Chicago Blackhawks 2019 Draft Outlook – Forwards

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ST. PAUL, MN - SEPTEMBER 19: Team Langenbrunner forward Alex Turcotte (19) skates with the puck during the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game between Team Leopold and Team Langenbrunner on September 19, 2018 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN. Team Leopold defeated Team Langenbrunner 6-4.(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Chicago Blackhawks 2019 Draft Outlook – Forwards will cover the top prospects at forward that may be available when the team drafts in the first two rounds. The Blackhawks have the third overall pick in the first round and the 12th pick in the second round. The team does not have a pick in the third round which makes their first two picks all that more important. Today we look at potential wingers or centres available in the NHL Draft in rounds one and two.

Blackhawks 2019 Draft Outlook – Forwards

In our initial piece Chicago Blackhawks 2019 Draft Outlook we reviewed the top five prospects available based on Last Word’s own Ben Kerr. The Blackhawks drafting at third overall have three fantastic options available in the top five prospects:

In our piece, we went with Bowen Byram as the Blackhawks pick at third overall. Byram’s talents at defence have him nearly NHL ready. He is definitely the top defence prospect in this year’s draft and will make an impact in the very near future. Based on general manager Stan Bowman’s past defence picks 2010-15 he needs Byram to shine immediately. Bowman’s more recent drafts on defence in 2017-18 are still a bit away from playing in the NHL. Henri Jokiharju, Adam Boqvist, and Nicolas Beaudin will all challenge for a spot on the 2019-20 roster but still, need some added size and muscle to be really effective on defence.

2019 Draft Outlook – Round One

Despite Bowen Byram being our Blackhawks pick at number three we cannot ignore the talented forwards available in the first round. NHL Draft Day has always been unpredictable in Chicago so here we go. We will highlight the top first round forwards as ranked by Ben Kerr on the Last Word On Hockey’s NHL Draft Page. Be sure to click on the player’s name for Ben’s full profile and also a highlight video link.

At Number Three – Vasili Podkolzin 

“In terms of talent, there is little to question about Vasili Podkolzin. The powerful winger impressed on the international and domestic scenes. Podkolzin is close to being NHL ready but as mentioned above, whatever team drafts him will need to have patience due to his KHL situation (two more years on his contract with SKA St. Petersburg). He could be a first line winger in the NHL, using both skill and power to put up points. While this is by no means a talent comparison, his game and style are reminiscent of Rick Nash.”

Podkolzin is the wild card in this year’s draft. His talent in incredible and he could start in the NHL next season. The Blackhawks could certainly use another talented winger to boost their secondary scoring. Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, and Jonathan Toews all had career seasons last year. The talented trio scored 120 goals combined which represents roughly 45% of the team’s goals and also indicates a definite need for more secondary scoring.

The only downside to Podkolzin is his willingness to ignore the potentially big payday in the KHL and come play in the NHL. Any team looking to draft the Russian winger will have to roll the dice with him and hope he signs. The Blackhawks do not need another Kevin Hayes situation on their hands. Their pick at number three will have to be a winner as Bowman cannot have another miss with his top pick.

At Number Five – Alex Turcotte

“Turcotte’s non-stop motor and offensive skills make him a prospect who can play in any situation and fill any role. He may need some time before he is NHL ready but will get plenty of time to bulk up while playing in the NCAA. With a few small improvements, Turcotte could become a number one centre in time. Even if he never reaches that ceiling and becomes an effective two-way second line centre, he will still be a coach’s favourite due to his defensive game and relentless energy. His game is reminiscent of Ryan O’Reilly, but this is a style comparison and not one based on skill or ability.”

Alex Turcotte may be the safest bet at forward for the Blackhawks. This kid has what it takes to be a star in the NHL very soon. If Bowman decides to draft a forward instead of Byram this kid is the best option. Watching his highlight video shows his scoring and passing ability are top notch. His on-ice vision is tremendous and his slick passing brings to mind thoughts of him playing on a line with either Kane or DeBrincat. Turcotte is also a local boy from Illinois and would have the chance to be the Blackhawks star centre of the future and a fan favourite.

At Number Six – Dylan Cozens

“Cozens may never challenge for a scoring title, but he will still be able to score enough to be a first line centre. Add in his strong defensive game, and the potential to grow into a Selke calibre centre and he could be a franchise-changing force up the middle. While he has also played the wing in junior (mainly his rookie year), his skating, vision and hockey IQ all suggest his future is at centre. In terms of playing style, he is reminiscent of Ryan Kesler, though this is not a skill-level comparison.”

