Even though the Blackhawks’ NHL season has been brutal, the team is primarily focused on the future and its outstanding pool of prospects, who frequently rank among the best in hockey. At this week’s IIHF World Junior Championships, where an astounding six Blackhawks prospects have made it onto two squads, that pipeline has shown its strength. Over halfway through the group play this year, the young players are having a significant influence on their teams.
With great expectations coming into the tournament, Gajan won the title of best goaltender the previous year and returned to Team Slovakia. Throughout his first three games, the goalie has shown resiliency. In his opening match of the tournament, he stopped all but two goals, one of which was deflected into the goal by a teammate. Just one day later, Gajan followed up that performance with a 36-save shutout that included a few unbelievable stops. The goalie has led his team to a 3-0 start in group play despite giving up four goals in a victory over Norway early on Friday morning.
Frank Nazar III
Nazar, another player who came into the tournament with high expectations, has been very effective in the scoring department, tallying six assists in just three games. With four key assists, he was among the standout skaters in Team USA’s 11-3 thumping of Switzerland on Thursday. Many fans of the Blackhawks will be watching Nazar closely during the competition; selected 13th overall in the 2022 draft, he is Chicago’s best prospect. He will be a vital member of Team USA’s second-line center corps as they contend for a championship.