The Blackhawks’ start to their 2020-21 season has surprised hockey fans. A major key to their success is the play of their rookies and younger players. Pius Suter leads all NHL rookies in goals with six and Philipp Kurashev is right behind him with five. On the backend, Ian Mitchell and Nicolas Beaudin have shown they belong while adding eight points between the two of them.
The Blackhawks will need to continue to get contributions from young players in the coming years as they transition into a new era. A portion of those prospects that the team will need to rely on in the future is the group of draft picks currently playing in college. Here is a look at how each college prospect has played up to this point in the season.
Landon Slaggert – 2020, 3rd round, 17th pick (79th overall)
In his freshman season at Notre Dame, forward Landon Slaggert has shown much promise. He was described as a hard-nose player who is good on the forecheck and can excel in a bottom-six role. However, the start to his first collegiate season has proved he can also score.
Slaggert has five goals and 11 assists in 20 games this season. He only trails undrafted Alex Steeves (26 points) and brother Graham Slaggert (22 points).
Slaggert also won Gold with Team USA at the World Junior Championship.
Slaggert will most likely stay at Notre Dame for another two or three years before turning pro. If he finds a way to improve each season, there’s a good chance he could eventually find his way onto the Blackhawks roster.
Josiah Slavin – 2018, 7th round, 7th pick (193rd overall)
As a Sophomore at Colorado College, Josiah Slavin is currently leading his team in points. Slavin has five goals and seven assists in 20 games. He also averages 2.4 shots on goal per game.
Slavin has shown improvement in all areas of his game, as he plays center and needs to be reliable in his own end as well as producing offensively. He has a big frame at 6’3″ and will continue to get stronger.
Alex Vlasic – 2019, 2nd round, 12th pick (43rd overall)
After a freshman season in which he had just three assists in 34 games, defenseman Alex Vlasic has already scored three goals and four assists in just 11 games.
At 6’6″, Vlasic has spent the past two seasons getting more comfortable as a bigger player and has gotten better in small areas, as well as with the puck. He was also set to play for Team USA at the World Junior Championships, but was unable to attend due to COVID-19 concerns.
Wyatt Kaiser – 2020, 3rd round, 19th pick (81st overall)
In his freshman season at Minnesota-Duluth, Wyatt Kaiser has shown growth in his first 22 games. He played just one year of junior hockey in the USHL before joining the Bulldogs. As well as being a good skater, Kaiser has been excellent defensively and has gotten lots of attention for his selfless play.
Slava Demin – Acquired from Vegas Golden Knights
Slava Demin was acquired by the Blackhawks in their trade that sent Robin Lehner to the desert. He was a fourth round pick in the 2018 draft and is a junior at Denver University. The defenseman has three goals and three assists in 17 games.
General Manager Stan Bowman said he saw potential for Demin to be a good NHL player, but the progress the Blackhawks were hoping for hasn’t quite been there. All eyes will be on him to see how much improvement he can make in his senior season before turning pro.
Josh Ess – 2017, 7th round, 29th pick (215th overall)
In his senior season at Wisconsin, Josh Ess has become a reliable defenseman. Never much of a scorer, Ess has just five points in 24 games this season and 30 points over 128 career games.
He first attended Blackhawks training camp in 2017 after he was drafted and will be there once again next year. He will need to find a way to stand out on an already crowded blue line.