Slaggert will play at least another two years at Notre Dame before turning pro. He projects as a third- or fourth-line center who can play in all areas of the game. Slaggert is effective five-on-five, can kill penalties, and is able to play the front of the net on the power play. There is no doubt that he has the necessary tools to compete at the NHL level. It will be interesting to track his development over the next few years and see what his future with the Chicago Blackhawks looks like.