Blackhawks prospect breakdown: What Landon Slaggert could be bringing to Chicago soon



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Let’s get the obvious question out of the way.

Yes, forward prospect Landon Slaggert plans to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks and not wait out his draft rights to become a free agent.

“I feel like the Hawks are the right spot for me for a number of reasons,” Slaggert said in a recent phone interview. “Just feel really comfortable with the organization. Having those people supporting me and behind me in the next step of my career, definitely feels like the right spot.”

The Blackhawks were hopeful of that, but they weren’t positive when Slaggert decided to return to Notre Dame for his senior season. The Blackhawks did their best to show Slaggert that support and continue working with him to develop and express what they believe he can be for them in the future. At the same time, Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson and his staff didn’t press Slaggert for an answer.

“They’ve been great,” said Slaggert, a 6-foot, 190-pound winger drafted in the third round in 2020. “Giving me enough space but also guidance throughout this process. Kendall Coyne, Erik Condra — two names I’ve worked with very closely with, two people I really respect their opinion on my game. It’s been awesome to be able to work with them. We do a lot of video on a monthly basis, just kind of break down different areas they see I can improve on. The focus this year has been on low playing and positive plays below the dot, which obviously is a strength to my game. I’m glad they see that as a strength, too.”

Slaggert has had the type of season he was hoping to have when he went back to Notre Dame. After producing just 13 points last season, he’s had 18 goals and 10 assists in 34 games this season. He’s also a team captain and felt he helped create a bond throughout the team regardless of class.

Slaggert has been thinking about his future with the Blackhawks, but he’s also got his mind on finishing up his final credits and leading Notre Dame to a strong push in the postseason.

“I think any second-semester senior kind of feels the pressure of the future looming,” Slaggert said. “I think definitely the position I’m in is a much more accelerated process. Obviously, we want to go all the way, and even if we do, it’s a quick turnaround and a lot of moving parts. That part is definitely on my mind, just trying to be where my feet are. That’s one thing, actually, (Blackhawks assistant general manager of player development) Mark Eaton and I talked about. Just be where your feet are and just focusing on being successful here and everything will kind of fall into place.”


Q&A with Slaggert

You explained last season the very specific reasons why you wanted to return to Notre Dame for your senior season. Has this season been what you wanted?

Definitely last season felt like I had some areas of my game I felt I needed to improve. Personally, I feel like I worked on those in the offseason and found they’ve paid off going into this season and (I’ve) really found my game grow. The job isn’t finished yet. I feel like there’s time here to make some stuff happen from the team front. Obviously my end goal is a national championship here at Notre Dame. Hopefully that’s still in the cards for us. Definitely proud of how I’ve approached this season and glad (about) how I improved my game.

You weren’t pleased with your offense last season. Where did that improve this season?

I think just the in-tight scoring was a big thing, goals around the net. It was definitely getting some chances there last year and the puck wasn’t going my way, wasn’t bouncing my way. I found just getting to the net and finding ways to produce in those tight areas has really paid off.

Was that just more repetition this offseason?

Yeah, a lot of repetition, just more intentionality with the reps and in practice and just having a plan when I’m out there working on stuff.

Are you hopeful that can translate to the NHL as well?

I think it was an area I needed my game to grow in. If you look at guys around the league who do produce at a high level, a lot of those come around the blue paint. I was focused on getting there and once I can get there and get those chances, how I can produce more efficiently in those areas.

The other parts of your game, the stuff you can control, forechecking, effort — those areas seemed to your satisfaction last season. Did you have to give up any of that this season to be more productive?

This year I wanted to round out my game, not let any of the other areas drop off. I think I’ve done that. Just allowed my whole game to really come around and be ready for the next level.

Aside from the on-ice reasons, you also wanted to return to Notre Dame to play with your younger brother (Carter, a freshman) and dad (Andy, an associate head coach). What was that like this season?

It’s been a special experience. Obviously going through it with (my older brother) Graham, this is home for me, always has been and always will be. I think I have a unique connection to college that other guys don’t necessarily have. This place is my home. Definitely, it’s a special experience to share that with my family and especially with my mom. It’s been a great experience to have her three boys come through this university and to be able to share that experience is something that I’ll forever be grateful for.

