With the 2012 NHL Draft ready to get underway, it’s prudent to take a look at the prospects the Chicago Blackhawks have available/best fit their needs. Also, the top prospects expected to be taken by the first few teams can shape the entire draft. However, even though the Edmonton Oilers have managed to obtain the first pick in each of the last three drafts, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll make the anticipated selection.
In 2011, the Oilers had a need to fill holes on their blue line. Most thought they’d go with Adam Larsson, skipping over projected #1 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. As we all know, they of course selected Nugent-Hopkins, who went on to have a Calder Trophy-worthy season.
1) Edmonton Oilers- the Oilers will defy what would appear to be logic in filling the ever present need at defense in order to select Nail Yakupov. Hailed as the best player available, not only is he a fervent playmaker, but has the scoring abilities to match. Missed 20 games due to a knee injury, but says is fully recovered.
2) Columbus Blue Jackets- barring any type of last minute miracles via trades, the Blue Jackets are left with a disappointing second pick. This isn’t to suggest there’s nothing here to benefit them. They’re still able to select defensemen Ryan Murray. Not only does this pick help an anemic team that’s nightly fan giveaways are goals against, but it sums up as a safe pick.
3) Montreal Canadiens- what we have here is a franchise in overhaul. New GM and head coach could either start off well with wise choice, or instill more frustration to an already pestered fan base. Ranked 19th in goals for with 209, they allowed 226 goals against. You could do well with drafting Ryan Murray if he’s still available, or take the offense route with center Mikhail Grigorenko. 6-foot-2 and just under 200lbs, he’s got the size and skill to put up some serious numbers.
After the top three selections are out of the way, whether they go according to plan or not, greatly influences the structure of how teams select. Identifying the needs and contingency selections is the pinnacle of any team’s ideal draft.
The Blackhawks find themselves in a position they’ve hopefully grown accustomed to the past few years. Gone are the days of high drafts that brought them Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane. With a firm grasp on playing a winning style of hockey, the Hawks brass year in and year out find themselves at the middle tier, to lower end of the draft.
This forces the front office to look beyond “obvious choices”, because at #18, there may not be one. It’s been talked about over and over how the Hawks need a 2nd line center. If a move can’t be made via trade or free agency, is it worth taking a pick that can fill that role eventually? Which organizational needs dwarf others? Who the Hawks end up selecting could be a tell-tale of what is or isn’t likely to happen in the offseason.
18) Chicago Blackhawks- the top picks will shape what happens down in the dregs. That being said, picks 11-15 are all expected to be “defense heavy”. The Hawks have just signed veteran Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson’s fate is yet to be decided. I can see a first pick on a defenseman the likes of Olli Maata. At 6-foot-2 he is clearly a physical presence that opposing skaters will have to deal with. Also enticing is his ability to provide offensive contributions. The Hawks could use all facets of his game. Also a possibility that is projected to be taken at a lower pick is center Zemgus Girgensons. Noted leadership qualities, power forward, and a proficiency at playing a large amount of minutes could serve both parties well. Not to be overlooked is left- winger Pontus Aberg. Despite missing the juniors due to injury, he has no problems when it comes to firing the puck and has demonstrated his terrific speed. That certainly made a big impression on scouts.
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