Blackhawks’ rebuild depends on 2023 NHL Draft lottery — and Bedard, Michkov or Fantilli

It was a begin.

The Blackhawks’ rebuild ought to have a strong basis after making three first-round picks and eight within the first 90 at this month’s draft.

Time will inform how Kyle Davidson’s first draft as Chicago’s normal supervisor went, in fact, but it surely might be a constructive begin. And with 4 extra first-round picks and 11 choices within the first three rounds over the subsequent two years, the Blackhawks ought to have sufficient alternatives to replenish their prospect pool additional.

Now, their precedence needs to be discovering “the” piece to place all these gamers round. They want an anchor. They want a famous person.

To achieve this, the Blackhawks should place themselves to select one of many elite gamers within the 2023 NHL Draft. If they are going to strip the group’s expertise as a lot as they’ve — presumably even additional relying on what Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews determine to do — the reward needs to be touchdown that generational expertise. Otherwise, that is all a waste and solely prolongs their rebuild.

Fortunately for the Blackhawks, there are no less than two gamers in subsequent 12 months’s draft who fall in that famous person class: Connor Bedard, a Canadian heart, and Matvei Michkov, a Russian winger. The debate about who will finally be the higher NHL participant has been going on for just a few years, however most evaluators imagine each shall be particular.

Davidson seems to be to be constructing a workforce with Bedard and Michkov in thoughts.

The Blackhawks have been the sixth-worst workforce final season, and they’ve downgraded their roster throughout the board since then. They’ve diminished their scoring, depth and goaltending. They’ll have some competitors — the Arizona Coyotes shall be within the combine once more — but it surely’s not unimaginable, particularly if Davidson ships off extra expertise on the commerce deadline, to check them being the league’s worst workforce after 82 video games subsequent season.

The Blackhawks will not admit that is the plan, however their director of novice scouting, Mike Doneghey, was fairly trustworthy about their view of the highest of subsequent 12 months’s draft.

“If you are going to be dangerous, that is most likely the 12 months to do it as a result of you realize what the subsequent three (picks might be),” Doneghey mentioned lately. “Even this 12 months, you are actually not enamored with the highest of the draft. But subsequent 12 months, it is like, yeah, if I’m going to be dangerous and get a type of guys, then OK, you may relish it extra.”

Doneghey and I talked extra about subsequent 12 months’s draft, however let’s first get to the chances of the Blackhawks touchdown a type of abilities.

The Blackhawks aren’t assured Bedard or Michkov, even when they do find yourself in final place. The worst workforce can fall so far as the third choose within the NHL lottery. That’s not the tip of the world, as Canadian heart Adam Fantilli, the third participant Doneghey was referring to, is very touted, too. He is not in that first class to lots of evaluators, however he is not that far off.

Byron Bader, an information scientist, NHL draft guide and writer of the web site Hockey Prospecting, defined to me: “(Bedard and Michkov) each have the early indicators of a ‘generational expertise.’ Sky excessive D-1 and D-2 equivalencies indicative of a generational expertise — a degree per game-plus participant over their profession. Fantilli would not fairly look the identical. He could also be a star in his personal proper however would not look fairly as sure as Bedard and Michkov. We’ll have to attend till subsequent season to know extra the place he shakes out.”

What does generational expertise imply in Bader’s mannequin? He pointed to Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Jack Eichel, Jack Hughes and Patrick Kane.

So, yeah, the Blackhawks might use that to essentially ignite their rebuild.

Others in that scouting world really feel principally the identical.

“I believe Bedard and Michkov each have an opportunity to be top-tier purpose scorers within the NHL,” mentioned Chris Peters, who’s an NHL Draft and prospects analyst for FloHockey. “Neither is especially large or robust at this stage of their profession and neither is a burner, however they rating at a degree not like gamers I’ve seen at their age. We’re speaking actually particular gamers. I believe Bedard is perhaps top-of-the-line pure shooters I’ve seen. Michkov is a genius-level hockey participant. Never seen anybody along with his offensive hockey sense and capability to use goalies.

“Those two are in a category of their very own, however Fantilli seems to be like a franchise constructing block. He’s quick, he is large, he is robust and he is aware of how one can rating. There are a bunch of different good guys in that high 10, too. If Chicago goes by what we predict they are going to and finally ends up with Bedard or Michkov, it is price it. If they get Fantilli, it is nonetheless most likely price it, however he is one I have to see extra from earlier than I put a future famous person tag on. The different two I really feel fairly assured in.”

