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Draft Preview: Chicago Blackhawks – Bypassing the rebuild?

Re-energized veterans and injection of skilled youth bridges past and future.

The Blackhawks finished one point out of the Central Division basement, but there’s a silver lining. The rebuild is ahead of schedule. A trade brought Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini to town, injecting the team with youth. Along with nifty Alex DeBrincat, they’ve created another wave of scorers behind Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. With exciting first-round defensemen Henri Jokiharju, Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin in the pipeline, the Hawks could rise as quickly as their empire fell.

IMMEDIATE NEEDS: Chicago finished second-last in goals against and had the worst penalty kill. If the kids aren’t ready, the Hawks could pursue veteran upgrades for the blueline. Cam Ward is a UFA, so the team needs to find a No. 2 goalie. That’s an important job in Chicago with starter Corey Crawford’s health so shaky.

LONG-TERM NEEDS: After picking D-men with their three first-round picks in the past two drafts, it’s time to snag an impact forward, which they can do after winning the No. 3 pick. Kane and Toews had phenomenal 2018-19 numbers but will decline soon. A dominant center to replace Toews is a priority. Chicago has chosen just two goalies over its past four drafts and has no netminder among its top 10 prospects.

CAP SITUATION: For the first time in about a decade, GM Stan Bowman faces no major salary pickle. Once the cap increases to the expected $83 million, he’ll have more than $20 million to work with, with no big-time re-signings to worry about. DeBrincat and Strome are eligible to ink extensions on July 1, but those wouldn’t kick in until 2020-21.

IN THE SYSTEM 2019-20: Jokiharju played 38 NHL games, often paired with Duncan Keith, and will be a lineup fixture. Dazzling puck-mover Boqvist has the talent to jump from OHL London to the NHL. Chicago’s blueline will look very different next season.

DID YOU KNOW: Tim Soderlund was suspended three games in Sweden for a flying knee to the head of an opposing team’s goalie. Not what you’d expect from a 5-foot-7, 155-pound winger.

LATE-ROUND GEMS:
(2000-2018 drafts)
Dustin Byfuglien, 245th, ’03
Niklas Hjalmarsson, 108th, ’05
Craig Anderson, 73rd, ’01
Andrew Shaw, 139th, ’11
James Wisniewski, 156th, ’02
Troy Brouwer, 214th, ’04
Marcus Kruger, 149th, ’09
Adam Burish, 282nd, ’02
Joakim Nordstrom, 90th, ’10
John Hayden, 74th, ’13

PICKS AFTER SECOND ROUND: 136
100+ NHL GAMES: 18
PERCENT SUCCESS: 13.2%
NHL RANK: 14th

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