Monday, June 10, 2024

Kyle Davidson Reveals Comprehensive Early, Late-Round Draft Strategy At Scouting Combine

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At this time last year, Blackhawks Connor Bedard jerseys were practically already being printed. In May 2023, Chicago’s franchise was altered forever when it won the NHL Draft Lottery, moving up to the first overall pick for the right to select Bedard, who was widely regarded as a generational prospect and the “future of hockey”. He was as close to a sure thing as any pick could be.

This year, with two and a half weeks until the 2024 Draft, that couldn’t be further from the truth. With Macklin Celebrini all but certainly going to San Jose at first overall, the Blackhawks find themselves with the second pick and a tricky decision on their hands. That dilemma has been narrowed down to between two prospects – defenseman Artyom Levshunov and forward Ivan Demidov. While GM Kyle Davidson says he expected to have reached a decision by now, he admits that he and his staff are still sorting a few things out.

“The debate is still very real. I thought we would have maybe a decision at this point, which is not a bad thing at all, but there are some really good options out there. So it’s something that we’re knocking around. We’ll take a little bit of a break after the combine, revisit that in 7-10 days and start going through things again.

During the combine, it appeared Levshunov was gaining the upper hand. He said the Blackhawks took him to dinner Thursday night in Buffalo, the culmination of a number of conversations between him and the team. However, the new momentum may be only because Chicago wasn’t able to meet Demidov yet because Russian players weren’t invited to the combine. Still, the two parties will get a chance to meet face-to-face before the draft at an event in Florida.

Whichever way the Blackhawks end up going with the No. 2 pick, Davidson said it was “very unlikely” that they would trade down. On the other hand, he mentioned he was willing to trade up further from the No. 18 pick that the Blackhawks got in a trade last month with the Islanders. The Devils’ No. 10 pick has been publicly on the block, and the No. 11 pick of the Sabres has also been a hot topic this week.

Beyond the Blackhawks’ first-round picks, they’ll look to maximize value later in the draft with picks that boast enormous value, even with a lower floor.

“We’re much more free to go in different directions and get creative with things. It’s not necessarily taking more risk in our selections, but we’ve just given ourselves the freedom to branch out and go elsewhere if we feel it’s advantageous.”

Davidson went on to mention that his team was “willing to sacrifice some areas for others.” The focus on thinking outside the box means he could potentially be targeting more physical skaters this summer, given that they’ve previously prioritized drafting smaller, faster skaters in the past.

Regardless, it won’t come as a surprise if Davidson and his staff are actively moving up in the draft when that day comes. With so many high-caliber prospects ready to be signed in the system, they’ll aim to get a higher quality, not quantity, of young players, just as they did in the trade with New York. With an ever-changing set of values in the draft, Davidson is poised to bring some of this year’s best prospects to Chicago.

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