The other day I talked about what the Blackhawks might do with their 1st round pick, the 18th overall selection in this year’s draft on Friday. To recap, I believe trading away the pick for an NHL player and trading it to move up in the draft order are both viable possibilities, however I do believe the Hawks would be more than happy to use their 1st round selection if the appropriate opportunity to trade it away does not present itself.
With that said, in this post I will discuss some of the players I think could still be available at 18 and who I think the Hawks should consider taking. I said in my last post I would prefer if the Hawks drafted a defenseman, so I’m only covering defenseman in this post. If I have time tomorrow before the draft I’ll cover a few of the appealing forwards.
Anyways, here’s a short list of the more appealing defenseman that I think will still be there at 18.
Derrick Pouliot (Defenseman, Portland Winterhawks WHL, 5’11” 186lbs)
Strengths: Offensive defenseman with incredible speed and skating ability, can add offense from the blueline, skate the puck out of trouble in the defensive zone and quarterback the powerplay
Weaknesses: Lacks physical strength, overall play in the defensive zone play is lacking
Most mock drafts out there having the Hawks taking Portland Winterhawk blueliner Derrick Pouliot at 18, and for good reason. As an offensively-minded defenseman, Pouliot is exactly the kind of defenseman the Hawks like. He’s one of those players that may be a little behind the curve in terms of overall development compared to some of the other defensive prospects, which could lead him to slip to 18, but he still has a fairly high ceiling. He needs to get stronger and his defensize zone play needs work. Still, some scouts say he’s the best offensive defenseman in the draft with incredible passing and vision. He would be a bit redundant in the Hawks system, which is already full of similar style defenseman, but he would make a valuable trade piece somewhere down the line.
Slater Koekkoek (Defenseman, Peterborough Petes OHL, 6’2″ 184lbs)
Strengths: Solid two-way defender, physically strong and can win battles, skates well, can jump into the rush and contribute offense, excellent point shot
Weaknesses: Some scouts have questioned his “hockey smarts”, decision making and positional awareness can be deficient at times
Were it not for a shoulder injury that kept him off the ice for the latter half of the season, Slater Koekkoek might be projected to go in the top 10. That might be good news for the Hawks, who could have this talented two-way defender fall right into their laps. Physically, Koekkoek is very close to playing in the NHL and with his 6’2″ frame he’ll probably be able to add another 15-20lbs over the next few years. He plays physical game and is not afraid to take the body. Developmentally, his game is extremely well-rounded and whatever deficiencies he has can be fine tuned through playing more and coaching. However, there are some long-term concerns about his shoulder injury.
Matt Finn (Defenseman, Guelph Storm OHL, 6’0″ 195lbs)
Strengths: Solid two-way defender, possesses good hockey sense, skates well, can jump into the rush and provide offense, good positional awareness and defensive zone play
Weaknesses: Needs to get physically stronger, questionable ceiling (top pairing or second pairing defender?)
Last year when his conditioning and overall physical shape fell under criticism, Matt Finn hit the gym hard and responded with a huge season, which included 47 points in 61 games. Since then Finn has rocketed up the draft rankings. Finn has a lot of upside: hockey intelligence, smooth skating ability and overall two-way play. However, scouts have questioned his ceiling, as Finn is a sort of “what you see is what you get” type of player. He safely projects to be a second pairing defenseman but its possible his ceiling ends there. Scouts have also noticed his tendency to get outworked by stronger players.
Olli Maata (Defenseman, London Knights OHL, 6’2″ 202lbs)
Strengths: Solid two-way defender, possesses good size and strength, excellent hockey IQ and positional awareness, great defensive zone player, can jump into the rush and contribute offensively
Weakness: Physical game is lacking, needs to learn to use his size and strength more
This one is a bit of a long shot, but if the Blackhawks are able to come out of the 1st round with Olli Maata, consider it a huge win. In any other draft Maata would easily be a top 10 pick, but a couple of injuries derailed his season, and with this draft so rich in talented defenseman, there is a possibility he slips all the way to 18. Maata is an excellent two-way defender without any gaping holes in his game. He possesses good size, speed and skating ability, along with a superb hockey IQ. The only real knock on his game is his lack of physical play, but he excels in so many other areas it essentially renders that obsolete. Maata’s ceiling is definitely a top pairing defenseman and were the Hawks to get him at 18, he would instantly become the crown jewel of their farm’s blueline.
Thanks for reading. If I’m not able to get a post out tomorrow, enjoy the draft and I’ll talk to you after. I’m sure there will be lots to talk about.