After a magnificent, though ultimately heart-breaking, seven-game series with the St. Louis Blues, the Chicago Blackhawks were in an unfamiliar position. Accustomed to sitting atop the throne going into the post-season, the Hawks found themselves in a position to rebuild, reboot, and ultimately prepare to reclaim their lofty status in the Western Conference. This off-season, they’ve made some crafty and admirable moves to make this happen.
2016 Draft Recap
39th Overall – Alex DeBrincat, Right Wing, Erie Otters (OHL)
Scouting Report: An elite offensive talent whose height and stature have not caught up to his hands and heart. Considered at one point a top-five selection in this year’s draft, a lack of a growth spurt dropped him out of the first round entirely. DeBrincat has the kind of offensive acumen few can claim and many can only hope for. Sublime playmaking and a wicked shot, combined excellent skating and the heart of a lion. Shows no fear mixing it up with players much bigger than he, along with a fierce competitive streak. While many cite players like Theo Fleury and Martin St. Louis when talking about small players, he is one of few who truly remind me of them.
Analysis: The Blackhawks remain one of the savvier clubs in the NHL, and this selection confirms it. Coming into draft weekend, DeBrincat was the dark horse who was going to be the diamond found in the rough. What DeBrincat lacks in size, he makes up for in every other aspect of his game. When he scored 50 goals in 2014-15, they attributed it to Connor McDavid. When he scored another 50 this season, they said his size would prevent him from being a factor. Full points to Stan Bowman, his Vice President of Amateur Scouting Mark Kelley, and their team of amateur scouts – this kid has impact player written all over him, and certainly eases the pain of losing Teuvo Teravainen.
45th Overall – Chad Krys, Defense, Boston College (Committed; 2016-17)
Scouting Report: Slightly undersized defender with excellent skating and mobility. Bursts of speed and deft puck-handling ability in high-gear compliment his ability to make a crisp outlet pass, making him an excellent option both coming out of the defensive zone and in transition. The warts start to show in his own zone with his own responsibilities, where he will need to refine his game. His positioning and ability to handle a physical game, as well as win battles in the corner, are where he will need to truly dedicate himself. Core strength will need to be a focus, as it will translate into all those areas, as well as good balance while carrying the puck.
Analysis: Adding another defender with a top-four ceiling was an excellent move, given only the likes of Ville Pokka, Gustav Forsling and Carl Dahlstrom appear to possess. Going to a club like Boston College, which is looking to be an absolute powerhouse next season, will give him a successful college club to continue his development with. Fortunately, there will be solid depth on the club should Krys not be able to translate his game… and if he is, there will be a chance to take a prominent role quickly.
50th Overall – Artur Kayumov, Right Wing, Team Russia U-18 (MHL)
Scouting Report: A lightning-fast skater who can find his way against larger defenders, he plays a prototypical Russian game with great offensive instincts and slick hands. Sadly, he suffers in the stereotypical Russian mold as well as he doesn’t much like the rough stuff in the corner. If he stays in Russia, he may become accustomed to the larger ice surface and not adapt to the North American game. The Hawks are hoping he comes over to the CHL, so he can get a taste of this world.
Analysis: This is where the true roots of player projection come out, as it’s a quintessential “boom-bust” situation. A player like Kayumov has the ability to be an offensive threat in the professional game, likely with as a top-six ‘tweener’ who can perform spot-duty on top line, but more at home on the second. Equally possible is a player who plays half a season in the AHL with disappointing results, only to return to Europe. The Hawks are clearly hoping for the former.
83rd Overall – Wouter Peeters, Goaltender, EC Red Bull Salzburg (Austria)
Scouting Report: A big kid standing 6-4 and over 200 pounds, possessing the natural size and athleticism to play the position at the pro level. Raw in many aspects of the game, but the native of Belgium is projected to play in the Jokerit-Helsinki system in Finland next season where they know something about developing big goalies.
Analysis: A complete crap-shoot, and more than a bit off the board, this is a situation where the Blackhawks are putting all their eggs in the development basket. Should Peeters stay in Finland next season, he will be in a program that has fantastic knack for developing talent between the pipes – particularly of such large stature. However, the Hawks may prefer he come over and play in the USHL (given the CHL and their archaic and ridiculous rules about import goaltenders) so he can learn the different angles and nuances of a smaller ice surface. With Corey Crawford entrenched for a few more seasons, Peeters will have time if needed.
110th Overall – Lucas Carlsson, Defense, Brynas IF (SHL)
Scouting Report: A player who does things well, but nothing exceptionally, Carlsson needs to work at getting stronger – particularly in his lower body to handle the rigors of board play. Makes the safe play far more often than not, and appears to see and understand the game well enough to be a versatile professional. If he could find a way to grow an inch or two, and add 10 pounds, it wouldn’t hurt – definitely has the frame for it. Make no mistake, though – he has shiftier offensive instincts than at first blush.
Analysis: A very safe pick, and a good one at this point in the draft, Carlsson looks like he could turn into a versatile pro defender in North America. While his upside is certainly questionable in terms of a legitimate top-four rearguard, he could get there over time. Remaining in Sweden is the best option to allow his overall game to develop. Undrafted in 2015, he made a name for himself coming into this season to see his name called. A good pick.
