Now that the 2019 National Hockey League draft has wrapped up, teams have turned their attention to free agency. An overwhelming majority of these players that were drafted aren’t really going to have a major impact on their teams in the upcoming year or so.
That doesn’t stop writers from attempting to judge who “won” the draft. Despite the general assumption that drafts shouldn’t be judged until three to five years down the road, there are always draft experts that want to make a quick judgment on how teams did, and if they had any steals.
There are already several articles written about how the Chicago Blackhawks did. It was a huge draft for them, as they were making their highest pick since winning the lottery back in 2007. Many have already speculated that this was a make-or-break draft for general manager Stan Bowman.
So, how did the Blackhawks do? It seems the general consensus is that Chicago had a solid draft. Most of the general debate centers around Kirby Dach, the player they took at third overall. There are some that believe he has the potential to be a franchise-type player, and have compared him to a Ryan Getzlaf or a Mark Scheifele. But they wanted to see more from him during his season.
The Last Word On Hockey gave the Blackhawks an A- for their picks. With Dach, they made the Getzlaf comparison, and that’s a pretty good player to be compared to. They also determined that their best value pick was Michal Teply, who already won me over with his quote to the media upon being selected. “I’m an offensive player. I like to score goals.” Considering that Bowman has found some great value picks in the later half of the draft, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was one that other teams come to regret.
Bleacher Report also gave the Blackhawks a B grade for their draft efforts. However, they gave a kind of warning about Chicago passing on defenseman Bowen Byram. They then turned around and said that Dach should be able to learn from Jonathan Toews, who was the last third-overall pick Chicago made. That seems to be the general consensus throughout the draft, that Chicago could have made a mistake about not going with Byram.
The Sporting News went as far as to say that the Blackhawks lost the draft due to selecting Dach. They essentially slammed Chicago for passing on Byram. They made the point that Chicago’s defense could use an NHL-ready defenseman if they want to make the playoffs. The problem is that immediately throwing Byram on a top-4 pairing could do more harm than good. It would be like he’s struggling to survive instead of thriving. The Blackhawks also have a gluttony of prime defensive prospects that are knocking on the door, and not that many roster spots available.
They also claimed that Chicago has center depth, naming Toews, Dylan Strome, Artem Anisimov and Marcus Kruger. Except Kruger is most likely not coming back and Anisimov is a likely trade candidate to dump his salary. Dach is considered to be a top-line center, which means he would be better than both of those players mentioned. Yes, he’s going to take some time, but with Toews still in his prime and Strome showing off his chemistry with Alex DeBrincat, the Blackhawks can afford that time.
The bottom line is that it is too soon to judge these players. They were just drafted and haven’t played a single game in their careers. Dach could end up being one of the best players taken. Considering Bowman and Mark Kelley’s record in scouting, it’s wise to trust them.