Grading the Blackhawks Draft Class

We needed a day to let the dust and emotions settle from a chaotic weekend for the Blackhawks organization to come back and consider everything that went down around the 2021 NHL Draft and the trade to bring in Seth Jones.

The Blackhawks still have a glaring need on the left side of their blue line. They still have cap space and pieces to trade, so the NHL roster isn’t set — yet. We’ll come back to some thoughts on the NHL roster once free agency opens later this week.

For now, let’s think about what the Hawks got done at the draft.

Blackhawks 2021 NHL Draft Grade: C

Yes, we’re giving them a C for the draft as a whole. So let’s get that out of the way early.

But that doesn’t mean fans should be (more) angry.

If you read the comments here and on social media, one issue Blackhawks fans have had for years is the perceived lack of size in the organization. After this year’s draft class, that shouldn’t be a problem. Consider the size of their first four picks:

Nolan Allan – 6-2, 195
Colton Dach – 6-4, 196
Taige Harding – 6-6, 235
Ethan Del Mastro – 6-4, 210

Three of those four players is a defenseman. They join a group of defenseman with size already in the organization that includes Alec Regula (6-4, 210), Isaak Phillips (6-2, 195) and Alex Vlasic (6-6, 200). So size isn’t something we should be complaining about as much in the near future.

Allan has the potential to be a nice defenseman. That pick felt like a significant reach but, with COVID disrupting leagues all over the world, scouting was really up to each organization. Clearly the Blackhawks saw something in allan they liked enough to consider him a first round-caliber player.

And, obviously, Dach has the family ties to the Blackhawks that made it a sentimental pick but he also has the skill and size to make an NHL impact in his future. He isn’t Kirby, but a couple years of work could make him into a solid contributor.

So why did we give the Hawks a C?

There are a couple factors, one is specific to the Blackhawks and one that is not.

The 2021 NHL Draft class as a whole didn’t have many really good skaters. The league is getting faster, so the players the Blackhawks selected will need to work on speed as a group if they want to become NHL players. The top four picks we mentioned above will all need to get faster to make it to the NHL.

The issue we have with the Blackhawks specifically is the players they selected.

Chicago has invested heavily in defense in recent drafts and trades. The NHL blue line is young already; Wyatt Kalynuk (24), Caleb Jones (24), Riley Stillman (23), Ian Mitchell (22) and Nicolas Beaudin (21) are all potential pieces on the NHL roster in the coming year. Seth Jones (26) is still relatively young and just became the centerpiece of the blue line.

The Hawks don’t need more defensemen. They need the right defensemen. And we’re not sold that Allan, Hardin and Del Mastro are ever going to be the “right” guys the organization needs.

All three of the defenseman picked in the first four selections are left-handed shots. So are Regula and Phillips (already signed). As is Vlasic (still in college). So left-handed shooting defensemen with size wasn’t a significant need on paper. Yet the Blackhawks still went heavy with those pieces.

Trading back in the first round as part of the Jones deal limited the options the Blackhawks had available; certainly the players we profiled as potential picks at 12 weren’t likely to be on the table. Yet Aatu Räty and Matthew Knies were still available for the Hawks at 32. As was center Francesco Pinelli. All three of those players would have added to the organization’s forward depth, which is a more significant need at this point than more blue line bodies.

Moving back into the third round to select Harding was a big gamble. By most accounts, next year’s draft is deeper than this year’s class. Yet the Hawks moved one of their third-round picks next year to move back into the third this year to select an overage defenseman with big size (Zadorov-like) but, again, with skating issues to overcome. There’s plenty of reason to believe he could have been the Hawks’ fourth round selection and Chicago could have kept next year’s draft capital.

This draft class has potential. But it also has flaws. And lacks a wow factor. The Dach story is nice and we do think Colton has a chance to be a nice player in the NHL, but the Blackhawks going a heavy on the back end as they did without a “steal” feels like Chicago reached on every pick except Dach.

