Blackhawks prospects Jake Wise, Alex Vlasic developing together at Boston University
While Wise seeks to get his career back on track after a string of injuries, Vlasic is adjusting to hockey at the college level.
Jake Wise and Alex Vlasic aren’t the same age, don’t play the same position and definitely aren’t the same height, but the two Blackhawks prospects are inseparable in other ways.
Wise, a 5-11 center, and Vlasic, a 6-6 defenseman, came up through the U.S. National Team Development Program and were selected by the Hawks in back-to-back years (Wise was a third-round pick in 2018 and Vlasic a second-round choice in 2019).
And now they’re teammates and suitemates at Boston University.
‘‘We have a six-person suite and [Alex is] one of them, so I’m with him every day, see him every morning, see him every night,’’ Wise said on the phone last week. ‘‘He’s an unbelievable guy.’’
The Hawks come up occasionally in their conversations.
‘‘The other day, because the Hawks [have] the No. 1 attendance in the league, he sent me that,’’ Wise said. ‘‘Every once in a while, we’ll talk about little things like that.’’
For the most part, however, the teenagers — Wise will turn 20 on Feb. 28, but Vlasic won’t even turn 19 until June — are focused on their development at Boston, where neither has experienced the smoothest ride so far.
For Vlasic, the challenges have ranged from improving his skating ability and acceleration to tuning out the rowdy arenas of the Hockey East conference.
He’s a shutdown defenseman through and through and has been used as such by his coaches, but he’ll have to develop at least a little puck-moving ability to fit into the mold of the modern-day defenseman.
‘‘It’s all just simple things and in-game scenarios that I have to pick up on,’’ Vlasic said. ‘‘I’ve been trying to work on my speed a lot, my quickness and foot speed. I’ve also been working on my shot.’’
Vlasic’s status as a long-term project means there isn’t too much pressure on him yet. Still, Hawks director of player development Mark Eaton has been in contact with him regularly to share tips and review film.
For Wise, the pressure is a lot higher. He was considered a steal in 2018, but his progress has veered off the rails.
Wise missed time with a broken collarbone the season before he was drafted. A shoulder injury last season set him back even more. Only 12 games into his college career at the time, he suddenly couldn’t skate for almost five months.
His shoulder has been pain-free this season, but the lengthy time away from the sport continues to hinder him. It has shown up in his lagging production (one goal and seven points in 24 games).
‘‘There’s nothing really that can prepare you for games,’’ he said. ‘‘I did a lot of [training], worked a lot on shooting and stickhandling, but coming back’s been tough. It was tougher than when I had my first injury. I don’t think my game’s 100 percent. I’m still working on it.’’
Wise’s honesty about his struggles — he even admitted he’s currently not ‘‘the player I was before’’ — indicates how much his falling stock has affected his mindset. Once a possible top-10 prospect in the Hawks’ pipeline, he’s nowhere near that conversation now.
But there’s still time. He’s not finished with his sophomore season, and he’s the healthiest he has been in years.
‘‘The more and more games I get under my belt, the better I feel,’’ he said. ‘‘Just working a lot before and after practice to get on the ice as much as I can.’’