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Blackhawks select goaltender Adam Gajan with No. 35 overall pick in 2023 draft

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NASHVILLE — The Chicago Blackhawks have selected goaltender Adam Gajan with the No. 35 overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. It's the first time since 2020 that the organization drafted a netminder.

Gajan, 19, went 19-12-1 with a 2.57 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and one shutout in 34 appearances last season with the Chippewa Steel of the NAHL. He also, most notably, turned in a strong performance at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, where he went 2-2-0 with a 2.40 goals-against average, .936 save percentage and one shutout in four games for Team Slovakia.

"We loved his athleticism, ability to play the puck, big game player, was great for Slovakia in the World Juniors, was excellent everywhere he played this year," Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson said. "Loved his play, but it’s the athleticism that stood out to us."

"He kind of had his coming out party at the World Juniors," Blackhawks director of amateur scouting Mike Doneghey echoed. "Some will say single-handedly carried Slovakia to where they were."

Gajan is a 6-foot-3, 183-pound goaltender who went undrafted last season but performed so well this past season that he jumped back on everyone's radar. He is expected to return to the USHL for the 2023-24 season before heading to University of Minnesota Duluth for the 2024-25 campaign.

"The thought behind going to the USHL is he'll play 55-60 games as a goalie and that's really valuable," Doneghey said. "[Blackhawks goaltender scout] Dan Ellis did a tremendous job being in touch with his agency and knowing his path and getting to see him play."

With Arvid Soderblom likely graduating to the NHL next season and Drew Commesso making the jump from college to pro, it was the right time for the Blackhawks to get another goaltender in the system and begin the developmental process.

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