Seventh-round draft picks make the NHL only about 10% of the time.
Even fewer become regular NHL players. Not since 2004 selection Troy Brouwer has a Blackhawks seventh-round pick made more than two career appearances.
But Josiah Slavin, the Hawks’ 2018 seventh-round choice, is on track to defy those odds.
The younger brother of Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin, Josiah Slavin signed an entry-level contract with the Hawks earlier this month and is set to make his professional debut for the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs in the next few days.
When he looks at his brother’s evolution from fourth-round pick to NHL All-Star, Josiah Slavin sees a path that could work for him, too.
“[His success has] definitely showed me that it’s possible to do it,” he said. “We have the genes in our family to do it, obviously. I just have to work my way up.”
The well-built 6-foot-3 forward spent three seasons in the USHL — including half a season with the local Chicago Steel — and thus entered his 2019-20 freshman year at Colorado College as an overage 20-year-old freshman.
After he tallied 13 points in 34 games that season and then another 13 points in 22 games this year, leading the team, the Hawks reached out to begin contract negotiations. He agreed to a two-year entry-level contract that officially begins next season; he’s finishing out this season technically on an AHL amateur tryout contract.
“I was super pumped for him,” Jaccob Slavin said. “It wasn’t a surprise to me. Me and him talk quite a bit... We both agreed that taking that step to the next level and becoming a pro would be best for him in his situation.”
“He FaceTimed each one of [our family members] individually and just let us know that he got offered. I think he FaceTimed me first, though, so I’ll take that.”
Jaccob Slavin looks at his brother and sees all the traits needed to become another one of the well-rounded power forwards that he defends around the league every night.
And while some familial bias may influence his perception, it’s hard to discredit the opinion of a player with 400 games of NHL experience before his 27th birthday. Jaccob also followed the exact same career route Josiah has up to this point: first the USHL, then Colorado College, then (albeit briefly for him) the AHL.
“One thing that [Josiah] definitely has going for him is his hockey sense and his ability to, as a forward, play both sides of the puck and have a solid defensive game,” Jaccob Slavin said. “It’ll be fun to see how he progresses in his career and the type of player that he can become. He’s got the likes of a Jordan Staal in him, maybe the likes of a Chris Kreider in him, just being fast and strong and physical and having the capability to score goals, too.”
Josiah Slavin still has a long way to go to become a Staal- or Kreider-esque star, though. Signing an entry-level contract is far from the top of the mountain, even if it’s an impressive accomplishment for a seventh-rounder.
He can play either center or wing — a versatility that should help him — but prefers wing and will likely slot there in Rockford’s lineup. His short spring stint will mainly be about acclimating to pro hockey before the countdown to yet again prove himself starts vigorously this summer.
“He knows how to work hard,” Jaccob Slavin said. “He just needs to go out there with the confidence that he can play at that level and take it in.”
“[Jaccob] thinks I’m a good player and he trusts in me, so I need to do that in myself, as well,” Josiah Slavin added.