Blackhawks notebook: More patient approach to prospect development catching on

The Hawks are trying to learn from their mistakes with former prospects like Gustav Forsling, applying the lessons learned about patience to their approach with current prospect Lukas Reichel.

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Former Blackhawk Lucas Carlsson (left) has emerged as a regular defenseman for the Panthers in recent months.

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Gustav Forsling and Lucas Carlsson started their NHL careers in Chicago, bouncing between the Blackhawks and IceHogs for a few seasons each.

A few years later, they’ve blossomed into impactful nightly defensemen for the high-flying Panthers, showing the Hawks what they could have had if management held onto them longer.

Forsling actually has become a top-four staple, touting an impressive 22 points in 41 games while averaging 21:20 of ice time, third-most on the team. Carlsson has grown in relevance over the course of the season and touts eight points in 28 games while averaging 12:26 of ice time. Both were in the starting lineup for the Panthers’ 5-2 victory Sunday against the Hawks.

It’s another bad look for ex-Hawks general manger Stan Bowman, who gave up prematurely on Forsling in 2019 and Carlsson in 2021. They were included as throw-ins in the Calvin de Haan and Henrik Borgstrom trades, respectively. 

Interim coach Derek King spoke frankly about how the franchise erred in both situations and how they can learn from it.

“[Defensemen often] don’t mature in this league until they’re a little older,” King said. “And you have to have patience. If you don’t, this is what happens. You get rid of some guys that are pretty good hockey players at the time, and they’re only going to get better, and this is what’s happened. With [interim GM Kyle Davidson] here, we’re just trying to [be more patient]. 

“It’s the [Lukas] Reichel thing, too. We’ve got to be real patient with these kids, and make sure we’re doing the right thing by them. Because we don’t want to get into that [pattern of] two years developing them and then, ‘Blah, they’re not good enough.’ And then [we] move on, trade them and they go to another team and all of a sudden they’re at the All-Star Game.”

On that note, King added he thought Reichel was “OK” in his third and fourth career NHL games this weekend. The Hawks’ top forward prospect might stay with the team for this week of practice before likely being reassigned to Rockford.

“He’s going to be a skilled, high-end hockey player, hopefully — unless we ruin him so we’re not going to try to do that,” King said. “We’re going to be real patient with him. The nice thing is he [got] a couple of games here against some good opponents. We’ll grab some clips and talk to him about it.”

King talks Dach

King gave two interesting, honest quotes about Kirby Dach when asked if he thought Dach’s ceiling could be as high as Panthers star Aleksander Barkov, whom Dach named in January as a role model.

“If he decides to continue to be a better person, better player, on and off the ice, and work on everything he needs to work on, do the right things and be patient with the process, he could be a top player like that,” King said. “Is he going to be exactly like him? I don’t know; that’s pretty tough. But he could get himself to a status where this guy is a legit hockey player.

“He’s in a rush. He wants it now. Sometimes it takes a little while. That’s our job to keep him focused and keep him on the right path. We will; he’ll get there.”

McCabe injured

Hawks defenseman Jake McCabe aggravated a nagging lower-body injury, forcing him to exit the game for good early in the third period. King said he doesn’t know yet the severity or timeline for the injury.

The Hawks briefly went down to four defensemen when Connor Murphy went to the locker room after taking a “stick across the ear,” but Murphy proved unscathed.

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