The Hawks get a C because their 2021 draft class is underwhelming. But time will tell if their scouts knew more than others about the players they targeted with their picks.

14 thoughts on “Grading the Blackhawks Draft Class

  • July 26, 2021 at 11:20 am
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    Nailed it!! Yes he got size and we can’t complain about that but will they ever amount to anything?? Who knows. Also rumor is that StanBo if he can’t give away Big Z, will probably not even offer him a qualifying offer which allows Big Z to be a Free Agent. That means he traded away Saad for somebody that they never used correctly, admonished him for doing what he does best and now who will look out for our players because it sure the heck it won’t be Jones. Now for sure we will be the softest team in the league and people wonder why teams will still just laugh at us!!! Can’t make this stuff up but way to go StanBo!!!!

  • July 26, 2021 at 11:43 am
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    I’m wondering if the thought here is that defenseman have more trade value than wingers (not centers)? I also figure Bowman wants as many “bullets” in the gun to hope that a few of these dmen exceed expectations and grow into a 2,3, or 4 guy. Will be interesting to watch the growth and development of this next batch.

  • July 26, 2021 at 1:11 pm
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    @tab..One small correction..Regula is a right handed defenseman and after Jones, Murphy, and Mitchell, is probably next up on the depth chart for our right handed dmen..Moberg would be next..

  • July 26, 2021 at 1:32 pm
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    @chris ahearn..it’s an astute observation and it’s one that I share..when Bowman and Kelly talk about taking the best player on their board, I don’t think that in every instance they’re talking about taking the best player on their board that can benefit a future Hawks team..I think in some instances, they’re selecting the players that they feel will have value if they want to move them down the line for other assets. A true, all situations, number 1 center is, in my opinion, the most difficult position to fill in hockey..however, right behind a number 1 center are blueliners..and not necessarily blueliners that have to emerge as a number 1..I’m talking about any blueliner who can play in a top four role..we’ve seen Bowman himself spend significantly in free agency to try and patch up our own blueline with free agent signings(DeHaan and Maatta are two of the more recent examples)..an effective blueliner who can play 17-18 minutes a night has a lot of value..so besides the philosophical shift towards adding size to our roster over the last few years(I have a long comment detailing those players that have been added on another thread), I think Stan is also trying to accumulate a treasure chest of assets that will have value across the league. If a handful develop into blueliners that can play for the Hawks, then that’s the best case scenario and I don’t think our scouts are ignoring that when drafting these prospects. But if they don’t(and the odds are that the majority won’t since it’s so difficult to develop blueliners to begin with), then their size, strength, and the position they play will have value- and they can be packaged in trades to bring in new players. For two examples, look at Brett Pesce in Carolina and Erik Cernak in Tampa. Neither is a top pair defenseman..but they both play in the top four, they’re both massive, and they’re difficult to play against. Those types of players are always in demand. So I think this draft in particular, and parts of the last two, were strategic on our part as well as developmental.

  • July 26, 2021 at 2:14 pm
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    Tab, excellent analysis. Sadly, I think a grade of “C” is being charitable.

    Hammer, as others have posted, Bowman lost the Saad trade three times.

    Which scenario would have made the most sense?:

    1. Jones with a $9.5M x 8 yr AAV? Or,
    2. Keep Boqvist, draft Wallstedt at #12, Allan at #44, and keep next year’s 1st round pick in a deep draft.

    My take: Acquisition of Jones doesn’t make us more than a fringe playoff team with an aging Kane and uncertain Toews. We do not have a 1-A goalie in the system and are back in cap hell.

    Columbus will make a deep playoff run before we will, thank you very much.

    What first-pairing D or starting G has Bowman developed in twelve years? With exception of the last two years, what happened to our 1st round picks?

    Look at the stacked prospect pools: LA, COL, NYR, CAR, DET, MTL, NJ, ANA, and (fast-rising MIN). Blackhawks pool was ranked in the bottom third before the draft. Likely to be near the bottom afterwards.

