All eyes on Jonathan Toews — and draft odds — as Blackhawks approach season finale

It’s unclear how much fanfare Toews will allow the Hawks to direct his way before, during and after Thursday’s game against the Flyers — his expected last appearance in a Hawks sweater. He has never been the type to love the spotlight.

SHARE All eyes on Jonathan Toews — and draft odds — as Blackhawks approach season finale
Jonathan Toews skates with the puck.

Jonathan Toews will likely play his final Blackhawks game Thursday against the Flyers.

Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Thursday will, in all likelihood, mark the final time Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews wears a red-and-white jersey with a “C” stitched on the front at the United Center.

That fact doesn’t seem to have fully resonated around Chicago yet. Perhaps it’s because the Hawks fan base just processed the emotions of another legend, Patrick Kane, leaving just last month.

Perhaps it’s because the Hawks, as a whole, are so irrelevant now — with good reason, considering their 26-49-6 record. Perhaps it’s because Toews hasn’t made any proclamations (nor has even decided privately, it seems) about whether he will officially retire this summer.

But those in attendance Thursday when the Hawks conclude their 2022-23 season against the Flyers might be the last people to ever watch him play, and almost certainly will be the last to ever watch him play for the Hawks. It’s surreal but true.

Then again, it doesn’t seem to have fully resonated for Toews himself yet, either.

“It’s one of those things that doesn’t fully sink in until after it’s over,” Toews said Monday. “You reminisce to the big moments [like] when you win the Stanley Cup, and you know everything [that] happened around you is going to be a memory before you know it.”

He hasn’t spoken publicly since then, and it’s up in the air how much fanfare and ceremony he’ll allow the Hawks to direct his way before, during and after Thursday’s game. He has never been the type to love the spotlight.

And while fans at the United Center spend the night watching his every move, plenty of fans at home will be conversely rooting for the Hawks to lose.

That’s because Thursday will also have a huge impact on where the Hawks will end up drafting and, thus, how much general manager Kyle Davidson — who will speak publicly Thursday — will be able to accelerate their rebuild. Indeed, two extremely important storylines will overlap during this final game of an otherwise extremely forgettable season.

The Hawks’ win, Blue Jackets’ overtime loss (against these Flyers) and Ducks’ regulation loss Tuesday jumbled the order.

In order to still finish last, the Hawks will need to lose Thursday, have the Ducks earn at least one point in their finale against the Kings and have the Jackets win one of their two remaining games against the Penguins and Sabres.

Other scenarios could lead to the Hawks finishing 31st, 30th — where they currently sit — or even 29th (pending the Sharks’ result Wednesday), which would open the possibility they could end up drafting as low as sixth.

Of course, all of this maneuvering is solely to maximize odds for the May 8 draft lottery and limit how far one can fall. And even the “maneuvering” description might be inaccurate, considering the players and coaches on every involved team are still trying their best to win — as the Hawks proved Tuesday.

Projected top pick Connor Bedard — who just finished his WHL season with a ridiculous 163 points in 64 total games — could still theoretically end up anywhere. So could projected second, third and fourth picks Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson and Russian enigma Matvei Michkov.

Besides Toews, other players potentially making their final Hawks appearances Thursday include pending unrestricted free agents Andreas Athanasiou, Jujhar Khaira and Alex Stalock and pending restricted free agents Caleb Jones and Ian Mitchell. Some of those guys will be re-signed; others won’t.

A Hawks loss would also make an ugly kind of history, marking the franchise’s fewest points in a full-length season in the NHL’s post-Original Six modern era. The Hawks currently have 58 points; the 1957-58 team accumulated just 55 points. A win would move this Hawks team above the 2003-04 team, which finished with 59 points.

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