Chicago Blackhawks Draft Targets – Part 6

Timothy Liljegren Maple Leafs Prospects

The 2018 NHL draft is less than a week away on June 22nd and 23rd. The Chicago Blackhawks are preparing for the draft looking to get some immediate help for their storied franchise after a disastrous 2017-18 season. They currently have the eighth overall pick this year, one of their highest picks in years. They have four picks in the first three rounds, and eight picks total. There is a lot of speculation on how this draft will unfold for a team looking to return to playoff contention next season.

Part 6 – Draft Targets Summary, Trade Rumors, and More

In the first 5 pieces of the Chicago Blackhawks Draft Targets Series, we looked at several decisions facing the Blackhawks. Based on their currently signed defence corps, it is expected that they would draft a defenceman with their first pick at number eight. In Part 1 of the series, we featured Evan Bouchard as the best defence option that may be available at when the Blackhawks pick.

Based on the report from Last Word’s own Ben Kerr, Bouchard has what it takes to be an impact player on the back end in the very near future. Be sure click on the player’s name for the link to their Top Shelf Prospects profile and highlight video reel.

Evan Bouchard 6’2″  192 lbs

“Bouchard could become a top defenceman at the next level, however, it is more likely that with his defensive issues, he is more of a second pair player. He can be a real threat on the power play though, and should be able to put up points if he properly develops. In terms of style, Bouchard’s game is reminiscent of Brent Burns. This is a style comparison only, not one based on talent level.” 

If Bouchard moves up in the draft, that may make Quinn Hughes or Noah Dobson available at #8. They are both excellent picks and compare favorably, but may need some time to develop.

Quinn Hughes 5’10” 174 lbs

“Hughes can be an elite offensive and puck-moving defenceman at the next level. He should quarterback the power play and lead the rush. The defensive game is a question mark, and how much he can improve in the next couple of years will determine if he is a first pairing defenceman at even strength or more of a second pairing player. Hughes will likely head back to college for his sophomore season, as he is probably not going to be NHL ready this fall. His game is reminiscent of Ryan Ellis of the Nashville Predators.”

Noah Dobson  6’3″ 179 lbs

“Dobson can stand to improve his upper body strength and be more effective in physical battles and get even more power on his shot. There is time for the 18-year-old to add muscle to a skinny frame. He may need a year or two of development time, but he has the potential to be a number one defenceman at the NHL level, playing both the power play and the penalty kill, and taking on other team’s top lines. In terms of style, his game is comparable to Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues.”

Draft Pick #2 at 27th Overall = Rumors Galore

The Blackhawks have a second first round draft pick that was obtained in the trade of Ryan Hartman to the Nashville Predators. It is this second first round pick of the Blackhawks that may make the first round draft night extra interesting. Consequently, rumors have been circulating recently as to what trade offers the Blackhawks may receive involving one or both of their first round picks.

Trade partners making noise are the Carolina Hurricanes who are tagged in multiple rumor articles circulating Chicago. The rumors involve the Blackhawks trying to acquire defenceman Justin Faulk. The pieces of the deal involve the Blackhawks also re-acquiring Scott Darling in the trade. Besides one or both of the Blackhawks first round picks being involved, Carolina is requesting Brandon Saad as part of the deal.

Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun Times writes:

“One target in particular Bowman has inquired about is the Hurricanes’ Justin Faulk, two league sources said. Faulk, a 26-year-old right-handed shot, could form an elite top pairing with Duncan Keith and would improve a power play that was the third-worst in the league last season. Justin Faulk has two years left on his contract and carries a cap hit of $4.83 million.”

“Faulk wouldn’t come cheap, though. The Hurricanes, seeking to shake things up under new ownership and first-year coach Rod Brind’Amour, have their eye on Brandon Saad, one league source said. The theoretical deal — and it’s important to emphasize it’s all theoretical at this point — would be for more than just Faulk. The Athletic reported the Hawks are interested in bringing back goalie Scott Darling.”

Adding Faulk

There is no doubt that Faulk would immediate improve a suspect Blackhawks D Corps next season. Also, re-acquiring Darling would help solidify their goaltending in case Corey Crawford has further health issues next season. It’s the departure of Brandon Saad that is the tough part to swallow. Based on last season’s numbers, the Columbus Blue Jackets clearly won the Brandon Saad – Artemi Panarin trade with the Blackhawks. However Saad’s analytical numbers last season were incredible despite his lack of scoring. He is due for a rebound season next year and should get the chance to do it in Chicago.

Two other teams that may be active traders this draft are the Calgary Flames and the Nashville Predators. Both of the teams do not have any first or second-round draft picks this year. Their first pick isn’t until the third round. Due to this, would they be interested in one of the Blackhawks first round picks? Who would they be willing to give up to get back into the first round of the draft? Inquiring minds want to know, and it’s likely the Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman is way ahead on this one.

Second Pick Options

If the Blackhawks hold onto their second pick at #27, there are several players worthy of first round consideration. In Part two of the Draft Targets Series, we featured the following players as ranked by Last Word’s Ben Kerr. Be sure to click their names for links to their Top Shelf Prospects profile and video highlight reel.

Ryan McLeod  6’2″ 200 lbs – Center

“With continued development, McLeod could become a two-way middle-six centre in the NHL. The question here is the upside. It is doubtful that he has enough offensive tools to centre a top line. However, he could fit in nicely on a second line, providing secondary offence and matching the other teams top line. As a late birthdate player, expect him to spend one more year in junior and then move on to the NHL In terms of style, his game is reminiscent of Ryan Kesler, but without the great shot.”

Several other solid prospects that may be available at #27 are:

Round Three and Beyond

In Chicago Blackhawks Draft Targets Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5, we discussed prospects available for the Blackhawks who have two picks in the third round at #69 and #87. Listed below will be the best prospects as ranked by Last Word’s Ben Kerr. Be sure to click on their names for the links to their Top Shelf Prospects profile and video highlight reel.

Draft Time

The upcoming NHL draft gives Stan Bowman the chance to help erase last season’s disaster from their loyal fan’s memories. While there are many directions the general manager may go with the draft picks and prospects available, Bowman knows the rabid fan base will not accept another summer without playoffs. After the moves made last off-season failed miserably, this is a make or break draft for the general manager and the team. Will Bowman be able to pull off a draft deal and improve the Blackhawks D corps and goaltending immediately? Or will he stick to drafting solid prospects and move on to available free agents for his rebuild? We’ll find out next weekend!

Links to the previous articles:

Draft Targets Part 1 – Defence

Draft Targets Part 2 – Options at #27

Draft Targets Part 3 – Wingers

Draft Targets Part 4 – Centres

Draft Targets Part 5 – Goalies

Main Photo: CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 23: Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman is interviewed during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)