Chicago Blackhawks 2015 NHL Draft Preview

By Anthony Lyen
Nick Schmaltz - Chicago Blackhawks

Photo: Chicago Blackhawks prospect Nick Schmaltz, drafted 20th overall at the 2014 NHL Draft, was the top-scoring freshman for North Dakota, with 26 points in 38 games (courtesy of Michael Tureski/Icon Sportswire)

 

 

After the Blackhawks defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 on June 15th, the great debate began again as to whether or not Chicago is considered a modern-day dynasty in the NHL. Winning three Stanley Cups in just six seasons, especially in the salary-cap era, is no easy feat, but the Blackhawks have continued to be the cream of the crop come the postseason. While free agent signings and trades always help add depth to a team like the Blackhawks, it’s to smart drafting that Chicago can credit a fair amount of its success.

Speaking of the idea of the salary-cap era, that’s where the 2015 offseason gets quite interesting for general manager Stan Bowman. Despite the salary cap projected to be around $71 million for the 2015-16 season, the Blackhawks will need to unload some salary and rely on more of their youth than in seasons prior. They already were able to utilize Teuvo Teravainen and Trevor van Riemsdyk during both the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs, and both prospects played during the Final, earning themselves the title of Stanley Cup Champions.

As the Blackhawks continue to use these young assets, they will look to fill those holes as they always have: through the draft. The 2015 NHL Entry Draft is considered by many to be one of the deepest in recent memory, so it will be crucial for Bowman and Mark Kelley, the Blackhawks’ Senior Director of Amateur Scouting, to find some skillful players and hidden gems within this year’s draft, especially with the Blackhawks lacking a first-round pick (barring a trade, of course).

Top 10 Prospects

1. Teuvo Teravainen, C
2. Nick Schmaltz, C
3. Stephen Johns, D
4. Artemi Panarin, LW
5. Ville Pokka, D
6. Mark McNeill, RW
7. Phillip Danault, C
8. Trevor van Riemsdyk, D
9. Michael Paliotta, D
10. Ryan Hartman, RW

Team Needs

The good news for the Blackhawks in regards to their drafting needs is there are few – if any – holes within the system. There is decent depth at every position, although it could be argued a significant addition on wing and in goal would be helpful. The 2015-16 season should see head coach Joel Quenneville giving several more prospects than usual the opportunity to earn a full-tine role with the club during the regular season, which may see the forward and defense positions become slightly depleted from their current state. With plenty of defensive and center prospects in the system, it may make sense for the Blackhawks to add an asset on either wing position at the draft.

Organizational Strengths

Much like their Cup-winning team, the Blackhawks’ system is strongest down the middle. Teravainen is expected to make the full-time jump to the NHL next season as the team’s potential second-line center, with Nick Schmaltz (University of North Dakota), Philip Danault (Rockford IceHogs) and John Hayden (Yale) leading the rest of the pack.

The Blackhawks have also put together a nice collection of talent on the blueline. Stephen Johns and Trevor van Riemsdyk should make the opening night roster, while Ville Pokka and Michael Paliotta appear to be on the cusp of becoming full-time members of the Blackhawks as well. It will also be important to monitor the development of several other defensive prospects, including Gustav Forsling (Linköping), Luc Snuggerud (Nebraska-Omaha), Carl Dahlstrom (Linköping) and Viktor Svedberg
(Rockford).

Organizational Weaknesses

As mentioned before, the Blackhawks could use some help on the wing, in particular on the left side. With the possible exception of Ryan Hartman and Mark McNeill, there doesn’t seem to be any unquestionable top-six talent on either wing. While Garret Ross provided the IceHogs with some outstanding offense during the 2014-15 regular season, it remains to be seen what he can achieve in the NHL. NCAA prospects Tyler Motte (Michigan), Anthony Louis (Miami) and Fredrik Olofsson (Nebraska-Omaha) have potential, but all three will need at least a couple more years of development.

While the emergence of Scott Darling gave the Blackhawks some depth in goal this season, there isn’t a truly elite goaltending prospect. Antti Raanta had flashes of brilliance during the 2014-15 season, but he never was able to bring everything together, eventually losing the backup job to Darling. Mac Carruth split time with the IceHogs and Indy Fuel of the ECHL, improving as the season went on, but he is still working on his overall game. Matt Tomkins struggled greatly this season for Ohio State, while Ivan Nalimov, playing in the KHL, is still a bit of a project.

Draft Tendencies

It’s no question the Blackhawks have a knack for scouting in Sweden as well as here in the United States. In fact, over the last two drafts, only two of Chicago’s 17 draft choices were not from Sweden or the U.S. This also means the Blackhawks rarely have prospects develop in the CHL. The current trend often sees plenty of selections from the USHL (seven over the last two drafts) who go on to develop at the collegiate level, with notable examples being Schmaltz, Johns and Vince Hinostroza.

Stan Bowman and company have been praised for their ability to find “hidden gems” throughout the draft. Gritty center Andrew Shaw fell to the Blackhawks in the fifth round in 2011, while the Mr. Irrelevant of the 2013 draft, Robin Press, went on to be an offensive dynamo for Sodertalje. The Blackhawks also know the importance of recognizing an important player who has “fallen” to them at the draft. Brandon Saad was a consensus first-round pick going into the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, but he eventually fell to Chicago in the second round at 43rd overall. Teravainen, who was believed to be one of the best offensive players in the draft in 2012, was gladly selected at 18th overall by the Blackhawks.

It is rare to find the Blackhawks drafting a goaltender with a high pick. In fact, Chicago has only drafted two goaltenders (Kent Simpson and Josh Unice) in the top three rounds over the past ten drafts. While those two never provided the Blackhawks with much, current netminder and two-time Stanley Cup champion Corey Crawford was taken in round two of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

Picks heading into draft

Heading into the 2015 NHL Entry Draft at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, the Blackhawks are without their first two selections. The Blackhawks traded their first-round selection in this year’s draft to the Arizona Coyotes along with defensive prospect Klas Dahlbeck for center Antoine Vermette. The Blackhawks’ second-round pick was part of the deal that saw Chicago acquire defenseman Kimmo Timonen. On the bright side, however, a compensatory second-round pick (54th overall) was awarded to the Blackhawks due to their unsigned 2010 draft pick, Kevin Hayes. Due to the Daniel Carcillo trade on July 15, 2013, the Blackhawks will also receive the Los Angeles Kings’ sixth-round selection.

With all these stipulations in place – and barring a potential trade – the Blackhawks hold the 52nd (compensatory pick), 91st, 121st, 151st, 164th (from LA), 181st, and 211th picks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.