Have you been following the Blackhawks? What’s it like to be among those young players the Blackhawks envision being part of the future?

It’s exciting to watch them this year. Obviously getting Connor (Bedard) back (from injury recently). There’s definitely some good young talent in Chicago, which is exciting, some prospects in Rockford I keep up with, Ryder Rolston. It seems like they have a great group of guys and a good team and something to build around. It’s definitely some exciting stuff in Chicago.

You often face some of the Blackhawks prospects in the Big Ten with Frank Nazar at Michigan and Sam Rinzel and Oliver Moore at Minnesota. What’s that like?

There’s obviously a lot of good players: Frankie, Sam Rinzel, Oliver Moore. You run into those guys four times a year. It’s fun to see how those guys are progressing. Obviously my job is usually to shut those guys down. It’s always a fun competition when you get to see those guys. They’re going to be some special players. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for them as well.


Video

This is an example of one of those in-tight plays. It’s a pretty nice goal.

This is the sort of short clip that just tells you a lot about Slaggert. He’s that player who is going to do anything just to force the puck out of the defensive zone.

This is a longer look at him pursuing pucks. Just follow No. 19 around.

One of the things that jumps out about Slaggert is he’s pretty polished as a player. He’s been through the U.S. National Team Development Program. He’s been through nearly four seasons of college hockey. He’s worked with the Blackhawks development staff. He has athleticism and ability, but he also understands where to be and how to play situations.

Slaggert will probably be a future penalty killer as well. Here, he nearly scores short-handed.

In the final clip, Slaggert gets the puck along the boards on this play and creates an offensive chance for his teammate.


Where does Slaggert fit in the rebuild?

Slaggert wasn’t drafted by Davidson, but Slaggert plays the type of game Davidson envisions for his team in the future. Slaggert skates well, is hard on the forecheck, is reliable in all zones and is constantly moving. As he showed this season, there is some offense in his game, too. The Blackhawks probably project Slaggert to be a third- or fourth-line winger. He fits in with Paul Ludwinski, Samuel Savoie, Dominic James and some others who the Blackhawks hope can fill very specific roles in the bottom six.

The Blackhawks would have liked Slaggert to sign after last season and had him developing in Rockford this season. Slaggert isn’t old by any means. He’ll turn 22 in June. But he is now nearly four years out from his draft year and a little older than some of the other prospects on the cusp of turning pro. The Blackhawks and Slaggert have to be hopeful he can figure out the pro level quickly and prove he can play in the NHL sooner than later.


What the Blackhawks are saying about Slaggert

“I think he took some major strides offensively,” Eaton said. “You know, just making plays with the puck, in-tight plays, using his body to protect pucks along the wall. Plays in and around the net, I think that was a big improvement for him. I think him going back, I know it’s something he worked on a lot, (which) allowed him to take it into game action and execute upon it. If he stepped right into the NHL or the pro level last year, that may not have happened as quickly as it did. If you’re looking at positives for him going back, that’s a major part of it. And I’m always big on if they have that opportunity to spend a year as the leader of a team, being a go-to guy, somebody that’s looked up to by younger players, that’s a big phase in someone’s overall development, and he obviously was able to experience that this year.


When could Slaggert join the Blackhawks?

Slaggert could be in the NHL as early as next week. Slaggert and Notre Dame face Michigan in a best-of-three Big Ten tournament series beginning on Friday. If the Fighting Irish lose that series, Slaggert’s season will be over. Notre Dame, which is 21st in the PairWise rankings, probably needs to win the Big Ten tournament to reach the NCAA tournament.

Once Slaggert’s season is done, the assumption is he’ll sign an entry-level contract with the Blackhawks, burn the first year and immediately join the NHL team. He could sign a contract and have it begin next season, but he has some leverage in his situation and will likely use it to turn pro right away.

Slaggert wasn’t sure whether he’d burn the year.

“Still figuring all that stuff out, to be honest,” he said. ” Still trying to see where they see me and see if I fit into their plan. Definitely just focusing on where I’m at right now.”

If everything plays out as expected, Slaggert could make his NHL debut in Chicago next week. The Blackhawks have home games on March 12, March 15 and March 17 before hitting the road for a week.

(Photo courtesy of Notre Dame)





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