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Chicago Blackhawks’ NHL Draft Focus Should Be Defense, Goaltending

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Mar 2, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Team North America associate general manager Stan Bowman speaks to media during a press conference for the upcoming 2016 World Cup of Hockey at Intercontinental Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 2, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Team North America associate general manager Stan Bowman speaks to media during a press conference for the upcoming 2016 World Cup of Hockey at Intercontinental Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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Mar 2, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Team North America associate general manager Stan Bowman speaks to media during a press conference for the upcoming 2016 World Cup of Hockey at Intercontinental Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

There are two drafts to look forward to in the NHL offseason, and hopefully the Chicago Blackhawks are already game planning for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft

Amid all the bluster and anger surrounding the Chicago Blackhawks’ first-round postseason exit — whether that comes from the fans, players or team management — is the reality the Blackhawks need to start looking ahead to 2017-18 and beyond.

Blackhawk Up’s Mario Tirabassi helpfully pointed out earlier this week the Blackhawks are in the midst of another youth movement — and a necessary one at that. However, if you look at the names Tirabassi listed in his piece, you’ll see a distinct theme.

Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza, Tyler Motte, Tanner Kero, John Hayden, Alex DeBrincat, Alexandre Fortin, Matthew Highmore and Graham Knott — these guys are all forwards. And that’s great. A team can never have too many promising young forwards to develop.

But then you realize the only names left in Tirabassi’s piece after that were Gustav Forsling and Luc Snuggerud — the only two defensemen he felt worthy of listing. And no goaltenders, to boot.

This is an obvious issue for the Blackhawks. They just watched their defense get walked around in a four-game postseason ousting. They also realize they’re likely losing a solid backup/potential starting goalie this offseason in Scott Darling, leaving little to back up 32-year-old Corey Crawford.

So let’s take a look to the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and see how the Blackhawks can go about building up their defense and goaltending ranks for the future.

Chicago Blackhawks

Explanation of players being picked

A lot of draft prospect breakdowns I’m finding have guys ranked by position and location — the latter meaning if they’re currently skating in North America or Europe.

Now, you can say the Blackhawks should keep an eye on any number of guys in the draft, but it’s not realistic they’ll get some of them. Guys like Nolan Patrick, Nico Hischier, Casey Mittelstadt, Klim Kostin, Elias Pettersson and Lias Andersson — the top three skaters on the North American and European sides, respectively — will be gone by the time the Blackhawks pick (barring a trade).

So I went ahead with a basic draft order to try and weed out where the Blackhawks would be picking in each round. Pretending there isn’t a draft lottery, I simply ordered the teams according to the entry draft rules:

— Nos. 1-15 (Las Vegas included) did not make the postseason, so I ordered them by points (using regulation/overtime wins as a tiebreaker); Las Vegas is given the lottery odds of a team with the third-fewest points, so I went ahead and put them at No. 3

— No. 16 Calgary, No. 17 Toronto, No. 18 Boston, No. 19 San Jose, No. 20 Minnesota and No. 21 Columbus were decided by the teams making the playoffs but not making the conference finals or winning their respective divisions

— Nos. 22-27 are undecided until the conference finalists are known, but the Blackhawks (by virtue of winning their division with the league’s second-most points) will be either No. 26 or 27 (depending on Washington’s second-round result).

I’m not going to go through possible selections for each round. What I’m going to do instead is look at some guys who could be on the board for the Blackhawks — and who would appeal to the Blackhawks — in various rounds, based on their rating on NHL.com’s draft prospects board and the Blackhawks’ draft positioning.

So, with all that out of the way, let’s move on to the actual players the Blackhawks would want to watch in the draft, specifically on defense and in goal.

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