With the 18th pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft the Chicago Blackhawks select …

Yes it is that time of year again folks. That time when eternal optimism rises no matter how poorly one’s hockey team has performed in the past. It’s springtime - when budding flowers are awaiting to be picked so they can be nurtured and blossom into beauties. In other words it is the week of the 2012 NHL entry draft. The time when hockey clubs and their fan bases are hoping to hit the jackpot with player(s) that will vault their teams into Stanley Cup Champions.

This year the Chicago Blackhawks find themselves in unfamiliar territory. For the first time in quite awhile they only have their own draft picks to consider. They have no multiple picks until the 5th round since they no longer have  to trade away established players to quell salary cap problems. If you forgot the extra pick in the 5th round is from the NY Rangers as compensation for John Scott. I still can’t believe Bowman pulled that off, but I digress.

The Hawks will have the 18th, 49th, 79th, 109th, 139th,149th, 169th & 199th picks. Stan Bowman is still probably smiling like Cheshire Cat over his 5th round 139th selection overall last year um Andrew Shaw. So before you think that there are no impact players past the first 2 rounds think again. You can capture lightening in a bottle. Can Stan duplicate this feat again in 2012?

The 2012 NHL entry draft is heavy on defensemen but that is not to say there aren’t some very good skilled forwards and goalie prospects smattered in there too. The talent in this year’s draft is also sort of flat, meaning that a lot of the players are all equal in skill it is just a matter of preference which makes it difficult to assess what teams will be picking. The so called experts are even having difficulty on who the top 10 players are.

The Blackhawks will be picking in the middle with the 18th pick which should net them a very good player if they pick wisely. The Hawks could strengthen a very weak goalie pool or they could move a high salaried blueliner and draft a defenseman here to make up the difference. They should get a solid return here if that is the route they elect to go in or they could look to add more firepower to their arsenal of skilled forward prospects.

Every team has their own philosophies and preferences, the Blackhawks are no exception. To give us a little insight as to what position the Hawks maybe leaning to, let’s take a look at what they have done in the first round since 2006 which, is when they started to head in the right direction with this franchise.

Year

Position

Player

Overall pick #

2006

Center

Jonathan Toews

3rd

2007

Right Wing/Center

Patrick Kane

1st

2008

Center

Kyle Beach

11th

2009

Defenseman

Dylan Olsen

28th

2010

Right Wing

Kevin Hayes

24th

2011

Center

Mark McNeill

18th

 

Center

Phillip Danault

26th

 

Hum get the feeling that the Blackhawks place a lot of value on Centers and Right Wingers? It is not a secret that the Blackhawks love their speedy, skilled forwards and that this team has been built around that. I will preface this with saying I do believe that the Hawks will pick the best athlete that is available come #18 regardless of position but in my opinion they will be selecting another center or power forward if they can  and that is the best available. That being the case let’s see who might be available in their slot.

 Don’t be too surprised if the Hawks select one of these skilled forwards: Brendan Gaunce C; Zemgus Girgensons C; Tomas Hertl C; Thomas Wilson RW or Seabastin Collberg RW if he is still remaining at the 18 spot. Gaunce, Girgenson & Wilson are all big physical power forwards that the Hawks could use if they want to save some mullah in Free agency or they could dangle other forward prospects in a trades.

All of these also could be used to open up ice space for Kane & Toews as well especially Wilson. Brandan Gaunce could be that big body 2nd line center the Hawks need if Mark McNeill is either traded or doesn’t live up to expectations. He has been categorized as a David Backes type center which could give Toews a break. His brother is Colorado Avs Cameron Gaunce so he has an NHL tie which never hurts.  Collberg I don’t expect to be left at the 18th spot but if he is the Hawks may take him as the best talent available. He is a pure scoring forward from Sweden and could replace Stalberg if he were to be traded.

Hertl is a play making forward and who can’t use one of those. If the Hawks take him and have Patrick Kane on one line and Tomas Hertl on the other that gives you two solid lines with play makers which would give any defense fits. He could make Quenneville’s job really easy with line combinations. Girgenson is just physically strong center. He probably will be ready for the NHL in another year which all NHL teams like to get immediate pay offs.

If the Hawks were to go the defenseman route which I don’t think they will do until later rounds the most likely candidates in their slot would be Matt Finn, Brady Skjei or if he is left Derrick Pouliot.  Finn is exactly the type of player the Hawks like. He is a high character guy with two way dman capabilities. He is active with his stick and can play physical as well.

 Skjei may just be too much for the Hawks to pass up. He is as smooth and silky a skater as you’ll find. Scouts have touted him as “poetry on the ice” and we know how the Hawks love smooth skating defensemen who can get a puck out of their own end quickly. Pouliot will probably be gone as he is an offensive defenseman ala Brian Campbell but again if he is still there the Hawks may look him up.

Most scouts and GM’s usually do not take goaltenders in the first round. If Stan Bowman does this could signal the end of the Corey Crawford era is coming. If the Hawks elect to take a goalie there will probably be two good ones that will eventually be starting goalies in the NHL if they live up to the projections. Is it just coincidence that they let Alexander Salak go to waivers this week? I wonder.

Malcom Subban, yes that is P.K.’s little bro and Russian sensation Andrei Vasilevski. Vasilevski has been compared to Varlomov in net. He has cat like reflexes and great side to side movement. He is considered the top goalie prospect in this years draft. The Hawks may wait to round 2 though to take a goalie in which case they have a better shot at Malcom Subban who is also very athletic and is considered by some scouts to the best goalie in this years draft.

Whatever way the Hawks go they should be getting themselves a solid choice in the first round that will help them for years to come. The direction that they go could also give us a glimpse of how they will be proceeding with trades and free agency.  It may even give us a clue as to if any current Hawks will be shopped.

Also do not be too surprised if the Hawks transact some trades on the day of the draft. Remember last year that is when Stan Bowman moved Brian Campbell  to the Florida Panthers & Troy Brouwer got moved to the Capitals for picks, so it is very likely we may see this happening again.  Stan Bowman has been under the scrutiny of the media and fans and has been blamed justly or not for breaking up the 2010 Blackhawks. He can rectify all the wrongs if he hit’s another draft out of the park.

His selections in the 2011 draft appear to all be solid with McNeil, Saad, Danault and let’s not forget Shaw. Even if they do not all make the Blackhawks they can be used as valuable trading pieces which if used correctly could still make the 2011 draft a success. It appears Shaw will make the Hawks and Saad probably will too. If McNeill or Danault do as well then that was a monster draft for Bowman as all of these selections were under his watch not Dale Tallon.

Let’s hope he can repeat this in Pittsburgh on Friday & Saturday. If he can, while no one will ever forget the 2010 Blackhawks and all they accomplished. Maybe just maybe, the 2012 or 2013 Blackhawks can make us think we are looking at the 2010 Blackhawks all over again with another banner raising ceremony the following year at the United Center.