The Chicago Blackhawks are in an enviable position next Wednesday- they have the first and nineteenth pick in this very deep draft. The first pick is obvious, but the nineteenth pick is up in the air, yet crucial to developing a playoff team in a few years. Typically, a team simply takes the best player available. However, if it comes down to similar players, what position do the Blackhawks choose? Let's look at the current defense pool and see why there are three defensemen who would make excellent additions to the Hawks blue line depth.
It's no surprise that Seth Jones will be with the Hawks for the next 4-6 years and will chew up valuable minutes. His salary dictates he plays and he stays. Connor Murphy has three years remaining on his $4.4 million contract. He is playing solid hockey and could be a valuable player to move shortly or next year at the deadline. Nikita Zaitsev has one year remaining on his $4.5 million contract, and Jarred Tinordi has one year as well at $1.25 million. That's it for the vets.
Caleb Jones, Ian Mitchell, Andreas Englund, Jakub Galvas and Alec Regula are all defenseman who played for Chicago last year and are either restricted or unrestricted free agents this year. Depending on what the Blackhawks do here, the pool will thin or remain clogged with a lot of mediocre defensemen.
Right behind those players are three defensemen who will likely find the roster over the next two years. Kevin Korchinski seems to be the heir apparent to captain the powerplay. He is a highly skilled offensive defenseman who will put up big numbers and move the puck like Duncan Keith. Ethan Del Mastro is another promising youngster. Del Mastro can light the lamp as well, but is more known for being a defensive defenseman. He would likely fill a second pairing role. Finally, Nolan Allen is yet another promising young defenseman. Like Del Mastro, Allen is defensive minded. It's likely he will be a major penalty killing defenseman for the Blackhawks.
Chicago has a few other defensemen who have seen minutes in the NHL. Of those, Filip Roos seems to have the most immediate upside. He played some quality minutes last season for Chicago. He is 24 so he better blossom quickly before he is passed by the youngsters. Wyatt Kaiser is another defenseman who got some time last year with the Hawks. At age 20, he showed signs of promise. In nine games, he tallied 14 shots on goal and added three assists. He could factor into the Hawks plans.
With only Seth Jones on board for the long term, a lot of spots are up for grabs. There are a lot of youngsters in the pipeline who will battle for playing time. Of course, a large majority of players never pan out. Chicago could most definitely draft a defenseman with the 19th pick.
There are three defensemen who could be around when the Blackhawks pick at 19. If so, they would be excellent choices. The first is Lukas Dragicevic. Lukas is 18 years old and put up impressive numbers last year for the Tri-City Americans. He notched 75 points in 68 games. For team Canada, he added four points in seven games. He is well rounded and playes equally well in all facets of the position.
The next option for Chicago is Oliver Bonk. Bonk is another 18 year old. Last year for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, Bonk scored40 points in 67 games, including 10 goals. Bonk is more defensively minded defenseman than Dragicevic. That's ok, though, with Seth Jones and Kevin Korchinski likely filling the offensive portion of the blue line.
Finally, another good defensive choice is Axel Sandin Pellikka. Of the three mentioned here, Pellikka may be the strongest offensive player of the three. For his J20 Nationell team, Pellikka scored 36 points in 31 games, including 16 goals. In his Swedish International-Jr tourney, he tallied 21 points in 19 games. He is an excellent skater and a strong playmaker.