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Blackhawks Tue Jun 24 2014
Now that the dust has settled after an epic NHL postseason, as well as your gut settling after a painful Game 7 loss in the Western Conference Final against the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, the Hawks are putting together some final decisions before entering this weekend's NHL draft in Philadelphia, PA. The season may be over, but the march towards regaining back the throne as champs starts Saturday with the twenty-seventh overall pick, followed by seven others over the course of two days.
Former Hawks general manager Dale Tallon built most of this current core via the draft, starting with Niklas Hjalmarsson (fourth round) in 2005, Jonathan Toews (third overall) in 2006 and Patrick Kane (first overall) in 2007, to name a few. Once Stan Bowman took over in 2010, he's added Joakim Nordstrom (third round) in 2010, and Brandon Saad (second round) and Andrew Shaw (fifth round) in 2011, with his most recent picks playing in the AHL, college or overseas.
Last season, Bowman selected Ryan Hartman with the thirtieth pick and the much ballyhooed Teuvo Teravainen eighteenth the year before. There's no doubt team Bowman has a knack for sniffing out talent in the open draft as opposed to trades during the season (see Kris Versteeg), so can he continue to find the right pieces to keep this team moving forward? Here's a look at who might be available for the Hawks with their first pick.
There's no question the Hawks have a big need for a second-line center going into next season. The team parted ways with Michal Handzus and look to add at the position while the likes of Teravainen and Hartman (mostly Teravainen) should see some time next season, the chances of either of them starting at the second line between Saad and Kane doesn't seem very likely.
There was the recent rumor of the Hawks trading away Patrick Sharp and his $5.9 million salary for Joe Thornton to plug in at the second line, but that talk has died down as of late. It doesn't mean it still can't happen, especially with the thought of sliding Saad ($764,000) in Sharp's spot. But even if it does, the Hawks would still likely draft a center with the twenty-seventh pick overall.
The 2014 Draft order has the Florida Panthers selecting first, and the obvious pick for Dale Tallon is superstar defenseman Aaron Ekblad from the OHL. From there the landscape shapes out for the rest of the teams to mostly choose offense, especially center in forward.
A handful of prognosticators via NHL.com have the top centers in Sam Reinhart (WHL), Leon Draisaitl (WHL) and Samuel Bennett (OHL) going to either Buffalo, Edmonton or Calgary with picks two through four. After that, it's a mix of defensemen and wingers scattered about.
A few options for the Hawks at twenty-seven include 18-year-old Robert Fabbri of the OHL. According to EliteProspects.com, what Fabbri lacks in size (5'10", 170 pounds), he makes up in skill with some of the quickest feet in the draft.
Another potential center that could be available to the Hawks, according to NHL.com, is Brayden Point of the WHL. EliteProspects.com seems a little higher on Point, suggesting a strong work ethic who can play 200 feet and is strong off the draw.
And just like in years' past, the Hawks might use this time during the draft to make trades as a way to unload salary, a la last season with Dave Bolland. In order to make room for re-signing Toews and Kane before the end of next season, and have the ability to sign new draftees, Bowman will have to get a little creative in sending off players to make room, all while making sure his team is competitive for next season.
Some household names might be in different sweaters next season -- then again, Bowman did mention not wanting to shake things up too much as this team has all the talent to go deep again. While that does sound comforting and, for the most part, spot on in assessment, the truth remains an earlier-than-expected exit of a popular player is a much easier pill to swallow than another earlier-than-expected exit in the playoffs.