Landon Slaggert provides glimmer of hope for Blackhawks’ parched forward prospect pipeline

Slaggert has grown into a versatile forward at Notre Dame. Once Lukas Reichel graduates to the NHL, he might be the next-best guy in the Hawks’ system.

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Landon Slaggert has tallied 24 points in 37 games for Notre Dame this season.

AP Photo/Robert Franklin

The Blackhawks’ pipeline of forward prospects has nearly run dry. And once Lukas Reichel graduates to the NHL, it’ll be even drier.

There’s a reason why new general manager Kyle Davidson has been so forward — pun intended — in identifying it as an area of need. 

However, an X-factor in the conversation is Landon Slaggert, the Hawks’ 2020 third-round pick, who, over the last two years at Notre Dame, has grown into a hard-working, versatile forward.

If Slaggert eventually develops into a useful NHL role player, it would give the Hawks at least something of value from their current pool of young forwards. Outside of Reichel, he and Colton Dach are the most intriguing guys in the group.

“I see myself as a 200-foot player that brings some energy,” Slaggert said recently. “Honestly, I like to look up to Brandon Hagel in that aspect. I know he’s a special player, and I have a long way to go to be even mentioned in the same conversation as him. But he’s definitely someone I look up to. I’d like to get my game to his level someday.”

After tallying eight goals and 22 points in 25 games as a freshman last season, Slaggert has 11 goals and 24 points in 37 games as a sophomore, including 14 points in 18 games since Jan. 7.

That production is respectable, but he admits he tries not to focus on it too much, knowing his game likely won’t be predicated on scoring at the pro level.

He’d more likely be like Hagel or Drake Caggiula — a jack-of-all-trades who makes a positive impact in all three zones, winning puck battles and races to help his teammates while contributing a little bit himself. Slaggert can play all three positions, which helps.

At 6-feet and 190 pounds, he’s never going to be a bruiser, but he could be a solid bottom-six forward.

Notre Dame hockey has become a rather Slaggert-centric program, with Landon skating on a line with his senior brother, Graham, watched over by father Andy, an associate head coach. It’s working out well for the Fighting Irish, who enter the Big Ten semifinals Saturday against Michigan with a 27-10-0 record, ranked No. 8 in the country.

“It started out a little tough to be critical of each other,” Slaggert said about playing with Graham. “It’s funny to do as brothers because we have a unique relationship. But now it allows us to have an extra level of chemistry because we have a brotherly connection that allows us to find each other out there. It has been a blast playing with him and seeing our relationship grow.”

Slaggert has worked hardest on improving his poise — building his confidence with and without the puck and maximizing his ability to see and evaluate every on-ice situation and ultimately make the right decision.

That’s something his coach with the U.S. National Team Development Program — which Slaggert was drafted out of two years ago — first identified as an area for him to focus on, and he has been doing it ever since, coming a long way, he says.

The Hawks are predictably keeping in touch. Development coaches Kendall Coyne Schofield and Erik Condra often break down Slaggert’s video and pass along advice on handling the mental side of hockey.

He hasn’t thought much yet about where he’ll be next season, but realistically, he’s probably destined for at least one more year of college. He’ll need to maintain his upward trajectory during the year or two to come, since it’s not guaranteed he’ll turn into the next Hagel or Caggiula.

But if he does, it certainly would help the Hawks.

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