Blackhawks using NHL combine to finalize draft board for 19th pick, but trades are possible

The Hawks have interviewed 65 to 75 prospects this week in Buffalo and have a “good sense” who they like for the 19th overall pick (with the first overall pick being an obvious choice). But general manager Kyle Davidson will also consider moving up or down if it makes sense.

SHARE Blackhawks using NHL combine to finalize draft board for 19th pick, but trades are possible
Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson.

Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson has been busy this week at the NHL scouting combine.

Chicago Blackhawks photo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With the NHL Draft less than three weeks away, the Blackhawks are adding the final pieces of information to their draft board based on this week’s scouting combine.

The No. 1 pick is obvious — it will be Connor Bedard — but Hawks general manager Kyle Davidson is devoting plenty of effort to preparing for the No. 19 pick, four second-round picks and five more beyond that.

Davidson, scouting director Mike Doneghey and the rest of the Hawks’ staff interviewed from Monday through Thursday roughly 65 to 75 of the 106 prospects in attendance at the combine — and most of the prospects they didn’t interview this week were interviewed earlier this season.

The combine will shift Friday and Saturday to physical testing of things such as wingspan, grip strength and bench press. That data will add the “final piece to the puzzle,” Davidson said.

If the Hawks end up keeping the 19th pick come draft day — June 28 in Nashville — their selection will be largely determined by which players remain available after the first 18 picks.

They have a “good sense of who we like,” and it’s believed most or all of those targets are forwards, but they’ll remain flexible. Davidson called the notion that he universally prioritizes prospects with speed and competitiveness a “runaway train,” insisting he wants to build a diverse pipeline.

“If we’re sitting there at 19 and the highest-value [player available] is a defenseman, not a forward, then you have to look,” he said. “If it’s a bigger player, OK. If it’s a smaller player, OK. I don’t believe you can pick and choose what you want. That’s presented to you, and you just react to that. Because the draft is about acquiring talent, and you don’t get to dictate what form that comes in.”

The list of prospects conceivably in play at 19th includes forwards Gabriel Perreault, Nate Danielson, Daniil But, Samuel Honzek, Oliver Moore, Colby Barlow, Matthew Wood, Brayden Yager, Eduard Sale, Andrew Cristall and David Edstrom, plus defensemen Axel Sandin Pellikka and Dmitri Simashev.

There’s a very real chance the Hawks end up making at least one draft-day trade, though. Davidson demonstrated his willingness for and expertise at that last year, when he acquired three first-round picks within hours.

Davidson alluded last month to looking into moving up from 19th, either by packaging one of the second-rounders or by taking on another team’s albatross contract. The Canucks’ 11th pick or the Penguins’ 14th pick are seemingly the most logical trade-up spots. On Thursday, Davidson also expressed an openness to moving down and receiving an extra pick.

“Whether it’s up, back [or] stick, everything’s on the table,” he said. “If you’re sitting there at 19 and there’s five guys you like, maybe you look to move back because you can get one of those guys and you can just keep banking assets. To say we’re just going to move up, that’s probably premature.”

Furthermore, whether it happens at the draft or later, the Hawks very likely will end up acquiring an oversized contract or two, weaponizing their almost-too-abundant salary-cap space to accumulate more picks or prospects.

Many teams need to shed existing salary to make space to re-sign free agents because the cap is expected to rise only $1 million again this summer, and Davidson said such conversations have “certainly started.”

“I have no concern about getting to the cap floor; that’s going to happen with general ease,” he said. “How we get there will be an interesting road. There will be options, should we go into free agency. There’s options via trade, whether there’s players we proactively go out and get or contracts people are looking to move. I’m open to anything.”

The Latest
Three women and a man were shot at 119th Street and Michigan Avenue in West Pullman about 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Lori Lightfoot, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 1988, will be joining the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy in Ann Arbor as a visiting professor. After leaving City Hall, Lightfoot held a fellowship at Harvard.
He’s aware of trade rumors, says extension hasn’t been discussed with Sox.
The holiday honors the day in 1865 when the last enslaved African Americans learned they had been freed — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth was made a state and federal holiday in 2021.
Lee catches Garrett Crochet in his third game of Mariners series behind the plate.