With the Stanley Cup Final a day away and the NHL Draft less than a month down the road, the Chicago Blackhawks are watching, analyzing, and planning as the latter approaches.
While everyone knows what they’ll do with the first overall pick, speculation abounds with what they’ll do at #19. But there are three schools of thought for what they can do.
First, they simply select at the spot. Pretty simple, but the odds of that pick hitting decreases slightly. The flip side of that is that when taking Lukas Reichel back in 2020, he was the 17th overall pick, which is as close as you can get to where they’ll be.
They aren’t short of any choices that could be there, namely that Andrew Cristall could be a choice. However, the Blackhawks have a variety of options available and it will boil down to a likely best player available argument. Beyond that, will the quality of player still be there? That of course depends on vantage point.
Which brings us to the second option.
Blackhawks Second Choice: Trade Up or Down
Trading up would likely cost more, especially if they want to go into the top ten again. Outside of potentially Detroit or Washington it seems a reach to see them pry a pick away from either team as both are in different life cycles of the hockey experience. The Capitals are seeking to remain relevant in the waning years of Alex Ovechkin’s career while Detroit is trying to find a way out of rebuild hell. Going down 11 or 12 spots isn’t going to help that.
It would take more than just a first rounder now and some second round picks to move up that high. The other teams prior aren’t going to budge unless there’s something significant included. But once they get into St. Louis category and should a highly valued player tumble out of the top ten, maybe then there’s an argument to be had.
But as Chicago showed last year when they acquired the seventh overall pick, they gave up a proven player in Alex DeBrincat to do so.
It seems the toughest of the options.
Trading down? Why do it? Unless there are future first round picks in play, Chicago needs to pick in the round that gives them the higher probability of snagging a player they can develop into a contributor. The lower they go into the first round, the less likely they are to see that come to fruition.
So there’s one other option.
Final Choice: Trade for an impact player
With four second round picks and the 19th overall, could they bargain with a team to grab an NHL ready player who could be paired with Connor Bedard on the top line? This likely depends more on where Chicago grades itself in the rebuild process, and less about what’s out there.
DeBrincat’s name comes up again here, but from how general manager Kyle Davidson has spoken, it sure seems that it’s a better bet that the former Blackhawks winger isn’t back.
Anthony Mantha out of Washington is another name but he’s on the older side (nearing 30) and hasn’t been able to really figure it out in either Detroit or Washington. Sending off a first round pick for a question mark doesn’t seem right.
What about Toronto? Would they be willing to give up a prized player in a William Nylander, or Mitch Marner? Auston Matthews would likely command far more, and it seems unlikely the Blackhawks would be willing to mortgage much. But Nylander specifically will cost more after his contract is up. He’d be a veteran presence as well, and one who can light the lamp at will.
He’d also be cheaper than Marner.
There are a host of different scenarios that could play out but until the draft nears and more news trickles out, as it always does, it’s likely Chicago picks at the spot.
But Davidson shocked many last year with his deals for the seventh and 13th overall spot. Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he does it again.
He might not have the same pieces internally. But more questions surrounding the rebuild and its purported timeline will certainly be answered based on what Davidson decides to ultimately do.