The NHL Draft is set, at least for those who were left with a lottery pick. The draft was a point of major discussion amongst Blackhawks fans because of the Seth Jones trade from last offseason that Stan Bowman executed with the Columbus Blue Jackets. As you may recall in the trade, Seth Jones came to the Blackhawks in exchange for Adam Boqvist, a 2021 first round pick and second round pick, as well as the Blackhawks' first round pick in either 2022 or 2023. In the conditions of the deal, it stated that if the Blackhawks received either of the first two picks in the 2022 draft, the Blackhawks would maintain the pick and Columbus would receive the 2023 first rounder. If the Blackhawks were selected for any draft spot beneath 2, then Columbus would receive that draft pick and the Blackhawks would maintain their 2023 first rounder.
Definitely some convoluted details there, but it matters greatly for context of the importance of last night. Going into the night, there was great debate amongst Blackhawks fans (as you can see from our poll yesterday) as to which option was preferred. It was a fairly close debate, closer than I expected at least, tilting towards the 2023 first rounder.
If you don't typically follow the draft, you may be confused as to why it would matter so much to not receive a top 2 pick in 2022 as opposed to any random pick in 2023. Here's why: Shane Wright is far and away the best prospect in the 2022 draft. If you land him, then it is a winning draft, otherwise, it is a big drop off and therefore a crapshoot. The 2023 class is projected to be an extremely deep roster of elite players. Connor Bedard tops this list, but as you work your way down with Adam Fantilli, Matvei Michkov, Calum Ritchie, Brayden Yager, you continue to see players that are projected to be at a similar level as Shane Wright, or better even. If you are the Blackhawks, you would much rather land in a draft where there is such a depth of talent that it would be virtually impossible for you to walk away with a bust.
In Stan Bowman's flawed vision of the offseason of 2021 (I say this because he declared a rebuild and then his actions were the opposite of a rebuild), coveting the top 2 picks in the upcoming draft would make sense so that you can maximize the remaining time the team has with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Now that a rebuild has been realized, the emphasis is on getting as many good, young players that you can. But amongst those players, you need talent. The 2023 NHL Draft certainly has talent. I am very glad the Blackhawks get to keep their draft pick for next year. They are going to be a bad team. A VERY bad team. An abhorrently bad team. Hopefully, with raised draft odds, the Blackhawks will land one of the studs coming out next year. It would at least be more likely than Stan Bowman probably originally intended for the team.
As for this year, there is no reason to fret. General Manager Kyle Davidson reminded fans that while they look forward to using their first round pick in the future, this year, the Blackhawks still hold eight picks and that five of those picks occur before the end of the third round. There still remains the possibility as well that the Wild make a run to the Western Conference Finals, in which case the Blackhawks pick they received in exchange for Marc-Andre Fleury would turn into a first rounder. There is plenty of optimism to be had still for the Blackhawks in this draft.
I am honestly thrilled about the results of last night. I think the Blackhawks can continue to bolster their roster with the picks they have this year, and have a legit shot at a superstar for next year. Sign me up.
The 2022 NHL Draft takes place July 7-8. Watch to see which players come to the Blackhawks!