With the Lightning Out, the Blackhawks Draft Position Improves
By Kyle Graden
Last night the Toronto Maple Leafs finally got out of the first round by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning. This was a monumental feat for the Leafs as it marks just the first time in 19 years they have beaten a team in the first round. It also ends the Lightning's streak at 3 straight Cup finals appearances (winning 2).
The Chicago Blackhawks and it's fans were watching this one closely. Not only was it an entertaining series, but the Blackhawks have made 2 huge deals with these teams. While interim GM, Kyle Davidson sent young forward Brandon Hagel to the Lightning for 2 future 1st rounders along with 2 forwards. Those 1st round picks are now at the forefront and one of them just got into position for Chicago.
With the loss, this years' Tampa Bay selection could be as high as #19 (if Florida beats Boston in game 7and reaches the conference finals, which is unlikely) and most likely in the low 20s depending on how the first round plays out.
This is likely one of the better outcomes we could have hoped for as at the start of the season it looked as though this pick would almost assuredly be in the 29-32 range. So, thanks to the Leafs, we can now help our rebuild (we have Tampa Bay's 2nd round pick from the Tyler Johnson deal as well).
Toronto on the other hand is also a team we need to watch moving forward. With the McCabe and Lafferty deal we acquired their 2025 1st round pick (top 10 protected, moves to unprotected in 2026 if condition not met). We also have their 2026 second round selection. If, by some chance the next round or 2 do not go smoothly for Toronto and the team starts to decline and / or leave the team it could prove dividends for the Blackhawks.
If you look at the hard cap and the Leafs' roster / commitments then it's easy to see a scenario where, like this year with Tampa, Chicago could grab a 1st round pick that is better than we anticipate. If one of Toronto's superstar forwards leaves for a new team before the year we are due a 1st round pick then it would be in our favor of selecting not in the late 20s to 30s, but rather in the low 20s to teens. While this doesn't seem like a huge deal to some, if you look at the history of the 1st round then being inside the top 20 there has been a noticeable difference in talent.
Either way, last night's result proved to be a step in the right direction for the Blackhawks' rebuild. With just 8 days until the draft lottery, let's all enjoy the time inbetween then by taking in these exciting playoffs!