The Blackhawks appeared just some weeks in the past as if that they had boarded a nonstop elevator to the league’s basement.
They have been the group to catch in the race for the league’s worst report, and it appeared as if they is likely to be pulling away from everybody. And then, they gained, gained once more, gained once more, misplaced and gained once more. With 4 wins in 5 video games, the Blackhawks jumped two groups in the factors standings.
The Blackhawks may very properly go on one other shedding skid as they start hitting the highway for lengthy stretches in the coming weeks. They won’t. There are 5 groups with a practical shot at possessing the worst factors proportion, and it is anybody’s guess which can find yourself there with about half a season remaining. As a reminder, the league’s worst group shouldn’t be assured the high choose, only a top-three choose.
Like everybody in that blend, the Blackhawks are hoping for the alternative to draft Connor Bedard with the No. 1 choose. He would instantly change the Blackhawks’ route on and off the ice. Bedard’s arrival would speed up common supervisor Kyle Davidson’s rebuild plan. Davidson would start placing expertise round Bedard subsequent season. The Blackhawks won’t be a Stanley Cup contender in 2023-24, however issues would choose up velocity to get there.
But what if the Blackhawks don’t find yourself with Bedard? Even with the worst report, the lottery balls may simply bounce in another person’s favor. The Blackhawks may draft second, third or fourth. While that is not the finish of the world due to how good the high of the 2023 draft is considered, Bedard nonetheless stands properly above everybody else. Those bottom-tier groups will undoubtedly really feel disillusioned if they lose out on him.
Davidson is likely to be clenching four-leaf clovers, rosary beads and anything which may deliver him luck come the draft lottery, however he is additionally conscious that he must be ready to regulate if Bedard is not in the playing cards. And if Bedard is not, the first line of enterprise will likely be deciding on who to draft. The Blackhawks are excessive on facilities Adam Fantilli and Leo Carlsson. They’re additionally monitoring Matvei Michkov with scouts in Russia, however they’d want to not have to attend for his delayed arrival.
I turned to The Athletic’s draft and prospect skilled Scott Wheeler for his ideas on what may occur if the Blackhawks aren’t capable of choose Bedard.
“I believe Fantilli will play in the NHL subsequent yr and have an effect,” Wheeler mentioned. “Carlsson will not. But definitely to not the diploma Bedard will. … And sure, Michkov continues to be the man at that threshold for me. I don’t suppose I’d be capable to cross on him previous No. 4.”
So relying on who the Blackhawks draft, Davidson’s plan probably modifications. If it is Fantilli, Davidson would possibly begin constructing round him in an analogous manner as he would Bedard. That means bringing in some higher offensive gamers to play with Fantilli. If it is Carlsson, the Blackhawks might have to attend one other yr for his arrival. If Michkov is the finest participant accessible, properly, Davidson goes to should get Danny Wirtz’s blessing to draft somebody who won’t be in Chicago for numerous years. That could possibly be a tough dialog. The Blackhawks want somebody to market round as properly.
Something Davidson did appear to understand from when he was employed was that he wanted to draft some main expertise on this three-year window. He started that course of by deciding on three first-rounders and two second-rounders in 2022. He has two extra first-rounders and two extra second-rounders in every of the subsequent two drafts. That quantity may develop relying on what occurs at the commerce deadline. Davidson definitely has sufficient excessive draft picks with no less than seven first-rounders and 6 second-rounders in that three-year span to the place you’d suppose the Blackhawks would begin progressing if he hits on sufficient gamers.
Aside from depth of expertise, although, Davidson understands he requires some superstars. He hopes 2022 No. 7 choose Kevin Korchinski is his future No. 1 defender. If Davidson cannot draft Bedard, he can nonetheless accept a future No. 1 middle in Fantilli or Carlsson or top-line winger in Michkov, however he’ll nonetheless want extra, and that would are available the type of one other top-five draft choose in 2024.
The Blackhawks are conscious as a company of what they’re placing their followers by this season. Fans have come out to the United Center greater than anticipated, however the Blackhawks don’t need to check that loyalty an excessive amount of and want to begin turning the nook on the rebuild before later. The actuality is subsequent season could possibly be simply as unhealthy. The Blackhawks will probably be with out Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and would possibly must get financially artistic simply to get to the cap ground. The Blackhawks may need a couple of extra of their promising prospects, probably Korchinski and Lukas Reichel, on their NHL roster, however they nonetheless will not be constructed to win. Davidson in all probability is not pursuing main free brokers, doubtlessly even Alex DeBrincat, till the following summer time.
If you are questioning about the 2024 draft, Chicago Steel ahead Macklin Celebrini and US National Team Development Program ahead Cole Eiserman are two of the early favorites.
“Celebrini, it is clearly early however he matches extra into the Fantilli/Michkov stage than the Bedard one clearly,” Wheeler mentioned.
Absolutely stunning https://t.co/oVrqpJ4USy pic.twitter.com/Bv49wOrWi1
— Chicago Steel (@ChicagoSteel) January 15, 2023
Davidson will need to begin prioritizing getting a few of his personal prospects into the NHL over the subsequent few seasons. Korchinski and Reichel are the most notable ones, however Alex Vlasic also needs to be prepared subsequent season, too. Cole Guttman may make a push from Rockford as properly. Ethan Del Mastro, Wyatt Kaiser, Nolan Allan and Colton Dach are amongst the gamers anticipated to show professional subsequent season. Frank Nazar, one other 2022 first-round choose, might return to Michigan for one more season attributable to his harm as a freshman, however he is one other one to regulate.
Davidson can have loads of transferring elements to handle over the subsequent six months. That will start with the commerce deadline and Kane and Toews’ futures. The draft lottery will comply with and Davidson will study if he’ll both have the simple activity of drafting Bedard come June or should plan for another person. The Blackhawks’ draft placement will then decide what route Davidson takes in free company and the offseason and so forth.
In different phrases, there is not precisely one plan if the Blackhawks don’t land Bedard. Of course, this may all clearly be a lot less complicated if the Blackhawks gained the lottery and drafted him. If not, the Blackhawks are going to should be agile and alter their technique. There are different paths to success with out Bedard. They’re simply extra difficult.
(Top photograph of Connor Bedard: Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images)