The Rink’s Chicago Blackhawks 2023 draft preview


The 2023 NHL Entry Draft will have huge implications on the future of the Chicago Blackhawks. With 11 draft picks in his arsenal entering the draft, General Manager Kyle Davidson has the opportunity to greatly deepen the quality of the organization’s prospect pool and set the team up for another era of Stanley Cup contention.

The 2023 draft class has been touted as one of both quality and quantity, giving the Blackhawks a prime chance to further build on what was a successful 2022 draft. However, given the quality and depth of the 2023 class, the draft is expected to be highly unpredictable, more so than normal, with many players being viewed as able to be selected anywhere from the late first round to into the late second or even third round. As such, we will avoid publishing a traditional mock draft, but will instead focus on some of the traits the Blackhawks should be looking to target with their picks and mention a few players who could be available at the team’s given draft picks…well, with the exception of No. 1.

First overall

Of course, starting with the first overall pick, there is essentially no question who that pick will be, with 17-year-old mega prospect Connor Bedard the consensus top player available. In Bedard, the Blackhawks will be getting a franchise-altering talent capable of becoming one of the best players in the world, often referred to as being a generational level of prospect. While the “generational” term is thrown around fairly often, it is genuinely warranted with Bedard, as many view him as the second-best prospect to come along in the post-lockout era, second to only Connor McDavid.

On the ice, Bedard is an electrifying offensive player. He already owns one of the best shots in the world, with a lightning-quick release on his full arsenal of shots. This aspect of his game is something regularly compared to Auston Matthews, one of the NHL’s premier shooters and goal scorers.

Bedard is also a capable playmaker, able to recognize the appropriate time to defer to his teammates to create the best scoring opportunity for his team. Though not a world-class skater like McDavid, Bedard is able to maneuver his body through traffic well to find open ice to attack. Though Bedard will never be confused for a giant, he possesses a sturdy frame, which allows him to handle the physical pressure he faces from opposing defenses. Bedard will likely not be a Selke Trophy Winner, but he is effective in his own end thanks to his high hockey IQ. Some have concerns about whether Bedard can be a long-term center, but his skillset should allow him to succeed in the position. After all, if someone like Jack Hughes can excel down the middle, Bedard likely can, too.

The Rink's Chicago Blackhawks 2023 draft preview

Connor Bedard of Team Canada skates during the second period against Team Sweden in the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship at Scotiabank Centre on Dec. 31, 2022, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images)

While it can be easy to have sky-high expectations for a prospect like Bedard, the expectations are warranted, and all signs indicate he can become a world-class player. He might not be the next Wayne Gretzky, but he should certainly become a future franchise icon. Buckle up and enjoy, Blackhawks fans! If you are looking for your next jersey to purchase, snagging a No. 98 sweater would be a very good option.

19th overall

Moving on to the 19th overall pick, which the Blackhawks received from the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2022 trade deadline in the Brandon Hagel trade, the draft board will be wide open. While there are certainly a number of players who will presumably be available at that spot to consider, determining which of the higher-end players will still be available is anyone’s best guess. With how unpredictable the first half of the first round could be, it is entirely possible there is a player or two who falls down to the Hawks at 19. Given that probable context, that is likely to determine who the pick will be.

The organization already has Frank Nazar and Lukas Reichel as potential top-six forward options for the future, but both are certainly on the smaller side, so adding a bigger, skilled forward to them and Bedard is likely the play at 19. Though size is not the end all, be all, it is undeniably important, especially come playoff time. Thankfully for the Blackhawks, there should be at least one bigger forward option still on the board, with names like Daniil But, Nate Danielson, Samuel Honzek, Quentin Musty, Calum Ritchie, Eduard Sale and Matthew Wood all being potential fits if available, with Musty and Wood in particular piquing my interest. If the team decides that taking purely the most skilled player available regardless of size, then the likes of Gavin Brindley, Riley Heidt, Gabriel Perreault, Otto Stenberg and Brayden Yager could be options as well depending on who is available, but all things being equal, the team would likely prefer to add size to the future top six if at all possible given they will already have a trio of sub-6-foot players in that projected future top six.

