The Blackhawks sent their top prospects to Minnesota over the weekend, where they played two scrimmages against the Wild in the inaugural Tom Kurvers Prospect Showcase. The Blackhawks lost both games, 3-2 on Friday and 4-3 in a shootout on Sunday, but there were some positives that came out of it.
Here are 10 observations from the weekend:
1. All eyes were on Lukas Reichel going into this rookie showcase and he lived up to the first-round hype. His skill level alone separated him from everyone else, and his playmaking ability was on full display. What's even more impressive is how comfortable he looks at the center position despite being drafted as a winger. It will be interesting to see how he's utilized at the NHL level.
2. Rockford IceHogs head coach Derek King had high praise for Reichel, who could compete for a roster spot with the Blackhawks this season at 19 years old: "He's a player. It was fun to watch him. He's got a high skill level. It's been a while, since I've been here, that we ... not that the other kids don't have skills, they have different quality of skills, but this kid, just his skill level is much higher than a lot of our draft picks or a lot of free agents or a lot of kids I've seen around the organization."
3. The Blackhawks got their first look at No. 32 overall selection Nolan Allan, who was partnered with 2020 seventh-round pick Louis Crevier on the second pairing for the two games. It might've been the best duo of the weekend. "I was really impressed with those two," King said.
4. Colton Dach played left wing on the first line with Reichel and was the trigger man on the first power-play unit. You could notice the similarities between Colton and his older brother Kirby from a size standpoint, but there are definitely differences in their game. Colton loves to shoot the puck, whereas Kirby is more of a pass-first player.
"You can see he's a little bit of his brother in him just the way he moves on the ice," King said. "Great kid. A lot of personality there. He likes to fire the puck first."
5. This quote from King about Colton made me wonder how much Kirby had to adjust to this after making the immediate jump from the Western Hockey League to the NHL in 2019: "We always say, 'You're going to have to get the junior out of him and eventually learn to play both ends of the ice.' Not that he wasn't, but you could see a lot of these junior kids, it's offense, offense, offense. But I liked him. He's a big kid, he's got skill, moves well for his size. And he's young, so he's going to grow into his body over the next couple years and I think we may have something there."
6. Alec Regula didn't get a long look with the Blackhawks last season, but he appears to have made some significant strides in the offseason. It showed over the weekend, where he played on the first pairing with 2020 fifth-round selection Isaak Phillips and served as the quarterback on the top power-play unit.
"Probably one of the best players on the ice in the two games he played," King said. "He controlled the play. Skating's improved, his thought process is a little quicker, his shot's improved. He just looked really good and I'm glad because I think this is going to be huge for him bringing that positive feeling, that swagger from playing these games, into NHL camp and really show them and make them a hard decision for Jeremy [Colliton]."
7. The one player King said he "really, really enjoyed watching" was defenseman Jakub Galvas, who was drafted by the Blackhawks in the fifth round (No. 150 overall) in 2017: "He's real smooth, he's got a big engine. He can probably play 30-40 minutes for us at our level."
8. Arvid Soderblom was an intriguing player to watch going into the showcase. He signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Blackhawks in May after having a successful career in Sweden. He gave up three goals on Friday but you could see the potential in him. He's listed at 6-foot-3, 179 pounds.
9. Evan Barratt had a noticeable weekend. He scored a goal, added an assist and found himself in the middle of some skirmishes. He likes to go to the hard areas but he's got some offensive skill to his game as well. Let's see if he can take the next step in his development.
10. Dimitri Osipov is apparently making a transition from defense to forward. He played on the top line with Dach and Reichel and served as Chicago's captain for the weekend.
Here's the reasoning for the switch, according to King: "I think the thought process is, just the way he plays, he's a big, strong kid. He skates well. I think maybe looking for him to be more of a guy who can protect his teammates, get in on the forecheck, maybe put the body up a little harder than they've seen in the past with some of their guys, right? Haven't been known for their physicality-type team, so I think they're looking to add a few pieces like that. It's an experiment and he's embraced it."