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Chicago Blackhawks: NCAA Players Can Provide Much-Needed Depth

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Apr 9, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; North Dakota Fighting Hawks celebrate with the trophy after beating the Quinnipiac Bobcats in the championship game of the 2016 Frozen Four college ice hockey tournament at Amalie Arena. North Dakota defeated Quinnipiac 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; North Dakota Fighting Hawks celebrate with the trophy after beating the Quinnipiac Bobcats in the championship game of the 2016 Frozen Four college ice hockey tournament at Amalie Arena. North Dakota defeated Quinnipiac 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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The 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago this weekend will be a clear indicator of what GM Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks’ direction will be moving forward. My guess is that they will use this opportunity to replenish a farm system that has been diminished the last few years by “all-in” mid-season trades

The Blackhawks need help.

Every year it seems the team depth gets thinner and thinner. Whether that be from successful young players pricing themselves out or from top prospects being thrown into desperate trades as sweeteners in order for the Blackhawks to stay compliant with the salary cap, a gap has been created where the next wave of prospects are not ready to go pro.

We did see a few players take strides like Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz, John Hayden, and Gustav Forsling who all got some NHL ice time, but there still remains several holes to be filled in the Blackhawks team game.

There are some young players who are having success at the minor level like Alex DeBrincat, Alexandre Fortin, and Graham Knott, but many would argue that they still need to get a taste of pro hockey in the American Hockey League before making the leap to the NHL.

Looking forward to the 2017 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks should be looking for players that can help in the areas of their game that struggled recently. The first area should be the penalty kill. The Blackhawks started the year with a horrible PK percentage which made it hard to rebound the rest of the year. The possibly of losing Marcus Kruger to the Golden Knights doesn’t make the Hawks’ PK situation any better either.

The second area the Hawks need help with is faceoffs. Jonathan Toews is currently the only reliable faceoff man on the team with struggles from Artem Anisimov and Nick Schmaltz. Finding a big centerman who can go up against Western Conference teams that are stacked up the middle is something the Hawks’ should look for especially being a possession team.

Something else the Hawks could get better at is scoring in different ways. We’ve all watched Patrick Kane make defenders look silly by making an unreal pass through the crease for a wide open goal, but don’t you get the same amount of points if you score with a shot from the point or by a redirection? In this year’s playoffs, the Hawks could’ve used some greasy goals to compete with the Predators who consistently took away Corey Crawford‘s eyes and forced the Blackhawks forwards to defend in their own end.

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Lastly, the Hawks need to get nasty. You hear this term thrown around a lot in regards to offensive or defensive line units in football. You’re not asking the team to play dirty, you just want guys to play with a certain type of intensity that involves grit and relentlessness.

It’s easier said than done to just find players with these qualities, but I believe that the Blackhawks can find these players in college hockey. Next, I’ll feature a few players who are committed to Universities next year who I believe could be good fits for the Blackhawks.

With that in mind, I believe the Hawks will use their late round picks to trade up into the 2nd and 3rd rounds to hopefully acquire some higher end talent.

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