The Rink's Chicago Blackhawks 2023 draft preview

Matthew Wood would fit the bill of a big-bodied skilled forward should he be available with the 19th overall pick. (Photo courtesy of Sportskeeda)

Do not expect the Hawks to select a defenseman (or goaltender, for that matter) at 19 outside of the incredibly unlikely chance of David Reinbacher somehow being on the board, though he is widely projected to be a top-10 selection, potentially even cracking the top five.

Of course, the Blackhawks do have the capital should they want to move up from 19 to target a specific player who they feel would not last until 19. Davidson showed the willingness to be aggressive on the draft floor last summer, so nothing is out of the picture, but banking on the team picking at 19 is the most likely outcome as things currently stand. On the flip side, the team also certainly has the assets needed to acquire a third first-round pick (likely a late first) should they want to scoop up another player (likely from the list above) who they do not project making it to the second round. This is likely a more probable scenario than moving up from 19.

35th overall

This pick is likely going to be the epitome of taking the best player remaining on the board, though still more likely to be a forward than a defenseman. Should a right-handed blueliner like Oliver Bonk still be available (many anticipate he will be selected late in the first round), then he could be a legitimate target. The Blackhawks are overflowing with young left-handed defensemen, so if the team was to use a relatively high pick on a rearguard, the smart bet would be on a right-handed option. However, with the majority of the more heralded right-handed defensemen in the draft being offensive defensemen (Hunter Brzustewicz, Lukas Dragicevic and Axel Sandin Pellikka, to name a few) and the best two-way righties (Reinbacher and Tom Willander) all but guaranteed to be gone come 35, a defender is probably not the best use of the pick.

With as unpredictable as the draft will be, it is entirely possible that one of the forwards mentioned above is still sitting there for the Blackhawks at 35, which they would likely be thrilled about. Additional bigger forwards who could garner consideration if available are David Edstrom, Charlie Stramel and Anton Wahlberg, though that trio likely does not have as high of offensive upside as the forwards listed previously do. Should the target be a smaller forward, names like Ethan Gauthier and Bradley Nadeau could be options if available.

Many Hawks fans on social media have been clamoring over the idea of the team drafting Andrew Cristall, a tiny, skilled forward who is long-time friends with Bedard. While it is a fun narrative, Cristall’s game does not project as transferring well to the pro game, as his small frame and below-average skating are serious concerns. As such, Cristall should not be a consideration at 35 (or even at 19 like some fans are hoping for).

44th, 51st and 55th overall

Again, at these spots, it will largely come down to who the Blackhawks feel are the best remaining players available. However, do not be surprised if two of these three picks—should the team keep all three picks—are used on a defenseman and goaltender. At 44, a rugged right-handed blueliner like Maxim Strbak could be a nice addition to complement the team’s existing defensive prospect pool. While Strbak could potentially be available at 51 or 55, relying on that happening is probably not a safe move. If waiting until one of those later second-round picks, Cameron Allen also provides a well-rounded yet physical style. If the Hawks would opt for a more “modern” style of defender, someone like Beau Akey could make sense with one of those picks as well, as he profiles as more of a smooth-skating puck mover though still having a physical element to his game. Aram Minnetian is another “modern” style defender with good puck-moving ability who could be a factor late in the second round.

The 2023 draft class appears to have four goaltenders who have established themselves as the cream of the crop. Michael Hrabal, a giant in the cage, is likely to be snatched up either late in the first round or early in the second round. While the Hawks could take him at 35 if available, that would likely not be the best use of the asset. But, once getting to the middle or end of the second round, grabbing one of the three remaining touted goalies very well may be on Davidson’s bingo card. Carson Bjarnason and Adam Gajan seem to be viewed interchangeably as the No. 2 and 3 options, followed by Trey Augustine to round out that group. Though the Blackhawks do have Drew Commesso and Arvid Soderblom in the system, they can certainly do worse with one of those second-round picks than adding another quality netminder to the fold.

If folks are dead set on having a fun Bedard-related narrative to hold on to for a fellow draft pick, the one to go for is Gajan, who was the goaltender Bedard scored his highlight-reel “Heartbreaker” goal against during the World Junior Championships. Perhaps that moment was a bit of foreshadowing in two ways, with Bedard using Patrick Kane’s iconic celebration after scoring on a goalie who may be a future teammate down the road. Time will tell.

