Which NHL Teams Will the Blackhawks Rise With?
Last month I wrote an article that I felt was very necessary to the sanity of Blackhawks' fans. It was about having patience as the way that Kyle Davidson is rebuilding will take time. I estimated, based on hit ratios per round via how often a prospect becomes a true NHL regular. You can read that article by clicking this paragraph.
In said article I estimated it will take us until the 2028-2029 season before we truly start to see the dividends of this plan. So I'm looking through cap numbers, long term deals, projected outcomes and thinking: Whom will be the teams that might start to rise with us? Whom will we be truly competing with in our next championship window (hopefully)?
If you think about our last window it was a 9 year run of having true competitive teams that had the potential of lifting Lord Stanleys' Cup. If you were to look at that run in terms of draft position / player acquisition than some of the core players such as Keith, Seabrook, Crawford, Bolland, Bickell, Toews, Kane, and Saad were all drafted by the Blackhawks in the first 2 rounds of the NHL draft.
There were certainly big misses in that timeframe like Jack Skille and Cam Barker however we managed to build a team that won 3 cups in a 6 year run. Can we repeat this model? Only time will tell, but it also may be based on this question: Will there be a team better than us when we are in the prime of our roster building?
There a multitude of unknowns in that question: player development, injuries, late round surprises, surprise UFA decisions etc. However, if you look at pure draft building then whom should the Hawks be wary of by the 2028-2029 season:
1. New Jersey Devils - Make no mistake about it, the New Jersey Devils should be good for a long time. Right now they have the 3rd best record in the league, likely a year ahead of schedule. They have two 1st overall picks as their top 2 centers, Mercer and Bratt as really good top 6 players, and maybe the best collection of defensive prospects in the league. On top of all of this they doubled down on their youth movement by trading for (and likely extending) star winger Timo Meier whom is still just 26 years old. If you were to project their roster to the 28-29 season they should roster a similar group of players except for they will all be at the peak of their skills at that point. Only question remains is if Vanecek is the long term answer in net or do they need to upgrade in the future.
2. Buffalo Sabres - The signs are clear: This team is going to be really good, really soon, and for a really long time. Their early long term investments are paying off with their top 2 centers: Thompson and Cozens. They also have two #1 pick defenseman in Dahlin and Power. The young wings like Peterka, Quinn, and Savoie (prospect) all seem to have bright NHL futures. Add into all that a tremendous goalie pipeline and it really looks like Buffalo will be at the forefront for league supremacy in the near future. I expect this to be a team that could be at their best in the playoffs as well. To compete against them in the upcoming decade will be a task for everyone.
3. Ottawa Senators - The team has been aggressive in the last 9 months making 2 huge deals that will define them in the future. They traded for Alex DeBrincat and Jakob Chychrun giving up their top picks of 2 consecutive draft classes. While Chychrun still has term left, it will be the DeBrincat deal that will see if this team truly stays in contention at the top. They have played well of late and a young core of Stutzle, Tkachuk, Norris, Batherson, Sanderson, DeBrincat, Chabot and Chychrun should all stay together for a long time. The real key here is it looks like they may have one of the best young goalies in the league with Mads Sogaard. In limited time, he has shown outstanding ability and true game-stealing skill. With some NHL-ready prospects on the horizon this looks like a team ready to be good for a long time.
My top 3 competitors (along with hopefully our Blackhawks) were based on contractual commitments, prospect pools, draft capital, and current ages of todays' rosters. I put in predictive percentages from the prior article to predict hit ratios for upcoming picks and based the rosters on ELC / Prime year deals / bridge contracts pending to form a speculative team in 28-29. These were the 3 teams with the highest scores.
Now certainly the Toronto, New York, and big market teams can stay in the top of the league by spending, however it is typically the teams that draft the best that stay the best. In 6 years some of these star players will either move on from their teams or start to decline in play. While it's possible that the high profile teams will simply stay good based on their current roster, it is unlikely they will ice a team that is as deep or "in their prime" as the 3 teams above.
Other teams that scored high with this method: 4. Red Wings 5. Kings 6. Canadiens 7. Oilers 8. Hurricanes 9. Coyotes 10. Blue Jackets. While alot of factors go into the predictive model, I could not however incorporate trades so a team like Columbus per say could either fall or rise on this list.
I know that teams like Toronto, Tampa, and Colorado will likely stay good given the amount of resources they have (good management and aggressive ownership) however it will be fun to see which of the teams listed will be true cup contenders when the Blackhawks are back. Here's to be being patient in that time and enjoying the process. I will be posting many new details about the upcoming draft and its' prospects in the near future. Remember though a Connor Bedard, Macklin Celebrini, Michael Misa, or Gavin McKenna pick for any team moves up their timeframe so it will interesting to see whom gets those next four #1 picks (likely). The future is bright Hawks' fans, just got to stay patient and enjoy this ride!