Adding Size Up Front
The Hawks didn’t just add bulk to their Blue Line. They also added some additional size to their Forward Depth. After seeing the early success of grinding players like Brandon Hagel, Mike Hardman, MacKenzie Entwistle, and Reese Johnson, the Hawks see the value of adding more physical forwards, so that they can compete with the teams in their division.
In the late second round, the ‘Hawks added Colton Dach, younger brother of Kirby Dach. He has similar size to Kirby at 6’4″, 195 lbs, and boasts solid skills and skating ability. Like his brother, he has a strong stride, and is deceptively fast because of his stride length. He is a solid shooter, and will go to the net and play in the corners, which the ‘Hawks need more of. He also has solid hands, which is needed to play in tight to the net and in the defensive end.
At pick 172, the ‘Hawks selected Ilya Safonov, who spent last season in the KHL. He is another big body at 6’4, 205 lbs. He has solid hands, a good shot, and decent skill. He is physical around the net and in his own zone. He is not a great skater, but hopefully some development in that area will help him out.
Having multiple 6’4 forwards with good hands and playmaking skill is going to help the ‘Hawks compete in the future with the more physical teams in their division.
The NHL has been shifting towards a more skilled game for decades, but what we are seeing now is a shift towards more physically-gifted players with skill. The ‘Hawks have typically found their skill in smaller players, and their draft picks of recent years have been geared towards smaller, faster players to develop. I believe Stan Bowman has realized (finally!) that the better teams in the Blackhawks’ division are tougher, stronger, and just as skilled (if not more so) than the roster the ‘Hawks have put together.
Whether these players work out and become the Blackhawks core of the future remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: Bowman focused on specialized skill with size in this draft, especially on the defensive side of the puck. He sees the writing on the wall, and if the Blackhawks want to be perennial playoff contenders, they need to have skilled players with size up and down the lineup, and throughout the organization.