The Chicago Blackhawks saw a lot of young talent run through the lineup this past season. From goaltender Kevin Lankinen‘s debut to Pius Suter and Philipp Kurashev, everyone played their part. Regardless of their strong performances, one player, in particular, stood out the most. Rookie forward Brandon Hagel was the breakout player of the season for Chicago. Let’s take a look at his past season, who he compares with, and where Hagel could go in year two of his career.
Brandon Hagel was Chicago’s Breakout Player of the Season
Hagel By The Numbers
The winger was eager to make his proper debut after playing one game in 2019. He only logged 11:48 that game and stayed off the scoresheet, but he had shown promise with his game. This season it all came to fruition. He wasn’t the most proficient scorer, as is expected from a rookie. However through 52 games this year he showed flashes of middle-six brilliance. In his rookie season the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan scored nine goals and 15 assists for 24 points in year one, a 37 point pace over a full season. Not every rookie is going to score 40-plus points, but Hagel showed signs of having secondary scoring potential in his game this year. For a Blackhawks team that’s rebuilding and will need depth to compete in the postseason, Hagel’s scoring will be key for the future.
Defensively Hagel was equally efficient for Chicago. He factored into the team’s penalty kill and was often seen hustling back through the neutral zone during five-on-five play to fight to regain possession of the puck. He’s certainly not the biggest player, standing at 5-foot-11, but he played a big game. He’s on the boards kicking out pucks, he’s squaring up players in the slot to give his goalie space to save a shot. Overall his play was very sound and consistent throughout the season. That consistency is what made Brandon Hagel the team’s breakout player of the season.
How Brandon Hagel Stacks Up Against Similar Players
Alexander Kerfoot had himself an average season for the Toronto Maple Leafs this year. Through 56-games he scored one fewer goal than Hagel with 15 assists for 23 points on the year. Kerfoot’s level of play and middle-six defensive reliability is what Hagel’s ceiling looks like at this stage in his career. At Hagel’s best he can just outscore Kerfoot and is able to defend just as well. At his average, however, he’s a touch behind him defensively and on the score sheet. For Chicago, though, either option is great to have at their disposal.
Carolina Hurricanes winger Nino Niederreiter played extremely well this season. He was his team’s bounce-back player of the season, nearly doubling his goal totals from the last season. Nino is a much bigger body than Hagel and plays a much more physical game than Hagel as well. With that being said, Hagel’s best might look similar to Nino’s. Hagel played a very strong two-way game in his rookie year and showed signs of progression through each game. A full offseason of rest, a proper pre-season schedule to play through and less COVID-19 policy could pave the way for Hagel to have a Nino-like season.
How Hagel Can Improve for Year Two
Brandon Hagel played very well despite only playing 13 minutes a night. His game has little major flaws to it, but fixing the little things this offseason will help him in the long run in an impactful way. There were times on the ice where he would over-adjust defensively and leave room for an attacking player to find space, but that is something that playing experience helps buff out over time. If Hagel keeps playing his game to the best of his ability and works on his game over the offseason, year two for Hagel will be a bigger step in the right direction for him and the Blackhawks.