The Hockey Gods have blessed StanBo & Co. one more time, as they moved up from 12th overall to 3rd overall during the 2019 NHL Draft lottery on Thursday, April 11th.
Not only does this new draft position give the Blackhawks a real shot to draft a gamechanger, but it also puts them in familiar territory. Throughout the team’s history, the Blackhawks have drafted really well in this particular spot.
As of right now, the Blackhawks have a 75% success rate while drafting 3rd which is pretty solid.
The timing couldn’t have been any better, as this year’s draft class is pretty stacked in terms of talent.
Although consensus number 1 pick, Jack Hughes, and number 2 pick, Kaapo Kakko, will likely be off the board, the Blackhawks can still land what may end up being the best player in the draft. Let’s take a closer look as to who will be on our draft board this summer.
Blackhawks’ Draft Board
It is officially time to focus on forwards and rebuild the forward depth throughout the organization. There are a plethora of draft-eligible forwards this year, which is the exact opposite of last year’s draft class. This actually plays to the Blackhawks’ favor, because they are filled to capacity with young defensemen such as Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, Henri Jokiharju, Ian Mitchell, Chad Krys, and etc.
As you saw during the season, the Blackhawks’ Top 6 could use maybe 1 or 2 more guys to really help fill out the roster depth. By adding a top forward in the draft, this alleviates some of the pressure and workload on guys like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who both set new career highs in ATOI this season. Toews averaged 21:00 TOI per game and Kane averaged 22:29 TOI per game.
Let’s start off by assuming Hughes and Kakko are off the board by the time the Blackhawks are on the clock. Don’t worry, we’re still in good shape. The tier of players just below them is full of two-way forwards that the Blackhawks desperately need.
My Top Targets
Vasili Podkolzin is a Russian born sniper and he stands at 6’1″ 190 lbs. First and foremost, Podkolzin is a sniper but he’s more than that. This kid is what you call a three-zone player, he is really strong in the offensive zone, neutral zone, and defensive zone — basically the embodiment of today’s NHL.
Since Podkolzin plays so well on both ends of the ice, seeing him play on both the power play and penalty kill is not out of the question. Although he is a sniper, Podkolzin plays an aggressive style and he is not afraid to get physical. He excels at forechecking, while also using his speed, size, vision, and puckhandling skills to his advantage.
Podkolzin reminds me of another young budding star in Calgary, Matthew Tkachuk, but he comes with a better shot. You can see all of Podkolzin’s skills on display in this highlight reel. Keep your eyes on #19.
Vasili Podkolzin is certainly an impressive 17-year-old and would definitely be an instant upgrade for the Blackhawks. However, that is also a big dilemma — when would Podkolzin actually join the Blackhawks?
He is currently under contract with the KHL for 2 more seasons. I’m not sure if StanBo & Co. are willing to wait that long to see the fruits of their labor pay off. Although there are various reports saying Podkolzin would be ready to play in the NHL as soon as next season. One such report, via Craig Button of TSN, can be found in the video below.
Dylan Cozens is a big playmaking center/winger hybrid who stands at 6’3″ 191lbs and also possesses a great shot. Cozens plays a really strong 200-foot game, meaning that his presence is felt at both ends of the ice. Although he is a bigger player, Cozens is actually quite nimble. He often showcases his speed and the ability to make sharp turns without losing much speed.
Cozens actually reminds me of a center that we should all be familiar with by now — our captain, Jonathan Toews. Like Toews, he plays with a high motor and isn’t afraid to get physical when the game calls for it. In his most recent season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL), Cozens tallied 84 points (34G, 54A) in 64 games.
If StanBo & Co. opt to pass on Vasili Podkolzin, I see Cozens as their safety net pick. You will instantly understand why when you watch this highlight reel in which he showcases his NHL ready skills. Keep your eyes on #22 with Team Canada.
Kirby Dach is another big-bodied playmaking center who stands at 6’4″ 198 lbs. Although not quite as fast as Vasili Podkolzin and Dylan Cozens, Dach makes up for his skating with excellent hands and vision. He is one of the best passers in this year’s draft class. Dach takes advantage of his size and strength, especially around the net and along the boards. This is something that the Blackhawks can definitely use more of.
Dach always knows what to do with the puck and rarely gets knocked off while it’s in his possession. I can easily see him becoming a fixture on the Blackhawks power play, especially on that 2nd unit which could use a little more offensive firepower.
Kirby Dach is another high-quality center that I would be comfortable with drafting. Dach showcased his NHL ready game with Team Canada. Keep your eyes on #17 in this impressive highlight reel.
Alex Turcotte is another playmaking center who stands at 5’11” 194 lbs. Turcotte is an electric player who can change any game in the blink of an eye — literally. He possesses lightning quick speed and the ability to think the game very quickly. Alex Turcotte may have the highest star potential of the players that I have talked about, and that’s saying something.
Turcotte is another guy who rarely gets knocked off the puck, and that’s due to his ideal combination of elite speed and strength. Like with Podkolzin, there is the possibility that Turcotte won’t be in the NHL next season since he committed to playing for the University of Wisconsin in 2019-20. In the following video, you can see just how quickly Alex Turcotte can change the outcome of a game at any given moment.
Although I don’t believe StanBo will draft Alex Turcotte with the 3rd overall pick, I wouldn’t mind him throwing us a curveball and drafting him. Turcotte is definitely worth looking into as a serious option at #3. His speed, skill, and intangibles would mesh really well this current Blackhawks roster.
The Blackhawks have lucked into a win-win situation that I am sure most NHL GMs are envious of. I truly believe any of these previously mentioned players will be an instant upgrade and become a new piece of the team’s core. Drafting one of these prospects, along with the team’s promising defensemen and potential free agent signings, exponentially increases the Blackhawks’ chances for a successful playoff run next season.