The Chicago Blackhawks are just over 6 months removed from winning a draft lottery. Not only that, but they won it in a year when there was a clear generational talent (perhaps 3 of them?). Now as the season starts to fall into place the Blackhawks find themselves tied for the 2nd fewest points in the league. Naturally, at the same time the NCAA / CHL / European leagues are hitting their stride, the next draft is starting to round into form as well.
While early I think I'm ready to call it in terms of the race to be selected #1 in the 2024 draft. That player is likely to be Boston University forward Macklin Celebrini. A cerebral player with all the skill traits, IQ, and size qualifications to be an impact player for an NHL franchise from day 1. As the season wears on and the "tanking" falls into place there will likely be quite a few tense GMs and owners at the time of the next draft lottery.
After Celebrini there appears to be a big drop off from my perspective. At the time of this writing, if I were making the decision, I would now select defenseman Anton Silayev. Simply put, 6'7 defenders that are producing in the KHL at the age of 17 just don't come along very often. This is an intriguing player with maybe the highest ceiling of any defenseman I've seen in recent memory.
After those 2, whom I both think can be #1 options for a team, I would go with the most talented forward on the board and that is without a doubt Ivan Demidov. While coming off an injury and having a smaller frame / stature there is no denying that Demidov has excellent edge work, high level hands, and a deceptive and crafty nature to get into scoring areas. Simply put his game will translate over to North America.
The 4th position is really where it gets difficult as I could see multiple teams making different decisions here. For me if a team really needs a wing to score for a passive center than it's Cole Eiserman or Berkly Catton. If though the prospect pool of a club has a need on defense than you are looking at Sam Dickinson, Artyom Levshunov., or Zayne Parekh. So for me the #4-#8 selections will likely be the group of Eiserman, Catton, Dickinson, Levshunov, and Parekh in whatever order a team drafted perfers.
For the last group of the top half of the 1st I see a group that while projecting to important NHL roles, is not without their question marks. I'd list Cayden Lindstrom, Aron Kiviharju, Konsta Helenius, Adam Jiricek, and Henry Mews as the next prospects I think will go in that 9-13 range. Some scouts are not as high on Mews as I am, but this is a smooth skating reliable defender that projects as a high end blue line skater. To me, he fits what Kyle Davidson may be looking for in this draft.
The next list of players will finish the big board of players that I feel comfortable (at this time) projecting as NHL regulars. Norwegian Michael Brandsegg-Nygard looks like an NHL-framed RW with some grit to his game and knack to score in a variety of ways. A likely mid-1st round selection, I believe he'll be targeted by teams starting in the teens.
Beckett Sennecke, Carter Yakemchuk, Michael Hage, Tij Iginla, Emil Hemming, Liam Greentree, and Tanner Howe (Connor Bedard's former linemate) seem to all have skill traits (at least offensively) that should appeal to NHL teams when looking at selections in the 1st round. That would be up to pick 21 if going by group.
After those first 5 tiers there is a host of players that have 1st round ability, but ultimately have flaws that could see them as players that are picked in top 75-100 picks instead. Terik Parascak, Maxim Masse, Andrew Basha, Luke Misa, Sacha Boisvert, Cole Hutson (brother of Lane), Igor Chernyshov, and Ryder Ritchie are just a few of the standouts that could be in line for a late 1st round call.
Anyway you look at this upcoming draft the early signs are pointing to a draft that is very top half of the 1st (top 16 picks) heavy. The early tiers in that range as I see it:
Tier 1: Macklin Celebrini
Tier 2: Anton Silayev, Ivan Demidov
Tier 3: Cole Eiserman, Berkly Catton, Sam Dickinson, Artyom Levshunov, Zayne Parekh
Tier 4: Cayden Lindstrom, Aron Kiviharju, Konsta Helenius, Adam Jiricek, Henry Mews
Tier 5: Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, Beckett Sennecke, Carter Yakemchuk, Michael Hage, Tij Iginla, Emil Hemming, Liam Greentree, Tanner Howe
Tier 6: Terik Parascak, Maxim Masse, Andrew Basha, Luke Misa, Sacha Boisvert, Cole Hutson, Igor Chernyshov, Ryder Ritchie
After a loss today, the Blackhawks now have the 2nd fewest points in the league and if the lottery would hold to form Chicago would draft 2nd. Would my 2nd rated player be the pick? Maybe gamble on the goal scorer Eiserman? The dynamic Russian Demidov? We'll find out inside the Sphere next June and while there is still a ton of hockey yet to play, the draft is starting to round into place.