113th Overall – Nathan Noel, Center, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Scouting Report: A pivot who has the talent to produce at the junior level, but few believe he can do it in the pro leagues compared to an offense-heavy league like the Q. His future lies in the NHL as a bottom-six forward, but right now he lacks the size and defensive-zone acumen to take on that job. Will need a lot of work in translating his natural speed and agility to preventing goals rather than scoring them, particularly given his slight stature.
Analysis: Noel could potentially become a useful pro player, but whether or not he can be an impactful forward at the professional level is subject for hearty debate. While he thinks the game well, his natural instincts and proclivities are those more geared to point production. Unless something of substance changes, and quickly, the road is an uphill one.
Undrafted last year, Nathan Noel's emotional reaction when informed he was drafted 4th round by Chicago this year. pic.twitter.com/APYurAjSyG— Allan Walsh (@walsha) June 26, 2016
143rd Overall: Mathias From, Right Wing, Finland Rogle BK
Scouting Report: A thick-set winger from Denmark, From plays a strong game. Throws the body and uses considerable strength to force his way around the ice. Mediocre playmaking and shot, above-average skating. Seems more comfortable in his own end, which is both encouraging and discouraging all at once. It’s a rare thing to find commitment to defending at this point in a players trajectory, however you’d still hope the drive to improve offensive production remains.
Analysis: Big-bodied and knows how to use it? Seems like a good package, even if the overall package needs work. The Blackhawks can wait on a kid like this, because if things go properly, he could turn into one of those crashers-and-bangers who open up space for the Patrick Kane’s and Jonathan Toews’ of the world. A project pick through and through.
173rd Overall: Blake Hillman, Defense, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
Scouting Report: An all-around defender who doesn’t have any glaring warts in his game. Capable of making an eye-raising play from time-to-time, but you’d hope it would happen more consistently. Standing 6-1 and a mere 170 pounds, you’d hope that he would find some time to hit the weight room. If he could add to that frame, his upside would increase correspondingly.
Analysis: A sharp pick overall by Chicago, it all comes down to his ability to pack on the pounds and get stronger. If Hillman can get bigger, he has enough natural skill and ability at the position to be a useful player in the pros. Projects to be a bottom-pairing guy in the show, but one who could likely eat the odd 20-minute night if need be. That is not a knock on him at all, though – there is a reason teams stock up on them at the trade deadline.
203rd Overall: Jake Ryczek, Defence, Providence College (Committed – 2016-17)
Scouting Report: A kamikaze-style defender who goes all-in on everything he does… offensively at least. A rover when all is said and done, he plays the game like a fourth forward and looks for every chance to put points on the board. Decent playmaking, but has a cannon for a shot – particularly when set up on the point of the power-play. Little to offer in his own zone – as raw as can be.
Analysis: If this player makes it to the professional level, it is more than likely he is converted to forward at some point in his development. Standing only 5-10 and about 185 pounds, he doesn’t have the kind of size or style to be relied upon defensively. That said, as a winger, he may find himself as a more useful piece.
Chicago Trades Teuvo Teravainen & Bryan Bickell to Carolina for the 50th Overall Selection in 2016 and a third-round selection in 2017.
While the Blackhawks made some crafty moves, this was the cost of doing business in the cap world. Losing a high-end prospect like Teravainen never feels good, particularly when it’s for uncertainty of draft picks and the ability to move out unwanted contracts. The return wasn’t terrible, as picks always matter, but Teravainen could flourish in Raleigh.
Chicago Trades Andrew Shaw to Montreal for the 39th and 45th picks in 2016.
Wow, trading Shaw hurts. However, getting DeBrincat helps. This is a move that will likely have implications this coming season as Shaw and his timely offense and never-quit engine are going to leave a significant, if not gaping, hole in the Hawks lineup. Recently re-signed Richard Panik may be looked at to bring a bit of that to the line-up, but don’t hold your breath.
Free Agent Signings
Chicago signs Brian Campbell, D, to a one-year, $2,000,000 contract.
Bringing back a very solid addition to the defense corps, Campbell is not the same player he was when he was traded to Florida. That said, he remains a very attractive piece for a club with Stanley Cup aspirations. Campbell enjoyed his best years in Chicago, and at a pittance for a cap hit, this will likely play dividends going into the post-season.
Chicago signs Jordin Tootoo, LW, to a one-year, $750,000 contract.
While Tootoo won’t be able to replace Andrew Shaw’s offensive opportunism, he will be able to be a physical presence. When the core of your goals are coming from the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Artem Panarin, a slight shortfall shouldn’t be a crippling blow. Tootoo does the things that energize teammates.
August 15th is just over a week away, and the Jimmy Vesey watch is alive and well. While teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins have been mentioned as potential destinations, at least one outlet believes the Blackhawks to be a realistic option. If they pulled off that kind of coup after acquiring Panarin last season, what an embarrassment of riches we could see.
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