    Give Stan another promotion!

  • July 26, 2021 at 3:04 pm
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    @originalsixhockey..I do agree that Stan’s asset management has left a lot to be desired, especially as it relates to the Saad trades(I could post 1500 words about where he went wrong in each of those trades but I don’t feel like typing a small novel lol) but I will say this..1. We’re not in cap hell..especially not this year..during the next offseason, there will be some decisions to make and then the very next season Toews’ and Kane’s contracts end..so there aren’t any major cap issues..and 2. All of those stacked prospect pools indicate that those teams also haven’t won anything in the cap era..there’s a pretty positive correlation between extended periods of losing and the accumulation of higher end prospects through the draft..even LA wasn’t able to sustain their roster long enough to make another cup run, let alone win a third one like the Hawks..so which would you rather have, LA’s prospects or a third cup? The answer is easy in my opinion. The only area LA beat the Hawks to was playing mediocre sooner, which allowed them to start accumulating assets through the draft sooner..and if you don’t like the Seth Jones contract, wait till you see the Doughty contract in a year..it will soon be the worst contract in all of hockey..LA isn’t as close to contending as their prospect pool may lead one to believe..

  • July 26, 2021 at 3:21 pm
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    Looks like Evgeni Svechnikov wasn’t provided a QO by the Red Wings..not that we need any more forwards, but on a cheap, one year deal, is he worth exploring? He certainly has the size and frame the Hawks seem to be interested in adding and Stan loves former first round reclamation projects..he may be having lunch with Evgeni t pitch him right now lol..Tab, others, what do we think? Seems like the type of player who has gone through a ton of injuries and now that he’s healthy, just needs a new locker room and atmosphere to try and get back on track..just brain storming as I type..

  • July 26, 2021 at 4:12 pm
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    Z Hagel and Nylander given QOs

    Not Suter Gaudette Kampf or Dickinson

    The unqualified become UFA on Wednesday if not resigned by then

    Is anyone else surprised that Suter and Kampf didn’t get qualified- I think the same happened to Kampf last year but he still signed so maybe that’s the play with all or some of those – Dickinson won’t be signed the others maybe maybe not

  • July 26, 2021 at 4:45 pm
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    Slayer, I agree that I would rather have a third cup, but are you forgetting this happened six years ago? And now the Hawks prospect pool is near the bottom?

    To become a contender they need to sign more quality veterans, especially goalie. The huge long-term Jones contract limits other necessary signings. This is what I mean by cap hell. Stan needs to go shopping in Europe/Russia looking for another Breadman.

  • July 26, 2021 at 6:07 pm
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    Jones was the showcase of this draft, the rest of the picks seemed designed to bolster the system. Agree, i like Allan’s potential to ma6be be a top 4 guy someday, and who knows Colton Dach maybe make a nice power forward playing alongside his brother in a cou9le of years. The rest to me add more numbers to the system to increase chances of finding a diamond in the rough in a few years.

  • July 27, 2021 at 8:09 am
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    Bowman saw Nolan Allan watching him on the television. Who needs a scouting department? Once again we are bought down to the Bowman whipping post.

  • July 27, 2021 at 11:15 am
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    Qualified GMs have a long term strategy on how to either rebuild and or maintain a team. Stan does not.

    Stan is a knee jerk reaction GM, and does not anticipate the team’s needs before they becomes a critical weakness. Hawks are too small so draft big guys earlier than projected. No one to replace Seabs and Kieth so lets piss away 5 of 6 top draft picks for 3 years and still sign a over priced free agent. No one lined up to replace Crow in goal, lets pick up expensive free agent Fleury who was replace by Lehner which we could have retained at less cost. Toews is sick, lets draft a center.

    All of Stan’s actions are reactionary. Not to mention he is always burns through more cap space, prospects and draft picks fixing his mistakes. The SB show has to end.

  • July 27, 2021 at 12:02 pm
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