The Rink's Chicago Blackhawks 2023 draft preview

Goaltender Adam Gajan of Team Slovakia makes a pad save against Team Canada during overtime in the quarterfinals of the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship at Scotiabank Centre on Jan. 2, 2023, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images)

Forwards available in this range will be tough to pinpoint, but some names that could be options include Kasper Halttunen, a big Finnish winger, Nico Myatovic, a power winger from the Seattle Thunderbirds, who the Hawks clearly have been keeping a close eye on all season, and Jayden Perron, a tiny, skilled forward from the Chicago Steel.

67th, 93rd and 99th overall

This is the range of the draft where teams start to defer more toward filling needs and taking swings on players. Should the Hawks have kept and made all of the above draft picks, they might have four forwards, a defenseman and a goaltender added to their prospect pool come pick 67. If they do pick one of the top four goalies during the second round, then the likelihood of grabbing a second goalie in the draft is probably pretty slim. But, if they pass on the higher-end options, someone like Scott Ratzlaff could certainly be a target with one of these picks, as they will undoubtedly be very familiar with his game being another Seattle Thunderbird.

But again, should the Blackhawks have taken a goalie already, then the focus the rest of the way will be skaters. At 67, a few potential forward options could be Carey Terrance, a speedy and versatile center, who would likely be a bit of a safer pick as a future bottom-six option, and Coulson Pitre, a high-end playmaker with top-end speed, and Noel Nordh, a physical power winger with a strong shot, as more of those “swing” type of players. On the blue line, should the team want to add an all-around righty, Andrew Gibson fits the bill nicely. On the left side, a pair of physical giants in Jakub Dvorak and Daniil Karpovich could add some nastiness to the back end.

The Rink's Chicago Blackhawks 2023 draft preview

Carey Terrance could provide the Blackhawks with a high motor and versatility. (Photo by Natalie Shaver / OHL Images)

At 93 and 99, a number of forwards could come into play, such as Rasmus Kumpulainen, Ethan Miedema, Martin Misiak, Jesse Nurmi, Alex Pharand, Jakub Stancl, Matthew Soto and Adar Suniev all providing intriguing elements. Defensively, options such as Quinton Burns, Brady Cleveland, Drew Fortescue and Gavin McCarthy could be fits.

131st and 195th overall

The latter stages of the draft are practically impossible to project, as every team’s board varies greatly the later things get.

Depending on how things fall, some names that may be considered with these later picks include forwards Jakub Bednarik, Beckett Hendrickson, Emil Jarventie, Cole Knuble, Jaden Lipinski, Connor Levis, Timur Mukhanov and Zach Nehring and defensemen Samuel Barcik, Matteo Mann, James Petrovski and Carter Sotheran, with the majority of these players providing size and a physical element in their game, with players like Jarventie and Mukhanov being “swing” type of skilled players.

Trading opportunities

As mentioned previously, the Blackhawks have ample ammunition should they want to make deals to move up or add additional draft capital. Of course, moving up from 19 is a hot-button topic among Hawks fans, though it very well might not be worth the cost to move up considering there will likely be a comparable level of player still available at 19. One option to keep an eye on is the Hawks using their array of second-round picks and/or future draft capital to acquire a third first-round pick to target a player of their liking. Davidson has alluded to the fact the team has an abundance of draft capital this year and that it is not likely the Hawks use all of the picks they currently hold. Davidson has recently stated he is willing to consider any and all possibilities that may present themselves at the draft, and needless to say that between his history of being aggressive on the draft floor and the ample draft capital he possesses, there could certainly be some fireworks in Nashville. Regardless of whatever may happen, this draft will be a transformational one for the franchise, and that is something for Blackhawks fans everywhere to earnestly enjoy and celebrate.

The first round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, hosted at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, begins on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CDT, with rounds 2–7 beginning Thursday at 10 a.m. CDT. I will be live on site for both days of the draft and intend to tweet out instant reactions to the picks and trades the Blackhawks make. Be sure to follow me (@WALaxer19) for these live reactions!

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