Cozens is another interesting top prospect in the upcoming draft. At 6’3″ 185 pounds Cozens has the potential to be a big centre in the NHL once he fills out. Currently, the only centre with size on the Blackhawks is Artem Anisimov at 6’4″. Anisimov also has only two years left on his contract which could open the door for Cozens.

Cozens is a consistent goal scorer and also defensively responsible in his own end. His willingness to get to the dirty areas of the ice would also be very welcome on the Blackhawks who often lack physicality. Whether the Blackhawks want to move down to Cozens and pass on Byram or Turcotte is the only question.

2019 Draft Outlook – Round Two

The Blackhawks have the 12th pick in the second round which places them at 43rd overall. We are going to list the forward prospects as ranked by Last Word’s Ben Kerr from number 40 through 45. The draft selection after a team’s first pick can be unpredictable as shown by the Blackhawks in 2018. They used their second pick in the first round to draft Nicolas Beaudin at #27 overall. Beaudin was ranked at #47 by Last Word and #43 by thehockeynews.com which shows how volatile NHL Draft predictions can be.

We are going to list the prospects with a brief comment from Ben’s profile below. Be sure to click on their names for Ben’s full profile and their video highlight link. A summary will follow the prospects below:

At Number Forty – Brayden Tracey Left Wing

“Tracey is a bit of a boom or bust prospect. If he develops properly, he could become a top-six forward in the NHL. However, he still needs real work on his defensive game and on playing against physical opponents. His game is similar to Jason Pominville, however, this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill and ability.”

At Number Forty One – Jamieson Rees Centre

“With his skating ability and work ethic, Rees is a good bet to make the NHL. He will be a favourite of his coaches and should be regularly trusted in all situations. The question seems to be around how much his offensive game will develop, and how it will translate with his lack of size and lack of shooting ability. Rees’ game is similar to Robby Fabbri, but this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill or ability.”

At Number Forty Four – Nathan Legare  Right Wing

“Legare could become a top-six forward if he can continue to develop and reaches his ceiling. His skating will need to improve so he can keep up with the play at the NHL level. However, Legare has the size, smarts, and shot to score goals. If he can improve his footwork, his team could end up with a draft day steal. Legare’s game is similar to Anders Lee. However, this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on his skill or ability.”

At Number Forty Five – Patrik Puistola Left Wing

“Patrik Puistola could develop into a scoring winger at the next level. Offensively he has nearly all the tools necessary to succeed. However, he will need real work on his defensive game in order to avoid being a liability on the ice. In terms of style, Puistola resembles Phil Kessel. However, this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill or ability.”

2019 Draft Outlook – Rounds One & Two

The Blackhawks currently have 9 forwards signed for next season. Brendan Perlini and David Kampf are currently restricted free agents and Marcus Kruger and Chris Kunitz are unrestricted free agents. There are also five players becoming restricted free agents after the 2019-20 season: Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kahun, John Hayden, and the two big ones Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat.

The Blackhawks would be wise to focus on a forward with the second draft pick and possibly their first pick too. Of the four prospects, we listed for the second round Rees and Legare appear to be the best fits for the Blackhawks. Legare at 6′ 201 pounds has the size advantage over Rees at 5’11” 172 pounds but Rees doesn’t let his size keep him from getting into the middle of the action. Meanwhile, Legare is a natural scorer with size and willingness to use it on the ice. His potential appears to be better than Rees provided he improve his skating.

The Last Word on the Blackhawks 2019 Draft Outlook

Our Chicago Blackhawks 2019 Draft Outlook on forwards covered the prospects that may be available for the Blackhawks in rounds one and two. The Blackhawks have been a very active team on NHL Draft Day with Stan Bowman at the helm. It will not be surprising if the team swings a trade before the draft in the first or second round. This Chicago Blackhawks 2019 draft is however extremely important to the team after missing the playoffs the last two seasons. All eyes will be on Bowman as he tries to bring the storied franchise back into playoff relevance again.

Last Word will continue our Chicago Blackhawks Draft series over the next few weeks covering goaltenders and defence prospects that may be available to the team. We will also cover the Blackhawks restricted free agents and unrestricted free agents the team may target on July 1st. It is going to be a busy off-season for the Blackhawks and Last Word on Hockey will be there to cover it for you.

Part One – Chicago Blackhawks 2019 Draft Outlook

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