General Manager Stan Bowman made an obvious decision that size was an important part of Chicago’s philosophy in the recent 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Chicago made selections that shocked many early, but followed that up with some solid selections in the middle rounds. Late in the draft, Bowman selected a few try hard-type role players. Overall, one would not be surprised if any of theses selections did not play a huge role in the NHL. That is a disappointing feeling for a team telling its fan base that they are rebuilding, but their actions show differently.
Here are the selections and analysis for each of Chicago’s eight selections:
Round 1, Pick 32: Nolan Allan, Defenseman, Prince Albert Raiders (FC Hockey Rank: 101)
Allan was an interesting draft choice at the end of the first round. The 6-foot-2 defender came as a surprise to most this early in the draft. He has a good combination of size and speed and plays a simple “stay-at-home” style. Allan’s ability to think the game is a plus, and he makes many simple plays out of his own zone. However, he brings almost zero production in the offensive zone and does not project much more offense at the NHL level. Allan probably could have been had in the late second round with better overall players on the board. As a first round pick, he will get every opportunity to play his shutdown role in years to come.
Round 2, Pick 62: Colton Dach, Center, Saskatoon Blades (FC Hockey Rank: 95)
Dach should be a familiar name, as Colton is the younger brother to Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach. The younger Dach does bring much of the same size as his brother at 6-foot-4 and 196 pounds, but does not show the same top-end skills Kirby did in his draft year. Colton shows a straight-line threat on the ice, but needs to develop his playmaking skills in order to be effective at the pro level. With improved skating, he can be play a possession game and be difficult in the “tough” areas on the ice. In the year of the siblings for the Blackhawks, the Dachs might be a line we will be forced to see in the future. Let’s begin to figure out what we will call the Dach line in a few seasons.
Round 3, Pick 91: Taige Harding, Defense, Ft. McMurray Oil Barons (FC Hockey Rank: Not ranked)
Keeping with the size theme, Harding brings a 6-foot-7 frame to the Blackhawks’ selections. What is even more impressive is him tipping the scales at 236 pounds as a 19-year-old. Harding will be attending Providence College in the fall and will be one to keep an eye on for his development. At a part of the draft where draft boards can have players ranked all over the place, Harding was an intriguing pick for an overage prospect. Anything Chicago gets from Harding that turns into NHL games will be a plus. Personally, this seemed like an obvious pick that Chicago is choosing size over talent this early in the draft.
Round 4, Pick 105: Ethan del Mastro, Defenseman, Mississauga Steelheads (FC Rank: 79)
Del Mastro was a great pick in the fourth round for Chicago. Another big defenseman at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, the Steelhead alum is a physical defenseman that shows enough skill in all three zones. Having missed this past season in the OHL due to the pandemic, the season before, del Mastro showed he has the skating ability and range to be a disruptive force for opposing forwards. If there is a part of his game that needs improvement, it would be his skating ability. It is hard to say a fourth round selection is a sure-fire NHL player, but del Mastro does show the ability to use his frame well and is a tough defender to play against. This might be the first pick where we see some true value, which is disappointing.
Round 4, Pick 108: Victor Stjernborg, Center, Vaxjo HC (FC Rank: 62)
To say Stjernborg is short at 5-foot-11 would be a disservice to him, but compared to the picks above, he does come up short. With that being said, this was another nice pick in the fourth round. The Swedish forward is a reliable forward that plays a highly responsible game. He makes great decisions and never seems to be out of position. As he continues to develop, his priorities will be on gaining strength and physicality. Stjernborg is the type of player that makes a NHL roster because he gets it between the ears. He does not have a ton of offensive upside, but does show a nice blend of smarts and skill. This could have been the best pick of the fourth round.
Round 6, Pick 172: Ilya Safonov, Center, Kazan Ak-Bars (FC Rank: 173)
Going back to his size theme, Bowman selected the 6-foot-4 Safonov out of the KHL. Safonov was passed over the last two drafts, but brings a combination of fight and size that you would look for later in the draft. The left-handed forward is a force to deal with in front of the net and in the corners and is a willing participant on every puck battle. Chicago cannot go wrong picking a center that is willing to do the dirty things you want from a pick in the sixth round.
Round 7, Pick 204: Connor Kelley, Defenseman, University of Minnesota-Duluth (FC Rank: Not ranked)
Kelley is a former U.S. National Team Development Program prospect that shows a very good skating ability; just do not expect much offense from the Maple Grove, Minnesota, native. Kelley is a defensive defenseman that did chip in three goals at UMD this past season. A seventh round pick is always tough to predict. Anything Chicago can get out of him would be a plus, especially as an overage prospect in the draft.
Round 7, Pick 216: Jalen Luypen, Center, Edmonton Oil Kings (FC Rank: 189)
As far as last picks of your draft can go, Chicago did a great job with this pick. Again, it is hard to predict Luypen making the roster this late in the draft, but all things point to the Oil King alum making changes to his game that helped him improve. He is a hard-working character-type forward that comes with some grit. Loupen did chip in 16 goals in 23 games for Edmonton in the WHL this past season. If the organization can find a hard-working, sandpaper-type of player this late, one would be ecstatic.