On Tuesday night, Gustav Forsling dazzled the United Center crowd with a beautiful play that resulted in a power play goal for Artem Anisimov.
Forsling, who turned 20 in June, has been one of the breakout stories of the Blackhawks training camp this fall.
But how did he – and the Blackhawks – get to this point?
The Blackhawks had an important draft for the organization in 2011. Chicago had 11 picks that June, many as a result of the post-Stanley Cup sell.
That draft class has been boom or bust for the Hawks to date. The headliners were Brandon Saad (second round) and Andrew Shaw (fifth round), but seven of the players selected by the Hawks in 2011 have have traded to date (Mark McNeill may be next).
Six of those players were involved in four trades:
- Philip Danault – traded to Montreal with a second round pick in 2018 for Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann
- Brandon Saad, Mike Paliotta & Alex Broadhurst – traded to Columbus for Anisimov, Marko Dano, Cory Tropp, Jeremy Morin and a 4th round pick in 2016 (Anatoly Golyshev)
- Klas Dahlbeck – traded to Arizona for Antoine Vermette
- Andrew Shaw – traded to Montreal for two second round picks in 2016 (Alex DeBrincat and Chad Krys)
These deals have been met with mixed reviews. Vermette helped the Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup; Dahlbeck has played in 90 games in Arizona. Danault showed a lot of promise with the Hawks, and there has been plenty of criticism of how the Hawks used Weise and Fleischmann down the stretch last year. And the jury is still out on the Shaw deal; DeBrincat has looked terrific, but is still young.
[If we follow through on these trades, Dano was subsequently dealt to Winnipeg for Andrew Ladd and Morin was traded to Toronto for Richard Panik.]
On Jan. 28, 2015, Bowman made the first trade involving a player from that 2011 class.
Defenseman Adam Clendening, the 36th overall selection in 2011, played a couple impressive seasons at Boston University before signing with Chicago. There were some people in the organization who liked his game a lot when he was drafted, but over time the front office didn’t feel as strongly about him in spite of good numbers in Rockford (59 points in 74 games in 2013-14).
Part of the reason Clendening became expendable was the arrival of Trevor van Riemsdyk. The Hawks signed TvR as a college free agent on March 25, 2014 and he quickly jumped onto the NHL radar.
Bowman found a suitor for Clendening in Vancouver, who was looking for a prospect who might be more NHL-ready than some of their younger prospects.
Forsling was originally drafted by Vancouver in the fifth round (#126 overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft. Barely 18 when selected, Forsling came to Chicago in a deal that excited some scouts and analysts, but didn’t move the needle for most fans.
As the Blackhawks consider their options for the blue line heading into the 2016-17 season, their top four is secure: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and Brian Campbell. But Forsling, van Riemsdyk and Michal Kempny are battling for ice time; Michal Rozsival figures to be the seventh defenseman. On Tuesday night, Forsling spent 17:11 on the ice with Campbell and looked terrific.
The wake of the deal bringing him to Chicago has been a steady maturation over 18 months for Forsling that now has him on the cusp of winning a roster spot – that may, ironically, come at the expense of van Riemsdyk.
Meanwhile, the wake of the trade has been tough for Clendening. Six months after being traded to Vancouver, the Canucks dealt him to Pittsburgh in a fairly significant deal involving Nick Bonino and Brandon Sutter. Six months after that deal, Pittsburgh sent him with David Perron to Anaheim for Carl Hagelin. The Ducks put him on waivers two weeks later, and he was claimed by Montreal. And this summer he signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent.
We’re a long way away from being able to grade Forsling’s NHL career, but the early signs are that the trade to bring him to Chicago may go down as one of Bowman’s best. He brought in Nick Leddy in a deal that is infamous in Minnesota, and this trade may be viewed with the same level of contempt by Canucks fans in the future.