Watching the much anticipated matchup between Zach Benson and Connor Bedard the other night it was clear: Connor Bedard has an "all-time" type of release. It's almost like his release is behind his feet at times and has double the amount of velocity to the back of the net as most NHL forwards. It's hard to describe, it's special.
While we all know Bedard will go #1 in this June's draft in Nashville, what other players could the Blackhawks look at that would provide true goal scoring ability? Let's look at whom we may target in the first few rounds of the draft.
Zach Benson should be at the top of everyone's list here as the RW is a true do it all player from an offensive standpoint. Benson is second in the WHL behind Bedard in scoring with 97 points in 58 games. Any other year, he is winning the points race. Benson can score (35 goals) from in close, on the rush, or with patient hands cutting from dot to dot. He is as gifted as an offensive player as you would hope to find from a top 8 pick, but it's his compete that truly sets him apart. Draft Slot 5-9th
Andrew Cristall is the true left shot goal scorer in the 1st. He has a variety of releases he utilizes to get the goalie out of position. Quick, not fast, and has that deceptive grip that fools defenders when he fires a puck at the net. With 62 goals in his last 106 WHL games it's expected that Cristall can carry over this skill to the next level. Draft Slot 13-25th
Koehn Ziemmer is the bigger of the 3 top goal scorers of their draft years. Ziemmer has been consistent as a RW sniper and regualry follows up his shot with a tally. Ziemmer also appears to a frame that could fill out and he could show good board battle support for an NHL club. With back to back 30 goal seasons, it's anticipated that Ziemmer could potentially see his name called in the 1st round. Draft Slot 24-38th
It's notable as well to say the WHL has a couple of "out of nowhere" overagers like Kai Uchacz and Chase Wheatcroft that could be mid round picks with goal scoring ceilings above their draft positions.
Colby Barlow is going to score goals at every level he is at. This is a true sniper with an elite shot. I expect Colby to be drafted high and could be a candidate to come to the NHL quicker than expected. Draft Slot 9-15th
Luca Pinelli is a name to watch that is likely not on everyone's radar. He shows that "in-between" or soft-spot offensive IQ that is key for smaller wings to get shots on net. An improving player to keep an eye on. Draft slot 40-65th
Mathieu Cataford is a name that most CHL fans know alot about, but I get the sense most casual Americans do not. Cataford is an absolute elite scoring forward. I think he is truly a boom or bust prospect that could come into the league and score right away or could get in a coaches dog house and never emerge again. For my bet, I think he is going to be a great wing scorer for a long time. Cataford has really come on this year and showed we can do, but will he be drafted on potential alone? Draft Slot 35-75th
Eduard Sale screams PP1 RW at the NHL level. He is a one stop shop for one timers from the dot and has a cannon of a shot. Will the Czechia winger be too much of a one trick pony for teams though? It may end up he goes a little later than some predict because of this. Draft Slot 10-17th
Gabe Perreault, the American can really fill up the score sheet. Questions remain though like, "is he more a product of his line" and "size concerns". If you look at his development history though it's clear he can score whereever he has been. Draft Slot 22-34th
Brad Nadeau is a name some don't know yet due to him playing for Penticton in the BCHL however make note of him. Nadeau has a hard and heavy shot and scores at some difficult angles at high speeds. He projects as a long term project, but shows great upside. Draft Slot 38-70th
There are alot of players that will qualify as goal scorers in this draft however I wanted to single out these players as they project as being in some of the spots we may be drafting. Players like Brayden Yager, Oliver Moore, Nate Danielson, Will Smith, and Ryan Leonard all are great players that may be more well rounded than some of the "pure" shots above.
It's an exciting draft for Blackhawk fans, one where we will likely draft a variety of players from all over the world. Looking at what we are building and where our prospect depth currently is one thing is clear: we need to draft some goal scorers.