July 31: Chicago Blackhawks
For the first time since 2011 (Mark McNeil and Phillip Danault), the Blackhawks had two selections in the first round of the draft. The emphasis for this draft was skill and they came away with plenty of it. With eight selections overall, the Blackhawks drafted a full line, goalie, two defensemen, right wing, left wing and three centers) from all around the world including two players each from Finland and the USA. The remaining 4 picks hail from Sweden, Canada, Switzerland, and Germany. The biggest takeaway from this draft class is the boom or bust potential of all the choices. There were no safe picks made by the Blackhawks in 2018.
Round 1- Eighth Overall: Adam Boqvist, D
The new NHL is all about skating and skill and Boqvist has both of those traits in abundance. A great first pass, booming shot, high end skating all contribute to his fast forward type of game. As with most 18 year old defensemen, he will need to put on a little muscle to contend with bigger forwards, especially after suffering a concussion at the U18 World Championships. He also admits to needing some work on the defensive side of things but make no mistake, he was drafted to provide offence from his position and he has the talent to do just that. A real game changer.
Round 1- 27th overall: Nicolas Beaudin, D
Beaudin is as precise a passer as has come from the NHL entry draft in a long time. His ability to find his teammates through traffic and at odd angles is already NHL caliber, and can result in a lot of successful stretch passes from his own end. He also has a very good wrist shot that he can use to put the puck on net. He has average speed but needs to develop a quicker first step in order to play better in his own end. A potential set up man for the Blackhawks power play.
Round 3- 69th overall: Jake Wise, C
The Blackhawks are hoping they found a gem in the third round with the choice of Wise. An elite distributer of the puck, Wise can make the game easy for his teammates, putting the puck on their stick from all kinds of different spots on the ice. Wise also possess an underrated shot that can fool goaltenders. He will need to work on quickness to progress to the NHL but he is already good at defending in his own end, a highly regarded skill in the organization.
Round 3- 74th overall: Niklas Nordgren, RW
Nordgren is a gifted scorer and playmaker, who loves to score goals. Following the success of Alex Debrincat, Nordgren should be encouraged that size will not matter on his path to the NHL. What will matter is that he improves his skating, which he admits needs to be better. A boom or bust type of prospect.
Round 4 – 120th overall: Philipp Kurashev, C
Another prospect the Blackhawks are hoping for a homerun on, Kurashev brings a lot to like and some things to work on, like most prospects. He is lightning fast, with good instincts in the offensive end, more than holds his own while taking face-offs and doesn’t mind playing along the boards. He needs to work on his defensive game, which is a teachable skill. He also needs to be more consistent, bringing his “A” game to the rink more often.
Round 5- 139th overall: Mikael Hakkarainen, C
Hakkarainen impressed the Blackhawks with his play at both ends of the ice while playing for Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL. His 46 points in 36 games shows off his offensive side all while displaying sound defensive skills. He has committed to playing with the Providence College Friars this season.
Round 6- 162nd overall: Alexis Gravel, G
Gravel backstopped the CHL’s ninth ranked Halifax Mooseheads last year and with the Mooseheads scheduled to host the Memorial Cup in 2019, you should have ample opportunity to watch him play. Gravel models his game after Henrik Lundqvist. Goaltenders usually take longer to develop so draft accordingly.
Round 7 – 193rd overall: Josiah Slavin, LW
Slavin is committed to the Colorado College Tigers for the 2019-20 season. He has been named the captain of the Lincoln Stars of the USHL for the upcoming season.
At the time this was written, the Blackhawks had not announced their development camp roster. The camp will be held from July 16th through July 20th.
No earthshaking moves here but potentially a season saving one. The signing of Cam Ward relieves some of the pressure on Corey Crawford, who is still not ready to compete yet. If his recovery pushes into the regular season, expect to see Anton Forsberg backing up Ward to start the season.
The addition of Chris Kunitz and Brandon Manning doesn’t really diminish the opportunities that the Blackhawks prospects have in front of them. If there are no more signings or trades made, expect at least four forward positions to be available with maybe two positions on defense up for grabs. While in recent years, cracking this roster would have been next to impossible as a young prospect, with the current state of the team, spots can be had.
In: Cam Ward, Chris Kunitz, Brandon Manning
Out: Tomas Jurco, Anthony Duclair, Adam Clendening, Michael Chaput