Chicago Blackhawks' Bowman confident draft will produce strong player
Assuming nothing crazy happens, Stan Bowman knows who the Chicago Blackhawks will choose with the third pick of the NHL draft Friday.
He wasn't about to announce a name during a conference call with reporters Wednesday, but the Hawks' general manager should be leaning toward one of two players:
Feeling a draftA look at how the NHL draft may look after 6 picks. Number in parentheses is average draft position among seven different mock drafts.
1. New Jersey -- Jack Hughes (1.0). Hughes is the slam-dunk top pick. He's a generational talent who racked up 116 points for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program during his 16-year-old season -- a truly astounding feat. The Devils are about to get A LOT better in a hurry.
2. N.Y. Rangers -- Kaapo Kakko (2.0). Kakko scored 5 goals in his first two games of the 2019 IIHF World Championship in May. At 6-2, 187 pounds the Finn has plenty of size, but he also possesses soft hands and a wicked, accurate shot.
3. BLACKHAWKS -- Alex Turcotte (3.7). The Island Lake, Illinois native is committed to Wisconsin for next season, but if he joins the Hawks in 2020-21, watch out. According to thedraftanalyst.com, the 5-11, 194-pound Turcotte "possesses superior vision and passing ability, and it's clear from his first shift that he understands the game's intricacies and nuances that require a center to develop chemistry with his linemates. He plays smart hockey with his head on a swivel and attacks with decisiveness, maintaining situational awareness no matter how fast he's motoring up ice." The report went on to say that Turcotte's shot is highly accurate and quick.
4. Colorado -- Bowen Byram (5.0). One mock draft has the Hawks taking the draft's top defenseman, but most believe he will fall to either the Avs, Kings or Red Wings. The British Columbia native has size (6-2, 195), can skate and has plenty of scoring ability (34 goals in 89 games in juniors this season).
5. L.A. Kings -- Kirby Dach (6.2). Dach is big (6-4, 198) but isn't considered an elite skater. Mock drafts have him going anywhere from fourth to ninth.
6. Detroit -- Vasily Podkolzin (9.1). Russian supposedly can do it all, but is under contract in KHL for next two seasons. Could go anywhere from fifth to the middle of the first round. If he's as good as advertised, though, a GM should grab him and just be patient.
Others to watch for: • Dylan Cozens (big and physical; can help power play or PK)
• Cole Caufield (scored 72 goals for US Developmental Team playing on Jack Hughes' line; going to Wisconsin)
• Trevor Zegras (combines plenty of speed with Andrew Shaw-like grit; going to Boston U).
• Matthew Boldy (incredible hands and playmaking ability; already has size of pro)
• Philip Broberg (Swede was named best D-man at U-18 World Championships).
• Dynamic, do-it-all center Alex Turcotte, who hails from Island Lake, Illinois, and idolized Jonathan Toews growing up.
• Or Bowen Byram, a surefire, top-pairing D-man who could quarterback a team's top power-play unit for 10-15 years.
Almost everyone assumes that Jack Hughes will go to New Jersey at No. 1 and Kappo Kakko will go to the Rangers at No. 2. Bowman said it's nice that only a select few know whom the Hawks will select, then may have slightly tipped his hand with these comments:
"We've spent a lot of time getting to know all of these players, and they're different," Bowman said. "Several of them play the same position, but they approach it differently. So although a cluster of them may look the same on paper, they approach the game differently and they have different skills.
"So we've spent a lot of time getting to know what's really happening when they're on the ice. And part of it is looking at the underlying information, part of it is your feel about what kind of player they are and then what kind of player they'll become. …
"These are great kids. The one thing I've learned in the last couple months in getting to know each one of them is they're all fantastic players and they're all going to have great NHL careers. We're choosing between great options, and that puts us in a really good position."
That would make it seem like the Hawks are taking a center -- and Turcotte is rated by most as the top one available at No. 3.
Still, it's fair to wonder -- despite the fact Henri Jokiharju, Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin already are in the system -- if the right choice may be Byram. Here we have a 6-foot, 193-pound left-shot D-man who scored 26 goals in 67 games last season and was named MVP of the WHL playoffs.
According to thedraftanalyst.com, Byram "owns a devastating slap shot that is accurate, creates rebounds and requires little backswing to achieve significant velocity."
The report went on to say Byram isn't afraid to get down and dirty, and that he plays with plenty of emotion. These are qualities coach Jeremy Colliton is looking to add to a team that has had a tendency to play soft the last two seasons.
"We're going to draft the player we think has the best projection to be an impact player," Bowman said. "We're not ruled by position on that. So the guy that we believe is going to have the biggest impact (as he develops) into an NHL player, that's who we're going to take."
So who will it be?
Many believe Turcotte will develop into a slam-dunk No. 1 center down the road. Toews, of course, was taken third overall in 2006 when the draft also was held in Vancouver. The parrelles are striking and we all know how much Bowman -- and most GMs -- value top-six centermen.
So that might just be enough to tip the scales to Turcotte.
Let's pause here to recognize that there are a few other avenues the Hawks might take. To ignore talented youngsters such as Dylan Cozens, Trevor Zegras or 72-goal scorer Cole Caufield would not be smart. (And, yes, Caufield scored those 72 goals in one season for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program).
But to pass up on Turcotte or Byram might mean the Hawks are trying to outsmart themselves.
One thing Bowman isn't likely to do is trade the pick.
"If someone made an appealing offer, then we'd have to consider it, but that hasn't happened yet," Bowman said. "It's happened before, but it's pretty rare. It's not out of the realm (of possibility), but it's unlikely to happen."
After Friday's first round, which will be televised live on NBCSN at 7 p.m., the Hawks have five picks during Rounds 2-7 on Saturday. The first is No. 43 in the second round.