Sunday, June 16, 2024

Blackhawks Big Board 1.0: First Look At Possibilities For No. 2, 20 Picks

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There’s no question the Blackhawks have plenty of work to do this summer, including resigning a few notable players, targeting free agents, and more. However, perhaps no decision throughout the offseason will be bigger than the ones made in the NHL Draft. After securing the No. 2 pick through the lottery and securing Tampa Bay’s No. 20 pick, Chicago has plenty of capital to work with at the end of June.

Though there’s still a month and a half until the draft, plenty of the focus of NHL media has been on attempting to predict which players will end up with each team picking in the first round. To do so is to compete in a pure guessing game, but for the Blackhawks, a few possibilities have emerged for each of their two first-round picks.

No. 2 Pick

I’ve already written about Chicago’s possibilities with the second-overall pick, and the decision still appears to come down to one of two options.

Ivan Demidov – After an incredible run in the MHL playoffs in Russia to end his most recent season, Demidov solidified himself as the second-best player in this draft behind Macklin Celebrini. He’s an elite playmaker who would be lethal on the top line alongside Connor Bedard. However, Demidov has one year left on his contract in Russia, and while recent IIHF controversies shouldn’t necessarily have an impact on Demidov’s situation after next season, it’s certainly something to consider.

Artyom Levshunov – Levshunov is far and away the best defenseman in this class, boasting strong size, good skating ability, and a dominant defensive presence. Perhaps most importantly, the top RHD falling into Chicago’s lap would be a perfect fit for the Blackhawks. GM Kyle Davidson has made it clear that he doesn’t like drafting based on team needs, but a fit like Levshunov is hard to pass up. Plus, after a great season at Michigan State, there’s certainly a chance he could arrive in Chicago before Demidov would.

No. 20 Pick

The Blackhawks’ decision at No. 20 is much less clear. With so many choices set to be made before they’re on the clock, anything can happen. Still, a few players expected to be drafted in the mid-to-late first round could be of particular interest to Davidson and his staff.

Michael Hage – The strong right-handed center, who most recently played for the USHL’s Chicago Steel, is one of the more well-rounded prospects of this class. He boasts strong shooting, passing, puck handling, and size. Now headed to Michigan, Hage will look to continue his outstanding production before turning pro, which may not be too long given the maturity in his game.

Michael Brandsegg-Nygård – Getting the Norwegian right-winger at 20th overall may be a stretch at this point, but then again, the Blackhawks snagged Oliver Moore at No. 19 last summer. Brandsegg-Nygård is a great scorer with a lethal shot who is also a physical skater and decent puck handler. He’s been seemingly the Blackhawks’ biggest target, at least according to the media, at the 20th pick.

Jett Luchanko – It’s a strange description for an average-sized center, but Luchanko’s play style is perhaps most comparable to that of defenseman Alex Vlasic. He’s been described as one of the most intelligent and instinctive prospects of this class, with a great understanding of timing and positioning. The rest of his game is solid enough for him to have had a big breakout campaign last year in the OHL, and his advanced intangibles could speed up his arrival date in Chicago.

The NHL Draft is usually a complete guessing game, but for the Blackhawks, a handful of possibilities have emerged for both the No. 2 and No. 20 picks. Chicago can’t really go wrong with any of the prospects being considered in the first round, and both should be poised to eventually have big impacts at the NHL level.

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