The Blackhawks’ season is down to 13 games remaining, and the team is officially eliminated from contention for the postseason. Most fans in Chicago don’t exactly bat an eye at the news, as the team has held the bottom spot in the Western Central Division for quite some time.
In the midst of a massive rebuild, however, it’s finally time to look toward the future. It’s clear this team’s future is bright, as they’ve already developed one of the NHL’s best pipelines. Add that to an abundance of cap space and a good head coach in Luke Richardson, and all the pieces are there for a championship run in the next few years.
Even with all the assets in the hands of the Blackhawks, all rebuilds start and end in the draft. GM Kyle Davidson is more than aware of this. In his time in Chicago, he’s put a major focus on acquiring draft capital. The Blackhawks now own the rights to two first-round picks and four second-rounders, the most notable being their own first-rounder this year, which currently is in the third highest position in the lottery.
As the third-lowest team in the NHL standings, the Blackhawks have the highest chances in the lottery at the fourth overall pick, at 40.2%. They also represent the team with the highest points that also has a chance at the third pick.
With Connor Bedard and Adam Fantilli seemingly locked in at one and two respectively, teams must look elsewhere to fill their roster needs this year. Fortunately for teams like the Blackhawks, there isn’t much of a drop in player talent for picks three and four. Those picks will most likely be used on Leo Carlsson and Matvei Michkov, in either order. The two prospects possess different skill sets and are in vastly different situations, and teams like Chicago may have trouble deciding between the two.
Carlsson is considered widely to be the safer of the two young stars. At 6’3”, Leo Carlsson has already displayed great puck handling and a high IQ to go with his size. Tony Ferrari of The Hockey News said it best:
“The top Swede in the ’23 draft has been a highlight machine, routinely going through defenders with skilled moves and then putting them on his back and driving to the net, showcasing the power in his game.”– Tony Ferrari, The Hockey News
Coming into the league as a LW/C, the Blackhawks would likely use him at center, their position of greatest need, if they were to select him. He will fit in well with a team that likes to play fast and hard, using his stellar puck handling and passing to create opportunities for both himself and his teammates.
Labeled “the best Russian prospect since Alex Ovechkin”, Michkov is an electric, creative playmaker. The right winger is a bit undersized at 5’10”, 172 pounds, but makes up for it with his physical toughness. His offensive ability rivals that of Bedard, which is high praise. He has the unique ability to put on a show and is one of the best prospects in recent memory.
The problem: Michkov recently signed a contract with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, and will be under that contract until the end of the 2025-26 season. Whichever team signs him will have to be patient. Luckily for Chicago, he fits their timeline well. In the midst of their massive rebuild, they have multiple first-round picks this year. Thus, they can afford to “waste” one on Michkov in order to get the rights to him, because they can use their other first-rounder to grab another player that could have an immediate impact. Even then, Michkov will be worth the wait.
Differentiating between two generational talents like Leo Carlsson and Matvei Michkov can be like splitting hairs. Each of them has the ability to step in and lead whichever team selects them to an eventual championship. It seems as if Michkov has the upper hand in terms of raw skill set, but as he won’t be available for multiple years, Carlsson could have the upper hand on draft day. With the number four pick most likely to go to Chicago at this stage, the team can’t really go wrong. No matter who they end up with, a top-four pick would give them a sure winner and a centerpiece to build around.
I don’t like the headline. There are not two generational talents. Adam Fantilli will be good. Very very good. But he won’t even be in the same hemisphere as Connor Bedard. Moving on Leo Carlson will probably be the number three player picked. He’ll be good but again, a drop off from Fantilli. Michkov ? Huge dice roll for several reasons . 1) Hes signed it to KHL contract for several more years. 2) no idea if he will even come over to North America, much less, the Russian government may not even let him leave. So those are two… Read more »
Wish we could trade Kyle Davidson
Bedard is miles ahead of the others.
Half of the fanbase will be dead by the time Michkov gets to Chicago! Go with Carlsson.