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Hagel emerging as must-keep player for Blackhawks ahead of Trade Deadline

March 5th, 2022 by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / Staff Writer

CHICAGO — Brandon Hagel didn’t foresee being such a big part of the Chicago Blackhawks when he signed with them as a free agent Nov. 5, 2018.

“It’s actually crazy,” the 23-year-old forward said. “Being unsigned and signing up for school, and now here I am playing 100 games in the NHL, a hat trick, it’s pretty surreal.”

That hat trick came in an 8-5 win against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 25, in his 100th NHL game. He has scored 30 points (17 goals, 13 assists) in 49 games for the Blackhawks (20-27-8), who visit the Philadelphia Flyers (16-28-10) at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; ABC, SN, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).

It’s a remarkable story for a player who was completely passed over in the 2018 NHL Draft, two years after he was selected in the sixth round (No. 159) of the 2016 NHL Draft by the Buffalo Sabres but never signed.

His development has certainly been a blessing for himself and the Blackhawks, but it also has led to reports that Chicago could move him before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline on March 21.

Daily Faceoff reported that if the Blackhawks traded Hagel they would be looking to get back a first-round pick in the NHL Draft and a top prospect.

“Seeing what they want for me, you’ve got to take it as a compliment, no?” Hagel said of the report. “Come on, I was a sixth-rounder brought in as a 20-year-old, just this kid who came and played. And they want that? I’ll take that any day.”

Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson said it’s not a surprise to see the rest of NHL taking notice of what Hagel can do.

“Brandon’s really turned himself into a very valuable player for us and I think everyone else recognizes that too,” Davidson said. “He’s a bona fide NHL player that has some very, very desirable attributes and his age also makes him a desirable player to us, to many other teams that are not just contending for the Stanley Cup but also desirable to them as well.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that he would be a desirable player around the League. But we love Brandon and he’s got a home here with us. We’re happy with him. Like I said, it’s understandable teams would be interested.”

Coach Derek King said he hopes Hagel is with Chicago for a long time.

“He’s got to stay here,” King said. “That’s me. You’ve got to do what’s right for the organization, what’s right for the team, but Hagel, he’s a big part of this organization. He’s a good hockey player who you want to keep on your team. I can see why other teams would want a player like that.”

The left wing, who played on the third line with center Kirby Dach and right wing MacKenzie Entwistle in the 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers at United Center on Thursday, has been used in all situations; he’s averaging 1:56 of power-play ice time per game and 1:22 of shorthanded ice time per game.

“He works so hard and he represents what the identity of our team needs to be to be successful,” forward Alex DeBrincat said. “He scores goals, he makes plays, and also hunts the puck down every shift. We need a lot of guys like him and people to follow his lead and his work ethic. He’s a great player for us and hopefully is for a while.”

Chicago forward Patrick Kane said Hagel “brings a lot of pace, lot of energy, the way he plays.

“He’s able to get pucks back on the forecheck and obviously he’s having a great year scoring some goals, too. I agree with ‘Brinksy’ there with what he said, definitely the way we want to play as a team as far as pushing pucks ahead and hanging on to it and being able to create offense too.”

Hagel honed his game with Red Deer of the Western Hockey League, where he played for four seasons (2015-19). As a 17-year-old rookie in 2015-16, Hagel scored 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists) in 72 regular-season games and 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 17 playoff games when Red Deer advanced to the Memorial Cup semifinals.

Brent Sutter coached Hagel for those four seasons at Red Deer. Sutter said Hagel went through some growing pains over his second and third seasons in the WHL. When Hagel returned to Red Deer for his final season after attending Montreal Canadiens training camp in 2018, Sutter sat him down for a talk.

“We talked about the importance of taking his game to a level that gives him a chance to earn a contract in the National Hockey League, and he did that,” said Sutter, a former NHL forward who played 1,111 games with the New York Islanders and Blackhawks, and who was an NHL coach for five seasons with the New Jersey Devils and the Calgary Flames.

Sutter said Hagel improved his overall game, especially in his own zone. Hagel had his best season with Red Deer in 2018-19, when he scored 102 points (41 goals, 61 assists) in 66 games.

“To me, he was the best player in the league that year, and I just thought his motor just didn’t stop.” said Sutter, now the owner/president/general manager of Red Deer. “He was totally a difference-maker in games and he took it upon himself to take that responsibility and leadership upon himself to do that.”

Hagel come a long way in a short time. Be it in Chicago or elsewhere, his game should keep growing.

“He’s established himself, and consistency’s a big thing in the National Hockey League,” Sutter said. “If you come to play every night and you’re consistent in what you do, you can have a long career. Don’t lose the focus, the determination to what got you there and where you’re at today and continue to grow off that.”

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