The 2012 NHL Draft is coming up, and is the next major step in this summer’s evolution of the Chicago Blackhawks as an organization. Here’s a look at some players that might hear their name called by GM Stan Bowman when the Blackhawks make the 18th overall selection in Pittsburgh at the end of the month.
Brendan Guance, C
His bio reads a lot like last year’s top pick, Mark McNeill. He posted 68 points (25 goals, 43 assists) and 68 penalty minutes in 68 games last year and plays a strong, physical game at both ends of the ice. Gaunce’s contitioning is considered elite; he blew away the field, finishing first in nine physical categories Next Testing at the Top Prospects Game. He fits the profile of big, physical centers that have been consistently added to the organization since Bowman took over as GM.
Tom Wilson, RW
Wilson has been described as a true power forward who hits to leave an impression. He has dealt with a number of injuries, including a sprained MCL and a severed wrist tendon. In spite of those injuries, he posted nine goals and 18 assists with 141 penalty minutes in 29 games in the OHL last year. He’s the most physical forward in this year’s class.
Stefan Matteau, LW
Yes, if the name rings a bell it should; he’s the son of former Hawks’ forward Stephane. Like Wilson, he’s a strong, big power forward that brings muscle to the ice and is developing a power game. What makes him intriguing is that he has already committed to return to the QMJHL next year, buying the organization that drafts him another year before he would figure in the organizational plans. Scouts have compared him to his father, which isn’t a bad thing.
Brady Skjei, D
Skjei plays a strong two-way game, which is consistent with how the Blackhawks have drafted (and signed free agents) over the last couple years. He was arguably the best defenseman on the USA’s gold medal-winning U-18 World Championship team last year. His game hasn’t been pegged as offensive-minded or as a physical defenseman, which may open the door for some questions from NHL general managers. But he’s performed well at every level and has a high ceiling.
Ludvig Bystrom, D
Bystrom is a strong skater who handles the puck exceptionally well, and he has a healthy international resume already. He’s a fantastic passer who brings an ideal skillset to the ice to help on the powerplay. Not overwhelming physical, he will drop the gloves at times but plays a strong two-way game. He might be a bit of a reach at 18, but his skills fit with the Hawks recent additions on their blue line.
The Blackhawks have used three picks in the last two drafts on goalies: Kent Simpson (2nd round, 2010), Mac Carruth (7th round, 2010) and Johan Mattson (7th round, 2011). Simpson and Carruth recently signed entry-level contracts with the organization, and Carruth is coming off a strong season in the WHL. Whether or not they would use a first round pick on a netminder like Malcolm Subban or Andrei Vasilevski is a questionable move considering the recent signings, but both are strong players with potential to be first round selections.