It appears either Kyle Turris, Patrick Kane or James vanRiemsdyk, the top three ranked North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, will slip on a Blackhawks sweater June 22 in Columbus, Ohio.
“Those are the three guys we’re looking at,” Hawks GM Dale Tallon told The Canadian Press in a phone interview Wednesday.
The three forwards were among the six prospects on display at a media luncheon Wednesday before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final. And all three made it clear they’d love to be Chicago’s man.
“It would be unbelievable,” said Turris. “I don’t know if I can put into words what a feeling that would be. But all these guys here have a chance to go first overall.”
Kane, who some believe may currently have the inside track to go first, also welcomes the idea of going to Chicago.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go first overall,” said Kane. “Just to be considered is a huge honour.”
New Jersey native vanRiemsdyk took a deep breath before pondering the thought of going No. 1.
“Chicago is a great city,” he said. “It’s an Original Six franchise. It would be huge thrill to play for the Blackhawks.”
Philadelphia has the second overall pick, followed by Phoenix, Los Angeles, Washington and Edmonton.
Defenceman Keaton Ellerby of the Kamloops Blazers, the No. 4-rated prospect by Central Scouting, and blue-liner Karl Alzner of the Calgary Hitmen, the No. 5-rated skater, were also at the luncheon Wednesday along with Knights winger Sam Gagner, the No. 6-rated prospect.
The top European skater is winger Alexei Cherepanov of the Omsk club. He broke Pavel Bure’s 1988-89 Russian league rookie record with 18 goals this season. But because Russia once again opted out of the NHL’s player transfer agreement with the IIHF, his stock may fall in the draft as teams won’t want to take a player they can’t bring to North America.
“Skill-wise he’s top five but without the agreement, who knows?,” said Tallon. “With the money being thrown around over there, that might scare people.”
The six-foot-one, 170-pound Turris led the B.C. Hockey League with 66 goals and was second in points with 121 while starring for the Burnaby Express. He also led all playoff scorers with 26 points and was the Canadian Junior A player of the year.
The 17-year-old from New Westminster, B.C., who says he’ll play at the University of Wisconsin next season, is the first junior A player ever to top the Central Scouting rankings.
“He’s got great hands, he’s got quickness, he sees the ice really well,” Tallon said of Turris. “He makes these great passes. Size and strength are the issues for him right now. But overall, he’s got a deceptive shot, really good shot from the point. He’s got grit, too, for his size. A very smart player.”
Turris wears No. 19 because after his hero Steve Yzerman and has tried to pattern his game after the former great Red Wing. He’s not daunted by Chicago’s lack of success in recent years.
“They’re a team on the rise,” he said. “Jonathan Toews is coming in next season and they’ve got other great prospects. Things are looking up in Chicago.”
Kane, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., is a little on the small side at 5-9 and 160 pounds, but tremendously skilled.
“He’s got great hands, great eyes, and makes the players around him better,” said Tallon. “He can really pass. He can also shoot and score.”
Kane took home the OHL and CHL scoring titles with 145 points (62-83) as a rookie with the London Knights this season. He, too, considers Chicago a great fit despite its struggles in recent seasons.
“They’ve got some great prospects coming up,” said Kane, listing a number of them. “They’re going to be a Cup contender in 4-5 years. It would be great to be part of that.”
VanRiemsdyk, a power winger, played with the U.S. National Development Team this season, collecting 63 points (33-30) in 42 games while also teaming up with Kane to win bronze at the world junior championship. The native of Middletown, N.J., is 6-3 and 200 pounds.
“He’s a big kid, he’s going to be a good pro,” said Tallon. “He can skate, he’s got size, he’s got skill. He goes to the net. And it seems like he likes the heat, when the game’s on the line he plays quite well.”
The Hawks have already met with all three prospects and plan to do so again this week. Tallon says he expects to make a decision next week.
In the meantime, other NHL clubs may try to pry away the first overall pick.
“There’s been a few calls, nothing major yet,” said Tallon. “I think after the Cup final is over it’ll start to heat up over the next couple of weeks. It’s going to have to be a hell of an offer. It’s going to be something that really makes us better quickly.”