NASHVILLE – Everyone knows what they did first overall. So there’s not much to recap there. The Chicago Blackhawks taking Connor Bedard first overall was one of the few surprises in the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft.
But not one trade. Every team picked where they were supposed to and in the end, names shuffled around, including one to the Blackhawks in the way of Oliver Moore at number 19. General manager Kyle Davidson even worked the phones to try and get him but wasn’t willing to do so.
The Blackhawks won again and this time, in the way of likely having a devastating one-two punch down the middle in the years ahead. That doesn’t even take into account Frank Nazar, who could shift to the wing creating matchup nightmares for opposing teams.
But let’s not get too far ahead. Here’s a look at how the draft shook out, and what’s ahead.
Blackhawks Go Up the Middle, Setting Speed Traps for the Future
Bedard is generational and was getting taken no matter what. Baseball calls them five-tool players. Hockey has its version of them too and Bedard is all but the definition of it.
Chicago is set with a first-line center for what they’re hoping is a decade and beyond. With the 19th pick, they went back to the well fishing for a center. Oliver Moore fits the mold of what Davidson is building–a speedy, skilled, high IQ two-way forward that will solidify them down the middle for again, hopefully a decade or more.
Forget picking it by position–that can be determined later. For now, Davidson and the front office went speed first and if it hits, good luck to the rest of the league. But it will be the organizational focus on specific traits, not specific positions that will ultimately determine who the Blackhawks take in the second round and beyond.
“I’ve said this before I think we have a really good defenseman prospect pool,” Director of Amateur Scouting Mike Doneghey said. “That doesn’t mean we don’t take a defenseman tomorrow. We’ll see what presents itself.”
What Lies Ahead on Thursday
Much like Doneghey wouldn’t commit to a certain spot, neither would Davidson. He told the assembled media that they would reassess the draft board after the first round and the final picks had been made. Ultimately, it will be more of what they’re seeking instead of who.
“We’re going to keep sticking to the traits as far as speed and competitiveness,” Doneghey said when assessing Thursday’s options. “Right now we’re doing a pretty good job of building up our forward depth.”
Goodnight Chicago ❤️ pic.twitter.com/7MB2UyjsTz
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) June 29, 2023
But who’s still there? TSN’s Bob McKenzie summed up what happened with those who fell and tacked on some interesting names still available.
The more recognizable name would be Andrew Cristall, who slipped into the second round as some projected. His range was anywhere from late top ten to late first round. It’s intriguing for a number of reasons starting with the Blackhawks needing a few more wings in the system.
But beyond that, he’s Connor Bedard’s best friend and the Blackhawks have a plethora of second round picks to choose from. At 35, 44, 51, and 55, they can bundle should they see fit and move up to grab him. Or, players still there who fit the size and compete the organization values. The biggest knock on Cristall will be his skating, which the Blackhawks brass values. But Cristall counters that with an unbelievably high hockey IQ, something the front office also weighs heavily.
The path is being set. Now we’ll see what other pieces they’ll be seeking out as Thursday comes and goes.