It’s hours before the 2023 NHL Draft commences and everyone knows who’s going first overall to the Chicago Blackhawks tonight. From there, it’s anyone’s guess as to how things will go.
Looking at the final mock drafts before everything finally falls into its finite order, there’s a case to be made for where prospects have gone from fourth overall until the end of the first round.
Here’s a trio of thoughts before the fun begins at 6pm central tonight.
1: The Blackhawks Will Likely Try to Trade Up
Here’s the thing–Davidson’s plan to bring in veterans is one I understand and appreciate. It’s necessary to give Connor Bedard every tool to succeed and at the same time, the opportunity to be eased into the league. The Pittsburgh Penguins did this with Sidney Crosby back in 2005. But they also need some younger players, like Crosby had, who can step in within the next couple seasons. The Penguins had more high end picks that brought in Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Jordan Staal. It also was fortuitous that Kris Letang was a third round pick who developed into a core player.
That will happen, too. But if a good player slips through somehow into the middle of the teens, it seems to be fair that Chicago moves up to grab him.
2: Their ‘Guy’ May Fall Right Into the 19th spot
It always happens. Shane Wright last season. Cole Caufield back in 2019. Even go back to Alex DeBrincat who fell all the way into the second round. This is where that bit of patience comes into play with trading up on that first-round pick. Andrew Cristall fits as the guy who could go anywhere from ninth to 31st. Being Bedard’s buddy and having his endorsement surely helps, too. But there are others on the list who are even more NHL ready that could be tumble a bit only to make those teams regret the pass.
It’s the hardest part of the draft, and the one that falls prey to hindsight when re-drafts are done years later.
The Blackhawks have capital to move up. But to argue back and forth with the first point I made, they may very well not have to, saving those assets for other needs.
3: Enjoy the Moment of Bedard Being Drafted
This is a whole other article later tonight, but both Chicago, and the league have a truly remarkable thing happening tonight. There isn’t a team in the city right now who looks any closer to winning a championship. The excitement in the city of its sports teams is lukewarm at best right now. Oh, they follow. But it’s missing the exuberance that contending teams carry with them.
Though they won’t win right away, Bedard symbolizes that hope that it’s getting closer. That maybe not next year or the one after, the Blackhawks will have that opportunity to actually be considered a contender again.
As for the league, they now have a likely bonafide star in one of the US’s biggest markets. There hasn’t been this kind of opportunity since Wayne Gretzky was traded to Los Angeles, and then later in the twilight of his career, played for the New York Rangers. If ever there was a time to grow the game’s popularity, this is the moment.
So yes, the temptation will to be looking ahead when his name is called. But the moment itself is a chance for the NHL, the Blackhawks and its fans to revel in what is really a major win for all of them.
There will be plenty of time to worry about the rest later.