Nearly a full month into his NHL career, things are starting to become a little bit more normal for Landon Slaggert.

The “emotional roller coaster” of seeing his four-year college career come to a close with a loss in the Big Ten tournament and, within days, also realizing a lifelong dream of making his NHL debut (and with the very team he idolized as a kid) has finally leveled out, and the 21 year old is now settling into his new life. 

“It's been awesome, just a bit of a whirlwind, for sure,” he said of the adjustment. “Lots of emotions, obviously, and I think now [I’m] kind of settling into my spot here. It's been good just living in Chicago … definitely getting my bearings, and that's been a lot of fun.”

With now 12 NHL games under his belt, Slaggert has established himself as a regular on the Blackhawks fourth line, often alongside Ryan Donato and MacKenzie Entwistle. He’s averaging nearly 11 minutes of ice time per game, sees regular reps on Chicago’s second penalty kill unit and is becoming a physical, forechecking threat — roles that continue to grow more with each passing game.

Slaggert logged his first NHL points, and his first multi-point game, on March 26 against Calgary — and for a split second appeared to have scored his first NHL goal in the contest as well, until further review showed his wrister off a rush hitting the crossbar instead of the back of the net.

“I was hoping for it (to count),” he laughed after. “I guess it just wasn't in the cards tonight.”

The rookie’s first goal was, though, in the cards on Wednesday night in St. Louis converting a breakaway late in the gamepast the blocker of Joel Hofer, just minutes after ringing a partial breakaway chance off the post.

Landon Slaggert scores first NHL goal on a breakaway to make it a 5-2 game in St. Louis

“He's been good and he competes,” head coach Luke Richardson said after the game. “He was battling physically, made some really nice plays, had a couple chances around the front of the net, and finally scored on a really nice rush and a play, and a great shot. Happy for him ... a really nice goal for him to start his career off.”

Regardless of the rookie’s stat line, he’s impressing the Blackhawks out of the gate early in his professional career, and showcasing the style of play the organization liked when drafting him in the third round of the 2020 NHL Draft and throughout his four-year college career.

“He's just a relentless player. You never see him take a shift off,” General Manager Kyle Davidson explained in the latest episode of Every Shift. “He's a good skater, he's a hard worker, and he can pitch in offensively … You see that high-motor style of play that he played in college and he is creating turnovers. He's creating of offense for others.”

Take a deeper look at the young Blackhawks prospect core in the latest episode of Every Shift: Paths of Progress

For NHL-drafted prospects in the college ranks, when hockey season ends during their junior year, they often make the jump to the pro level — usually ready to take the next step in their development. That was the case for defenseman Alex Vlasic and others throughout the Blackhawks system, like netminder Drew Commesso and forward Ryder Rolston, both currently with the Rockford IceHogs.

But for Slaggert, despite overtures from the Blackhawks last summer, his heart was still at Notre Dame, where he not only played for three seasons, but also as a South Bend kid his entire life. His dad Andy played for the Irish himself and has been a member of the coaching staff for now 29 seasons. Landon played alongside his older brother, Graham, for his first two seasons at Notre Dame, and wanted the same opportunity with his younger brother, Carter, who joined the team as a freshman this past season.

The Blackhawks, whose exclusive draft rights with Landon were set to expire soon after his senior season, were supportive of Slaggert’s decision — they knew full well the forward’s desire to return to college was about family, and not because he didn’t want to be a Blackhawk. And they trusted that soon after his senior season ended, he’d join their professional ranks.

“They were awesome about it,” Slaggert reflected of last summer’s conversations with the Blackhawks. “It was definitely the right decision for me to go back for my senior year for a number of reasons … I think that helped me grow in a number of areas both on and off the ice, which was awesome, and just helped me be a more well-rounded person. I think that's what you get out of Notre Dame -- you really round out yourself as a whole. I think it was the right decision for me and they respected that but also offered me the opportunity to come here when I was ready.”

As a senior, Slaggert was the captain for Notre Dame and led the team in points (31) and goals (20) — both career-bests for the forward in his four seasons — in 36 regular-season games.

That further development, and momentum from the season, helped him jump immediately to the NHL level. Now a month in, he’s feeling more at home every day.

“It's still obviously a fast pace and I still think I can continue to grow my game,” he said, “but definitely a lot more comfortable out there. Feel like I'm growing with each game, with each practice. So it's been awesome.”

Slaggert can also now uniquely see first-hand what Chicago is building in its roster of the future. In college, he was regularly going head-to-head against Blackhawks prospects across the Big Ten conference in Frank Nazar (Michigan), Oliver Moore (Minnesota) and Sam Rinzel (Minnesota). Now in Chicago, he’s getting a taste of the NHL down the stretch, alongside several other young pieces of the team’s future — Vlasic, Connor Bedard and Kevin Korchinski, among others.

“It's obviously exciting having these guys here,” Slaggert said. “They're all obviously great players and going to be a big part of the rebuild going forward, (as well as) the guys I played against this year, in the Big Ten and college hockey. They’re some great players, but also some great people, too.”

Together, it’s this group that forms a large part of the core of the future, one which Davidson and the Blackhawks brass hope can return the franchise to the top of the league.

“There's a lot of players in different locations right now developing at different timelines,” he said, “with the hope that they all come together at some point at the NHL level with the Blackhawks and take us to and into a new era of success.”

“You really do form a special bond and one that hopefully will carry over here to the big squad,” Slaggert added. “Just exciting stuff because I think you know that that's the culture you want to build going forward.”