On Tuesday, April 9th the lottery Gods gave the New Jersey Devils the first overall pick in June’s NHL Entry Draft. After finishing with 84 points and missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season, the Chicago Blackhawks will pick 3rd overall after being statistically projected to land in the 12th spot.
Chicago had a meager 2.5% odds of winning the first overall pick, and an 8.2% odds of landing in the top three.
According to their prospect list, the projected 3rd draft choice is Bowen Byram of the Victoria Giants.
His 26 goals led all WHL defensemen this year. He is strong on the power-play and possesses a dynamic two-way game. A forward-heavy draft class has undeniably raised his stock this year.
"“He’s occasionally caught out of position, but it’s the type of risk that comes with young, dynamic puck-moving defensemen, and an area where Byram should improve as he matures.” – Hannah Stuart, The Score."
It’s not unrealistic that the New York Rangers will draft the 6’1″ blueliner with the 2nd pick. The Rangers blueline has been looking for consistency in aging lines. And putting more firepower in front of Henrik Lundqvist would assist their hall-of-fame backstop as well. Before the 2018-19 season, ESPN ranked the Rangers as the 24th worst defensive team in the league.
The Blackhawks find themselves in an interesting position. If Chicago intends to bring in another offensive-minded defenseman, they may need to move one of their current prospects. Moving Nicolas Beaudin for another pick or package deal that includes a proven NHL ready defenseman seems like a real possibility.
If I am correct, and New York goes the defensive route, Chicago will have an easy pick with Kaapo Kakko.
If I’m Stan Bowman and Kakko is off the board, I’m taking a hard look at Dylan Cozens. His production rate was huge for the Lethbridge Hurricanes this season. He led the team in points at 84, which was also a career high. His 6’3″ frame looks NHL ready, and his combination of size and speed has been noted by scouts.
"“Cozens is a unique story, born in Whitehorse in Yukon Territory. Cozens has 25 goals and 58 points in 45 games this season. He’s the opposite of Dach in many respects. Cozens is a shoot-first centre with a tremendous shot. He is a fast and powerful skater who plays a bullish power game.” – Bob McKenzie, TSN"
I find it unlikely that Chicago drafts a defenseman in the first round without moving one of the prospects they have in the system. Some substantial penalty kill help and an overall tighter defensive core is likely to come via free agency and trades this offseason.