Blackhawks take pair of defensemen on first day of NHL draft
For more than a decade, a huge key to dominant Blackhawks squads under Joel Quenneville has been a strong defense.
Duncan Keith. Brent Seabrook. Niklas Hjalmarsson. Johnny Oduya. Nick Leddy. Dustin Byfuglien. Brian Campbell.
These steady, reliable -- and sometimes dynamic -- blue-liners helped usher in an era that saw the Hawks lift the Stanley Cup three times over a six-year span.
That solid play on the back end has slowly eroded over the past few years, but the Hawks have certainly done their best to rectify that situation during the past two NHL drafts.
Friday in Dallas, the Hawks used both of their first-round picks to upgrade the blue line by taking Sweden's Adam Boqvist at No. 8 and Canada's Nicolas Beaudin at No. 27.
Boqvist is a bit undersized at 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, but there are those who believe he can become another Erik Karlsson. Meanwhile, the 5-11, 172-pound Beaudin is a solid passer and impressed Bowman in the QMJHL playoffs.
Last season, the Hawks took Henri Jokiharju in the first round. He recently signed a three-year, entry-level deal and could compete for a job in training camp in September.
If Jokiharju, Boqvist and Beaudin develop as expected, and Gustav Forsling, Erik Gustafsson, Ian Mitchell (second round, 2017) and Chad Krys (second round, 2016) round into form, it's possible the Blackhawks may have one of the most impressive back ends in the NHL in the coming years.
General manager Stan Bowman told reporters he wasn't married to taking a pair of defensemen in the first round, but Boqvist and Beaudin were the highest ranked players on the Hawks' board when their picks came up.
"It's a very important position and (defensemen are) the highest-valued assets," Bowman said. "Calling around this week about potential trades, they're the hardest things to find."
Boqvist, a coveted right-shot D-man, won't be 18 until August and has a one-year deal in the Swedish Elite League next season. The offensive-minded youngster has impressive vision, isn't afraid to jump up in the play and has an extremely high hockey IQ. If there's a negative for fans, it's that Boqvist believes he's 2-3 years away from playing in the NHL.
Still, if he turns into another Karlsson, he'll be worth the wait.
"(Boqvist and Beaudin) both probably need a little bit of development, but they've got some high-end talent," Bowman said. "I had a chance to see both of them play this year and you walk away impressed.
"You don't have to really look for these guys in the game. … They sort of stand out because they do some pretty unique things with the puck and that's what the game is trending towards."
Coach Joel Quenneville was glowing about Boqvist's potential when interviewed on NBCSN.
"He moves the puck, he's very active in the play," Quenneville said. "Very dynamic in a lot of ways. I think he can help our power play down the road. I'm looking forward to how he does over the summer and into camp."
Shortly after being selected, Boqvist was on the phone with captain Jonathan Toews.
"He said he watched some of my highlights and liked them," Boqvist said. "I guess it's good when the captain likes you."
The draft continues Saturday with Rounds 2-7. The Hawks are slated to pick at Nos. 69 and 87 in third round, No. 120 in the fourth, No. 142 in the fifth, No. 162 in the sixth and No. 193 in the seventh.
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