The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler was excessive on all three gamers as nicely, however he put Bedard in a unique class.

“I’ve full religion that every one three gamers will reside as much as the hype,” Wheeler mentioned. “Bedard has a famous person ceiling. He’s the form of prospect that may utterly change the trajectory of a rebuilding workforce and actually speed up the method. I absolutely anticipate him to have a right away affect within the NHL in a manner that current No. 1 picks have not. With the best way he skates, handles the puck, assaults, and particularly shoots. His capability to rock the puck off of his blade from compromised postures is actually singular), I believe he is acquired 50-goal upside.

“And Michkov and Fantilli are really high-end, A-plus prospects, too. The former has all of the instruments of a first-line, point-per-game winger. And the latter is each workforce’s very best large heart with talent, energy and velocity. He has develop into an amazing skater. They might not have the famous person ceiling that Bedard has, however they’re fairly probably going to be stars, and there are some who imagine superstardom might even be within the playing cards for them as nicely. Three of the very best prospects in years.”


Adam Fantilli performed for the Chicago Steel within the USHL final season. He’ll play on the University of Michigan subsequent season. (Courtesy of the Chicago Steel)

It’s fairly clear Bedard is the participant to take if the Blackhawks get the primary choose. He might be of their NHL lineup as quickly because the 2023-24 season and could be engaging sufficient for Kane to stay round to play with.

Now, if the Blackhawks wound up with the second choose, that turns into extra difficult.

Michkov might be the sensible choose there contemplating his potential as of at present, however drafting him does imply having to attend longer. He’s signed with SKA within the KHL by the 2025-26 season. That means he isn’t prone to come to the NHL till no less than the start of the 2026-27 season. He’d be simply shy of his twenty second birthday then.

Davidson is promoting endurance to followers and the entrance workplace, and everybody appears to be shopping for in. But does that proceed if they’ve to attend even longer earlier than one other potential famous person arrives? That’s most likely asking quite a bit if followers are falling off and the underside line is dipping. The Blackhawks will most likely wish to capitalize on and off the ice as shortly as they will in the event that they draft a game-changing participant. On the flip facet, it most likely will not go over nicely, both, in the event you cross up an opportunity to draft Michkov since you’re impatient and he turns into a generational expertise.

There’s an opportunity Fantilli elevates his sport this season and places himself in that dialog. Some league sources imagine the 6-foot-3 Fantilli is not that far behind Bedard and Michkov and has just a few attributes that differentiate him.

“I believe he is big-time,” one league government mentioned. “He can do every thing – scores, good skater, makes performs, has talent, is bodily. He has nice work habits. He’s a legit five-tool prospect. The Bedard/Michkov hype is fever pitch, however they’re (underneath six toes). In some other 12 months, (Fantilli) is projected No. 1.”

You can anticipate the Blackhawks to be nicely studied on all three gamers come subsequent 12 months’s draft.

“We’ll clearly see them quite a bit,” Doneghey mentioned. “We’ll see them in each setting, whether or not it is worldwide tournaments, league play, no matter it could be.”

Seeing Michkov reside shall be harder as a result of Russia is not at the moment allowed to take part in any worldwide tournaments. Doneghey mentioned he doesn’t have a visa to journey to Russia now, however he’ll rely on head European novice scout Niklas Blomgren, who does have a visa to journey there, and Anatoly Semenov, a professional scout based mostly in Russia. Doneghey is assured the Blackhawks will know sufficient about that trio and much more potential first-rounders.

“They’re the three on the high proper, however there shall be 4 or 5 different guys that’ll be knocking on that door by the point subsequent 12 months comes round,” Doneghey mentioned.

This season shall be fascinating to comply with these gamers as they jockey for place atop the 2023 draft board. And as painful because the season could also be for the Blackhawks and their followers, it will be simply as attention-grabbing to see whether or not the workforce can actually backside out and end in final place to guarantee itself an opportunity at Bedard, Michkov or Fantilli. Because if the Blackhawks do not wind up with any of them, the rebuild has already faltered.

(Top photograph of Connor Bedard: Codie McLachlan / Getty Images)

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