With No. 8 draft pick, lots of options for Blackhawks GM Bowman
A year ago, general manager Stan Bowman pulled off a pair of earth-shattering trades that -- for better or worse -- completely reshaped the Chicago Blackhawks.
With the NHL draft in Dallas this weekend and free agency opening on July 1, could similar moves be on the horizon?
Tough to say.
On one hand, Bowman indicated late last season that the roster turnover the Hawks endured was difficult for coaches and players to overcome. On the other, Bowman has traded at least one major player in each of the past three off-seasons.
That list includes Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Scott Darling, Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjalmarsson.
In the coming days and weeks, the Hawks would love to significantly upgrade their defense or add a prime free-agent forward like the Maple Leafs' James van Riemsdyk.
The key to making a major move might be finding a team to take Marian Hossa and his $5.275 million cap hit off the Hawks' books.
If that happens, look out. All sorts of options would suddenly present themselves to Bowman and his staff.
"We're not in a difficult cap position like we have been in some previous years," Bowman said in April. "From that perspective, it's looking better for the potential to make some moves. I think we're going to examine everything. We're going to look long and hard at ways to improve our team."
As we wait for the drama to unfold -- and for Bowman to give beat reporters his thoughts in a noon conference call Thursday -- let's take a look at the Hawks' top five options with the No. 8 pick.
1 -- Evan Bouchard (6-foot-2, 195-pound right-shot defenseman): This young player can do it all. He has a hard shot, is a good skater and can quarterback any team's power play. Bouchard racked up 25 goals and 62 assists for the OHL's London Knights last season and led all league defenders with 45 points in 5-on-5 play.
From The Draft Analyst's Steve Kournianos: "You're going to be hard-pressed to find a smoother North American puck distributor, especially one that makes difficult plays look routine. His shot is very hard, and it's most effective when he keeps it low enough that goalies plunk the rebounds right into the low slot."
2 -- Oliver Wahlstrom (6-1, 205 right-shot winger): Mile High Hockey believes Wahlstrom is "the best American player in this draft and should be a top-5 pick." That probably won't happen, though, and it's possible this high-octane scoring threat could be available at No. 8. Some want to put him at center, but if he stays at wing Wahlstrom could develop into another Brandon Saad.
3 -- Jesper Kotkaniemi (6-2, 188-pound left-shot center): This 17-year-old Finn is climbing the draft boards and there are some who believe the Canadiens should take him at No. 3 or trade down a few spots to nab him. If that doesn't happen, perhaps the Hawks should jump all over him.
"Kotkaniemi is the best center of the draft. I think he's superb. He has a game reminiscent in style to (the Kings') Anze Kopitar," former NHL GM and TSN's Craig Button said on yahoo.com. "I don't know where you get (centers) if you don't draft them."
4 -- Adam Boqvist (5-11, 165 right-shot defenseman): Boqvist isn't very big, but he is drawing comparisons to Ottawa's Erik Karlsson. If that's the kind of player the Swede will become, it would behoove Bowman to seriously consider him. Even with Henri Jokiharju signed and may be ready to go next season, the Hawks desperately need to hit on top-end defenders. Boqvist seems to fit the bill.
5 -- Quinn Hughes (5-10, 170 left-shot defenseman): Most mock drafts have Hughes going fourth, fifth or sixth, but strange things happen at the last minute so it's conceivable the talented defenseman could fall to the Hawks.
From Kournianos: "His ability to maintain control of the puck under harrowing circumstances is excellent, but it's the plays he makes immediately after eluding pressure that sets him apart from the significant majority of not only his draft peers, but all defensemen in college hockey."
Intriguing possibility for Hawks:
Most prognosticators believe the Hawks will stay put Friday, but Chris Ryan of NJ.com presented an interesting scenario in which he believes the Hawks might move up to No. 3 to draft ultra-talented winger Filip Zadina. In return, Ryan contends the Hawks would have to give Montreal the eighth, 27th and 87th picks.
NHL draftWhen: Friday (Round 1) and Saturday (Rounds 2-7)
Where: America Airlines Center in Dallas
TV: Friday at 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN; Saturday at 10 a.m. on NHL Network
Blackhawks picks: No. 8 and No. 27 in first round; No. 69 and No. 87 in third round; No. 120 in fourth round; No. 142 in fifth round; No. 162 in sixth round; No. 193 in seventh round