The Chicago Blackhawks last won the Stanley Cup in the 2014-2015 season. Since then, they’ve only made the playoffs three times, with all three chances ending in first-round losses. With that in mind, as they went into the draft, general manager Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks had been giving indications that they were in some form of a rebuild mode. However, the Blackhawks needed picks that would be NHL ready in the next 3-4 years despite that rebuild mentality.
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Nolan Allan, D, Prince Albert Raiders-WHL (Round 1, Pick 32)
Colton Dach, C, Saskatoon Blades-WHL (Round 2, Pick 62)
Taige Harding, D, Fort McMurray Oil Barons-AJHL (Round 3, Pick 91)
Ethan Del Mastro, D, Mississauga Steelheads-OHL (Round 4, Pick 105)
Victor Stjernborg, C, Vaxjo Lakers HC-SJL (Round 4, Pick 108)
Ilya Safonov, C, Ak Bars Kazan-KHL (Round 6, Pick 172)
Connor Kelley, D, University of Minnesota-Duluth-NCAA (Round 7, Pick 204)
Jalen Luypen, C, Edmonton Oil Kings-WHL (Round 7, Pick 216)
The Blackhawks went into the draft with the 12th overall pick. However, they traded it along with a second-round pick, a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, and Adam Boqvist for Seth Jones, the 32nd overall pick, and a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. Also, they acquired a third-round pick from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for their 2022 third-round pick. All but one of the picks were over six feet, showing that size was important to the front office this year.
Best Pick: Ethan Del Mastro
Del Masto is a player who is a strong defender and has the ability to breaks up a lot of rushes due to his reach and physicality. He already has an NHL frame, standing 6’4″ and weighing 205 lbs. Yet, his skating might be described as smooth and quick, which is impressive for a player of his size. His mobility and size give him a chance to get an NHL role, but he will need to improve on his offensive skills and continue working on his skating.
Worst Pick: Nolan Allen
Allen has little to no production in the offensive zone. However, his mental ability to see the ice or to “think” the game is an asset. He was a reach with being chosen 32nd overall and could have easily been taken in a later round. Despite his shortcomings, Allen is a strong stay-at-home defenseman. The Blackhawks will be glad to have him on the blue line, but fans will need to realize it will be some time before he will see the ice in Chicago. He is more of a project and will take time to develop into an NHL player.
Sleeper Pick: Victor Stjernborg
Stjernborg is a 5’10”, 202 lb center that’s a reliable forward who plays a responsible game. Despite his small size, when you compare him to the other picks this year, he’s a two-way forward who gets the game. He’ll need to work on strength training and physicality. Stjernborg can play center or left-wing and has a strong forecheck the Blackhawks desperately need. The way he makes decisions during the game, playing with control and energy, make it likely he’ll be the first out of this year’s picks to play for the Blackhawks.
None of these players will make an immediate impact on the 2021-2022 season for the Blackhawks. However, the front office has set up the team with these, and previous draft picks to become a force to reckon with in future playoffs. Despite reaching for a few of these picks, any one of them might develop into a player the Blackhawks can count on, just not in the time frame they might have had in mind.
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