The Chicago Blackhawks have a great chance to change the narrative surrounding their team come Friday. The owner of the third overall selection in the draft, Chicago is in a great spot to add a top notch prospect, perhaps a face-of-the-franchise type player. And most pundits are saying that Stan Bowman, the general manager, is going to control the fate of the draft.
While the top two players, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, are most likely going to be selected by the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, respectively, there is no consensus third-best player. There’s several different options that the Blackhawks can select that can fill glaring needs in their lineup down the road – or immediately, if they choose.
There’s one common theme among all the Blackhawks writers: none of them can agree on the same thing. One writer says his sources covet the centers in the draft, while another says they are going after another defensemen. It’s difficult to say if that is a good or bad thing, but it is raising the drama factor immensely. So, who are the most likely candidates? Here are four options that Chicago has.
Byram, an 18-year-old defensemen out of the Western Hockey League, has been rumored to the Blackhawks ever since they moved up to the third overall pick. The highest-rated defensemen of the draft, scouts claim that he can start right away in the NHL. The words “#1 defensemen” have been thrown out to describe Byram, something every single team should take notice of.
Think Duncan Keith in his prime. Should the Blackhawks draft Byram, it will be their fourth first-round pick used on a blue-liner in the past three years, which does create a bit of a logjam. However, Byram might be worth it, as true top-pairing defensemen don’t come along too often. Considering the Blackhawks struggles on the blue line recently, having a replacement for Keith would be astounding for the future of the franchise.
Turcotte, one of the centers out of the United States National Team Development Program, has strong connections to Chicago. He grew up a Blackhawks fan, and draws comparisons to Jonathan Toews. A strong two-way player, Turcotte has been projected as a future number one center, something that every team could use.
The Blackhawks farm system is drastically devoid of any players that project to be a top-6 offensive player. Turcotte would immediately change that, but he wouldn’t be in Chicago immediately. He’s set to attend the University of Wisconsin, but would probably leave after one season. He would bolster the Blackhawks center position. Having a center unit of Toews, Dylan Strome, Turcotte and David Kampf would make Chicago one of the strongest teams in center, which is something NHL teams need to survive.
Another center from the USNTDP, Zegras is one of the most skilled players that has come out of the draft in several years. His playmaking would be extremely fun to watch alongside Patrick Kane, as both of these players would regularly make the highlight reels, maybe even on ESPN. He’s projected to be a number one center as well, albeit not as highly rated as Turcotte
Most of the scouts have said most of the same things about Zegras. He’s got tremendous skill, amazing creativity and projects to be one hell of a good power play quarterback. However, the rumor mill is that Chicago wants a guy that is going to have some grit to his game, and that’s not Zegras’ game at all. It’s not adding up for Chicago and Zegras, but with how wide open this draft can be, anything is possible.
TRADE THE PICK
This is the least likely event to happen. Firstly, Chicago would have to be absolutely blown away with the offer. Secondly, a team hasn’t traded down in the draft in some time. Unless the Blackhawks are offered the whole kitchen sink, they are probably going to keep this selection.
Chicago is absolutely in prime position to add to their farm system. After years of trading draft picks for postseason help, their farm system is looking a bit bare. That can change with this selection though. As for who they are going to select, I believe it is going to be BOWEN BYRAM. Yes, they have a glut of defensemen, but passing up a guy who could be Duncan Keith’s replacement would be hard to pass up. Plus, they can trade some of their other prospects for top-9 help. Whatever they do, the Blackhawks are in a good spot. They just have to make the most of it.