The Chicago Blackhawks continued to build their farm system by adding two more talented defensemen, but what about the immediate future?
Unlike last season, there weren’t any blockbuster trades to report Friday night at the 2018 NHL Draft. No big names or fan favorites were shipped out, nor did the Chicago Blackhawks move up to take a premier prospect. A number of teams reached for players they believe fit their needs, but the Blackhawks stayed patient, and it looks like they drafted the two highest players on their board.
When the ‘Hawks were on the clock with the eighth overall pick, they had a plethora of talented young defensemen to choose from, along with sharp-shooter Oliver Wahlstrom who was rumored to be heading to Chicago. Instead, GM Stan Bowman went with Swedish defenseman Adam Boqvist who many had projected as the third-best prospect in the draft all year.
At just 17 years of age, Boqvist has a lot of raw talent but is considered an undersized defenseman — something the Blackhawks are familiar with. With players like Henri Jokiharju, Ian Mitchell and now Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin, the ‘Hawks are banking on speed for the future.
In an interview during the draft combine, Boqvist said he would be ready to make the jump to the NHL in two to three years, which seemed to spook a lot of the teams selecting inside the top 10.
This could’ve been the reason he fell to the ‘Hawks at No. 8, because he made himself look more like a project than somebody who can contribute right away. Players like Evan Bouchard and Noah Dobson were available and currently have the size and experience to make an NHL roster. But the Blackhawks decided to go with who they believed was the best player available.
It came to me as a shock that the Blackhawks didn’t make a bigger splash on draft day, knowing some of the pressures that have come down from ownership.
Rocky Wirtz was vocal in Crain’s Chicago Business about changes that will need to be made if the Blackhawks continue to stumble (although he did clear the air recently, saying his words were not supposed to be threatening). It’s rumored that season ticket sales are dropping and the overall demand for the Blackhawks isn’t what it used to be. The premium price on Blackhawks tickets and merchandise doesn’t match the product on the ice anymore.
The ‘Hawks had an opportunity Friday night to trade up as the Montreal Canadiens were entertaining offers for the No. 3 overall pick. But it looks like the asking price was too high.
I thought the ‘Hawks were going to make the jump and draft a player like Brady Tkachuk to come in and contribute right away. The ‘Hawks are lacking a power forward with his kind of edge to compete in a Central Division that gets tougher every year. But they sat on their hands and made the smart move.
The most frustrating part about the Blackhawks right now is their direction. Are they rebuilding, retooling or simply playing the cards that they’ve been dealt? Their books are tied up with expensive long-term contracts giving them little flexibility to wheel and deal, and this core group of players isn’t getting any younger.
The status of goaltender Corey Crawford is the icing on the cake when it comes to uncertainty. And with little depth at goaltender behind him, it looks like we could be in for another long season if he’s not healthy.
It hurts to know that if the Blackhawks get off to a slow start or don’t make the playoff next year, it probably means the end of Joel Quenneville. It’s a harsh reality because he’s not the one under-achieving out there on the ice. But with these first-round picks, Stan Bowman seems to be focused on the future of the franchise, and not the job security of his head coach.
I’m happy the Blackhawks picked the highest player available and made the picks that are probably best for the team. But this slow fall from grace into mediocrity doesn’t sit well. I thought the Blackhawks would be more desperate than this.