With their final pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks selected forward Josiah Slavin in the seventh round (No. 193 overall). They did so fully accepting that it might take him a while to make it to the big leagues.
"We just like the whole project," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley said at the time.
Three and a half years later, Slavin is expected to make his NHL debut when the Blackhawks visit the Washington Capitals on Thursday after he was called up from the American Hockey League on Tuesday. It's probably quicker than anyone anticipated.
"I’m a little shocked, being honest," Slavin said. "I wasn’t really expecting it. I didn’t know any plans were being made or anything like that. Very exciting time for me and my wife and my family. Just can’t explain it other than just excitement."
Slavin, 22, has four goals and four assists in 15 games with the Rockford IceHogs this season. His eight points are tied for third on the team and +7 rating ranks first.
Slavin has earned the call-up, and it's a chance for the Blackhawks to give him a taste of the NHL level and see how far his game has come.
"It’s nice to reward these kids that are working hard and playing well," interim head coach Derek King said. "He’s probably been one of their most consistent forwards down there. I’ve had him, I know what he’s about. He’s a big kid, he wins a lot of puck battles, he’s a big body on the ice. We’re going into some teams that are big. He’s good at faceoffs. I think it’s time to give him a reward."
One league scout texted on Tuesday night that he's taken a positive step from last season: "Slavin has been better for me this year. Plays an honest two-way game. Nothing flashy but some size and smarts."
Slavin said the biggest strides he's taken over the years is his skating ability. He's self-aware enough to know that was something he needed to improve upon and an area he will continue to focus on moving forward.
"I’m not the prettiest skater and it’s not always the most effective way when you’re not pretty," Slavin said. "So in the offseasons, my skating is my main focus."
Slavin was skating on the fourth line with Ryan Carpenter and Reese Johnson in practice on Tuesday. He is the younger brother of Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin, who's one of the league's best shutdown guys.
Whether Josiah can be a consistent NHL player remains to be seen, but you can bet he'll carry over the mentality that's got him here as a late-round draft selection.
"I was a seventh-round pick, but I don’t think being drafted says anything," Slavin said. "That’s when the work starts. I took it as that and I just went to work after that."