Chicago Blackhawks Could Bolster Center Depth With Blake McLaughlin

BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 21: Blake McLaughlin
BUFFALO, NY - SEPTEMBER 21: Blake McLaughlin /

The Chicago Blackhawks could eventually be very strong up the middle with the addition of the Chicago Steel’s Blake McLaughlin

In a season that couldn’t end sooner, the Chicago Blackhawks will finally close the doors on the 2017-18 campaign Saturday in Winnipeg against the Jets.  Talks of playing “spoiler” for other Western Conference teams vying to make the playoffs is a situation unfamiliar to the Blackhawks, but could provide some sort of closure.  But with a wave of potential changes in the organization on the horizaon, all the ‘Hawks can do now is continue to look to the future for answers.

The Blackhawks prior to Tuesday’s action had the seventh-worst record in the NHL, which would slot them picking seventh overall in the 2018 NHL Draft this June in Dallas.  And that is if they do not win one of the draft lottery spots in the top three.  The odds for winning the lottery were recently changed giving the Blackhawks a 6.5 percent chance of getting the top selection.

The ‘Hawks also have a late first-round pick that they received in the trade that sent Ryan Hartman to the Nashville Predators.  It’s hard to say what types of players the Hawks could be looking at drafting with the 7th and 31st picks, but defenseman and centermen continue to be a need in their system.

Let’s take a look at a player the Blackhawks could find late in the first round with top value.

Blake McLaughlin: Chicago Steel center

In his first full season in the USHL with the Chicago Steel, center Blake McLaughlin is putting up impressive numbers that are catching the eyes of many NHL teams who could draft his rights this summer.

The Grand Rapids Michigan native stands in at 5-foot-11, 161 pounds, and plays a strong two-way game.  Posting 22 goals and 27 assists in 50 games this season, McLaughlin is averaging just under a point per game.  McLaughlin is currently committed to play at the University of Minnesota next year.

Here’s what’s Kevin Wickersham had to say about McLaughlin:

"Tabbed 25th among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s January rankings, McLaughlin has grown to six feet in height but could add bulk as he weighs in at a speedy 162 pounds. Born in 2000, he just turned 18 in February and has plenty of time to grow over the next few years. He displays mature playmaking skills however, with a penchant for making deft passes that set up teammates well. He’s extremely elusive making him particularly dangerous on special teams, having nailed two shorthanded goals this year as well as five on the power play. And he’s shown some physical chops on defense, utilizing his quickness and somewhat surprising strength to effectively slow opponents."

"McLaughlin’s solid showing with Team USA’s U-18 club in the Hlinka Memorial Tournament (2 G, 1 A in 4 games), and in the World Junior A Championships with the U-19 squad (4 A in 5 games) indicate he’s more than capable in international competition. He surprised some by forgoing his senior season with Grand Rapids High, Minnesota and announcing that he would instead return to the Steel on the first day of preps practice this November, but he’s clearly ready for more. McLaughlin was a huge factor in leading his HS team to the state AA trophy in 2016-17, registering 22 goals and 38 assists in 28 tilts. In all, he logged 33 goals and 114 points in high school play."

Some of the major issues that have been plaguing the Blackhawks of late has been their ability to win faceoffs and their coverage in the defensive zone.  At 30 years old, Jonathan Toews has a lot of miles on him and can’t continue to be an all-situations guy without risking injury.

The emergence of Nick Schmaltz is helping, but the ‘Hawks still need more playmakers and guys willing to get to the dirty areas.  The development of 2015 2nd round pick Graham Knott in the AHL will also be something to keep an eye on, but his progress so far is lacking promise.

The Blackhawks need to solidify their checking line and McLaughlin could be a perfect fit.  A player that is hard on pucks, tough to play against, and always a threat to score is what the ‘Hawks are missing.  And his skillset is only going to get better after a year or two in a prestigious college hockey program like Minnesota.

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The ‘Hawks are no stranger either to drafting players from the Chicago Steel system such as Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza.  This just seems like a great match and a player the Hawks can could on to contribute in many areas.  And he’s playing right now in their backyard.