Chicago, IL — Never have I been more ready for the 2017 NHL entry draft than I am this year. I guess it is because the Blackhawks went out of the playoffs early and I thought they would have a long run in the playoffs.
I feel like I’ve been watching the HBO Game of Thrones fire-ice melt until the premiere date was revealed. Yes it has been that excruciating or at least it feels that way.
Maybe because this year it is being held right here in Chicago from June 23-24 at the United Center and it is just anticipation that has me just wanting to get to the draft.
The consensus by all the so called experts is that this is not a very good draft year but that doesn’t mean that there still are not good players that can help teams in the future.
Let us not forget too this is a life changing day for some of these young men and their families and for that I always find the drafts very exciting. I like to see one’s hard work pay off and dreams fulfilled. It also could be a potentially team changing day as well.
Now we all know that the Blackhawks are drafting low due to their being the Central Division leaders so their draft position will most likely be 26th and in a weaker draft they will not be getting team changing players like Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.
While it would be great to get those players that will not be happening but then again they may still get a gem. Remember no one thought Brandon Saad would fall to the second round or that Alex DeBrincat would be left where the Hawks drafted in the second round either.
Realistically I will just point out some of the forwards that could be available. I don’t think this is a particularly good draft for defenseman which is why I’m focusing on forwards and goalies I personally would not take in the first round unless it was the second coming of Patrick Roy.
Now depending on who you read or see there is a variety of opinions on who should and will be left by the 26th spot the Hawks are in. I’ll be looking at who could be left and what they bring to the table.
It is really hard to project what other teams boards look like as well that will be drafting ahead of the Hawks. You see why Stan Bowman and his staff have a difficult but thrilling job.
These players are the most likely to be selected at the 26th slot first round by the Blackhawks if they don’t pull off some trade or move up in the draft. Now I have to admit I have not seen them play. I am just going off of scouting reports and projections.
Also nothing can project heart and determination or spot character flaws like interviews and the like.
Nikita Popugaev – Normally plays LW for the WHL’s Prince George Cougars. Nikita is from Russia he came over in 2015 with his big frame at 6′ 5″ and his knack of scoring goals. The scouting reports on him are that he has great skating abilities to go along with his size and natural scoring abilities. His downside is he is one dimensional player and not that physical for his size.
He is projected to become a first line winger which sounds like someone the Hawks could use now. The problem is the Hawks need more versatile players that can play in all types of situations and we all know if you can’t play in your own zone that will not endear you to Coach Quenneville. Still he has been labeled as an “offensive game changer” by his current GM and those don’t came along everyday.
Matthew Strome – yes from that Strome hockey family. Another LW with good size at 6’3″ who is projected to late first round to early second round. Strome’s strengths are his vision, size and physicality. The scouting reports are that his finish is excellent but that his skating could use some work. He is somewhat of a toss up.
He is hard to project where he will be top six or bottom six forward. With the NHL going more to a speed and skating type game if you can not transition off the rush quickly that is a huge hinderance in today’s game at forward. Still skating can improve with work it all depends on Strome.
Kole Lind – RW currently with the Kelowna Rockets. He is 6’1″ that is projected to go mid to late first round to early second. His strengths are his hockey IQ, passing abilities and good vision. He could bulk up a bit but that will come in time. Also he needs to work on his play away from the puck and like all young players shooting more.
He is projected to be a 2nd, 3rd line winger with good play making abilities.
if the Blackhawks are lucky these next few players will fall to them for different reasons.
Nick Suzuki – Center Owen Sound Attack. He is 5″11″. He is ranked by some in mid first and others late first. If he is still availiable to Hawks they would get a steal as Suzuki is skilled with great hands and strong hockey IQ. He is also a speedy skater and hard worker. He has projected by some to be a #1 center as he also is tireless. He can play both sides of the puck. I’ll be shocked if he is still here at Hawks position.
What he lacks in size and strength may let him slid to where the Hawks are positioned in the draft. He also needs to work on puck protection and board work. Size has never scared the Blackhawks so if he is left he might be a steal for them.
Klim Kostin – RW with Dynamo Moscow. Kostin has been compared to Evgeni Malkin but could fall down to lower first round due to a shoulder injury sustained this year and his being Russian he may not want to play in North America which is why he may slid and is considered a risk.
Still he has it all great skating, size, great hands and for the corsi lovers he is a possession player. His weakness is his inconsistency and he sometimes disappears in games. He is ranked as #1 European skater.
It will be interesting to see where Stan Bowman and company have these prospects ranked and who they do select. No matter who is selected here is wishing all the prospects good luck on their NHL hopefully journeys.