We’ve heard time and time again that this year’s NHL Draft class could be one of the best we’ve ever seen. One’s mind immediately goes to future Blackhawk Connor Bedard, but there’s top-tier talent throughout the first 50 picks. Perhaps most importantly for the Blackhawks, the first 8 to 10 projected picks all could feasibly become franchise cornerstones.
Why should the Blackhawks care about the rest of the top ten? While sitting at 19th overall, Chicago also has 11 draft picks this year. Of those picks, eight are in the first three rounds. GM Kyle Davidson could certainly use those picks to flesh out his roster, but it’s no secret that, no matter how well prospects are scouted, not all of them will pan out. Instead, Davidson and his front office could opt to bundle a few of those picks and move into the top ten, where the probability of hitting on those players is much higher.
Why Move Up?
After Bedard, the next elite tier of skaters is filled with players that would be in the top three picks in any other draft. Players like Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, and Matvei Michkov likely won’t fall out of the top five, but even players after that could easily develop into leaders on the ice for any team. The talent available could entice a GM like Davidson to move up in order to get a player like Will Smith, Ryan Leonard, or Zach Benson.
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What Would It Cost?
Davidson has recently stated that he would be open to moving up in the draft:
“It’s definitely something we’re exploring. I think the level of success we reach will be dictated by the level of player we can acquire. And logic dictates that the higher you are in the draft, the better chance you have of getting a good player. And so we’re going to explore the opportunities available to us to potentially move up again.”– GM Kyle Davidson, 670 The Score
In the process of building the roster from the ground up, the Blackhawks have essentially rid themselves of all proven talent, relying on a great prospect pool to hopefully develop and make an impact. The front office won’t want to get rid of any of their precious young prospects, as this is a team they hope will compete for a championship a few years down the road. Thus, the possibility of shipping off players for a top-ten pick could be out the window.
Instead, Davidson could use the picks he has at his disposal in order to move into one of those coveted slots. He’s said in the past that it’s “unlikely we make all those picks”. He could easily bundle the 19th pick with a second-rounder or two to grab a blue-chip prospect, and could even throw in a player like Colin Blackwell, who doesn’t seem to be part of the team’s plans going forward.
Davidson’s last asset to work with is the team’s abundant cap space. Chicago is projected to have almost $41 million in space next season, and it could easily be put to work this year. They could do so by preying on teams with less wiggle room, like the Canucks, who have the 11th pick and are currently over the cap. Chicago will want to stay flexible in the future, but it’s no secret that this team isn’t quite ready to contend, and can take on bloated contracts, acquiring talent while offering very little in return.
Kyle Davidson has been very clear about his intentions to move up into the top 10 or 15 in this year’s draft. The talent at the top is unquestionable, and pairing Connor Bedard with another young, talented prospect would be fun to watch for the next decade or two. In these weeks leading up to the draft, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Blackhawks try to work some magic.