We’ve reached the point of the Blackhawks’ season where it’s fair to assume that they’ll be in the draft lottery. The team will be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention soon and attention will start to turn toward the lottery, which will happen during the postseason, and the draft itself, which is set for late June.
The Blackhawks will have limited odds of winning the No. 1 pick and the chance to draft wunderkind defenseman Rasmus Dahlin out of Sweden, but a top-10 pick should provide them with the chance to land a high-level prospect all the same. No matter where the team ultimately comes in the draft order, it’s a chance for GM Stan Bowman to hit big.
Dahlin is the consensus No. 1 overall prospect for the 2018 NHL Draft, so there’s little debate about who will go first regardless of which team wins the draft lottery. It’s still muddled after that, however, so the Hawks’ draft board could change a good deal between now and June. They’ll also have a pick in the lower half of the first round from the Predators.
Sportsnet and TSN are already producing NHL Draft rankings, and for the first time in years, this is of special interest to Blackhawks fans. Here are the composite top 20 rankings so far, and what they mean for the Hawks.
It’s not difficult to see how the top of the draft may be sizing up into certain tiers. There’s Dahlin at the top, then the next group features a trio of wingers in Tkachuk, Svechnikov and Zadina. After that, it’s another run of defensemen in Boqvist, Bouchard and Dobson, who could all conceivably go in the top five.
One of the notable things missing from this class is an elite center prospect. A player at that position (Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Nico Hischier) was drafted first overall in each of the previous three years, but that run will end this year. In fact, there’s a chance that a center doesn’t go off the board until closer to the No. 10 pick given the depth at other positions.
That’s probably okay with the Blackhawks, who already have Jonathan Toews locked up long-term and Nick Schmaltz looking like a potential top-six center. If they can land an impact defenseman or winger with their top-10 pick, that would go a long way toward starting another run of playoff appearances.
The big question is whether the Hawks move up to the top three or end up in the 8-10 range, which is more likely. The team should be targeting the best player available no matter what, but a top three spot may compel the team to go for one of the wingers who are widely considered a top-five talents. A defenseman may be more likely if the team doesn’t move up because one or more of Boqvist, Bouchard and Dobson could still be on the board.
The Blackhawks will be busy between now and then. This is set to be the franchise’s highest draft pick since selecting Patrick Kane first overall in 2007.