Blackhawks shocked to get speedy forward Oliver Moore with No. 19 draft pick

Kyle Davidson tried to trade up repeatedly to get Moore, whom he described as the fastest skater in the draft. In the end, Moore fell right into the Hawks’ laps.

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Oliver Moore was the Blackhawks’ No. 19 pick.

Oliver Moore was the Blackhawks’ No. 19 pick.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Blackhawks tried repeatedly to trade up higher into the teens of the first round of the NHL Draft on Wednesday to get forward Oliver Moore.

No trades came to fruition — yet the Hawks landed Moore with the No. 19 pick anyway.

General manager Kyle Davidson sounded shocked afterward, admitting the Hawks’ internal prospect rankings had Moore much, much higher than 19th. Leaving the first day of the draft with both No. 1 pick Connor Bedard and Moore added to the prospect pool is a massive coup.

“I was on the phone the whole time, almost from when I got back to my seat [after picking Bedard] ... trying to get up with him in mind,” Davidson said. “So it’s almost a perfect scenario where we just stayed [at 19th and] we didn’t have to give up any extra picks to get up and get him.”

The Hawks have established elite skating as their favorite trait over the past two years, and Moore fits that type extremely well. Davidson called him the “fastest player in the draft,” and he’s not the only one in hockey circles who believes that.

Scouting director Mike Doneghey mentioned that Moore’s hockey sense equals his speed, too. Doneghey came away from this past season impressed by Moore’s defensive and penalty-killing reliability, as well.

“He’s got a really fast brain,” Doneghey said. “He can fly, but his brain and his feet are on the same page. He processes the game so well. ... He gets a lot of offensive chances because of his speed, but he’s very detail-oriented in the defensive zone.”

Moore, a Minnesota native, tallied 75 points in 61 games this past season for the U.S. National Team Development Program and is headed to the University of Minnesota next season — where he’ll be teammates with Sam Rinzel, the Hawks’ 25th overall pick last year.

He said he models his game after Red Wings star Dylan Larkin, using his speed to drive the middle of the ice. He measured in at 5-11 and 190 pounds at the scouting combine.

“I take pride in my defensive game a lot, and I think my transition to offense is really good for my age,” Moore said. “I’m just a fast player, and I think a lot of NHL teams like to play fast. Obviously the Hawks do, too.”

Draft continues Thursday

Davidson and Hawks scouting director Mike Doneghey won’t get much sleep with the draft resuming at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The Hawks looked into packaging some of their four second-round picks to trade up for one more late first-round pick Wednesday, but nothing worked out. That leaves them with a huge collection of selections (35th, 44th, 51st and 55th overall) right off the bat Thursday.

They should be able to land some more upper-end prospects there. Doneghey said the Hawks compiled a list of prospects projected to go in various sections of the draft who didn’t fit their organization’s desired traits — essentially a “no-draft” list — and that a lot of players on that list were picked by other teams Wednesday.

That means, therefore, lots of players the Hawks do like remain available. Some of the top forwards left on publicly available rankings include Andrew Cristall, Riley Heidt, Gavin Brindley, Ethan Gauthier, Oscar Fisker Molgaard and Jayden Perron.

“We’re going to keep sticking to the traits as far as speed and competitiveness,” Doneghey said. “Right now, we’re doing a pretty good job building up that forward depth.”

The Hawks will also enter Thursday owning two third-rounders and one pick in each of the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds.

Caleb’s departure

Defenseman Caleb Jones’ exit from the Hawks — he wasn’t tendered a qualifying offer — will be overshadowed by other news this week, but it’s nonetheless a notable move by Davidson.

Jones averaged a sizable 19:13 of ice time per game this past season, up from 16:43 in his first Hawks season, and that average increased to 21:06 from Feb. 20 on. He was largely playing on the first pairing with brother Seth Jones during that stretch — and on that note, it will be interesting to hear how Seth reacts to this news.

He struggled with consistency and costly turnovers throughout his tenure, frustrating the fan base. A brutal stretch in November 2022 was particularly memorable.

But coach Luke Richardson remained supportive and seemed to appreciate Jones’ skating ability, and Jones always took accountability when necessary while expressing optimism for the future. His analytics were also surprisingly decent, which could help him land a new contract elsewhere this summer.

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