As we all anxiously (and then some) await Monday's draft lottery results it's important to note that there has been quite a bit of prospect movement since I last released a big board. Defenseman Tom Willander is moving up alot of draft boards as is US goalie Trey Augustine.
Willander has gone from just outside my top 50, to late 1st, to (after the WJC-18s) a possible pick in the early to mid-teens. That's how well he has skated and played of late. He is a right shot defenseman Swede that has decent size and elite skating. While not an offensive defender, he now projects as a very safe pick in the draft. I'd say he has moved up 25-35 spots very quickly.
Our Blackhawks, if playoff positioning holds, look to have these picks pre-lottery:
4th (highest percentage), 19th, 35th, 44th, 52nd, and 58th.
With the Rangers not advancing, we receive the NYR 2nd round pick now this draft.
So what to do?
4. C Will Smith - With Bedard, Fantilli, and likely Carlsson off the board the Chicago brass will be faced with the decision on if to take Matvei Michkov or take a player like Will Smith, Zach Benson, Nate Danielson, or Ryan Leonard. I believe they will take Smith. He doesn't have the speed like a Jack Hughes does, but alot of his game, size, and production can envoke thoughts on his potential lining up with Hughes. There is a ton to like here with any of the options, but I believe Smith offers the most in terms of position, pedigree, and projection.
19. C Samuel Honzek - This kid does it all for his team and it will be interesting to see how he does when not called upon for every situation. When in tight, Honzek shows tremendous hands and skill. It's easy to imagine him on a breakaway or an odd-man rush making a play that gets the fanbase excited. Whether at wing or in the middle, Honzek looks like an NHL top 6 and a player that has a high floor and an even higher ceiling.
35. RW Mathieu Cataford - Sharpshooting RW Cataford out of the Q is a player that seems to be all over the board for scouts. I've seen him at 20 and 56, however I like his finish ability from all areas on the right dot. Projecting as a top line RW with a playmaking center, giving Smith someone to come up with should be a high priority for Davidson.
44. RD Maxim Strbak - While he could go higher, this draft looks to have a bunched up group of defenders that could push a few of them to this point. Strbak has size, IQ, and skating. The Slovakian is good in his ability to keep players from getting past him on wall breakouts and sees the ice well at a young age. Not a finished product at all, but the future looks bright for him to develop into a possible top 4 defender.
52. LW Aydar Suniev - The Russian born winger has been playing in Canada in the BCHL and is already headed to UMASS next fall. This is a big, strong, goal scoring winger. While he doesn't have the competition on his resume of yet, you could see a scenario where he is one of the best NCAA freshman scorers next year. Suniev will likely go mid to late 2nd, but any team will need to be patient with him as he devolpes.
58. G Jacob Fowler - The Blackhawks should and need to take a goalie in the first 100 picks of this draft. I believe that Hrabel will go 25-35, Bjarnason in that 28-42 range, and then Augustine shortly after. That leaves a decision on whom will go as the 4th goalie and I believe it will be Fowler. Good sized left catching goalie out of Florida headed to BC to play for the Eagles. Fowler was absolute dominant in the USHL and his future is really bright. I'd draft him with one of these picks in the 50s if the 3 mentioned prospects are off the board.
While it's unlikely we keep 6 picks in the top 2 rounds (we could move up), I think we should as the depth of this years' draft pool is extrememly deep up to around 55-60 players. If the Blackhawks were to walk out of this draft with these 6 players, I'd be extremely happy.