The Chicago Blackhawks are poised to add a huge piece when the draft rolls around later this month.
Does the name “Connor Bedard” ring a bell?
But the weekend after the draft, the Hawks’ new picks will join their recent predecessors at development camp. Several of the Hawks prospects had big years with their junior teams or colleges, and the decks are clear for them to take the next steps of their careers.
Here are several that have reached critical junctures in their development.
Can goalie Arvid Söderblom learn from last year’s rough patch?
How many ways could Chicago Blackhawks goalie Arvid Söderblom be tested last season?
He was pressed into duty from late October to mid-December because of injuries. He coughed up seven goals — six at even strength — in his last start on Dec. 18 against the New York Rangers.
“I don’t really remember how it all went down,” Söderblom said, “but if you let in seven goals, you probably didn’t have a great game.”
He finished with a 3.45 goals-against average and .894 save percentage in 15 games for the Hawks. Read more here.
Is defenseman Alex Vlasic ready to take the next big step?
Defenseman Alex Vlasic had an assist in six games for the Chicago Blackhawks this past season — to go with two goals and 17 assists in 56 games for the Rockford IceHogs — but the organization isn’t focused on numbers, just progress.
“It was really valuable for him to log some big minutes (in Rockford) this year and kind of be the man here,” IceHogs assistant coach Jared Nightingale said. “(There) really is a long-term vision of him being a big piece of the puzzle with the Blackhawks.
“He reminds me a little bit, how he moves, like (Colton) Parayko in St. Louis, just trying to compare the size (6-foot-6, 199 pounds). And he’s a puck mover like that and can shut down opponents. My opinion, he’s a better skater.”
Vlasic has a season left on his contract before he becomes a restricted free agent. Read more here.
Injuries tested Frank Nazar’s resilience — and now he feels more mature for camp
During Chicago Blackhawks development camp last summer, Frank Nazar — fresh off being drafted in the first round — looked and sounded like a fresh-faced kid.
“Just seeing the jersey and realizing that this is the NHL kind of set in, like, ‘Wow, this is what I’ve always been looking forward to.’ I thought that was pretty cool,” a wide-eyed Nazar told Chicago reporters in July.
Less than a year later, you can hear the maturation in Nazar’s voice.
“I guess that’s what college does to you,” he said with a laugh during an interview with the Tribune. Read more here.
4 Blackhawks prospects to watch, including Drew Commesso and Isaak Phillips
Drew Commesso had his challenges last season at Boston University, such as a seven-goal outing in a loss to Boston College, but he had strong games later in the season, including a 39-save shutout March 4 at Providence.
He finished with a 2.46 goals-against average and .913 save percentage — slight improvements over the previous season — and a 24-8-0 record.
“He finished up this season at BU on a very high note,” Rockford IceHogs goalie coach Peter Aubry said. “I think he’s feeling pretty confident turning pro.” Read more here.