Chicago Blackhawks 2019 Draft Outlook – Defence

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 30: Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (50) and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Carl Dahlstrom (63) during the NHL regular season hockey game against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, March 30, 2019 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Chicago Blackhawks 2019 Draft Outlook – Defence

 

Chicago Blackhawks 2019 Draft Outlook – Defence is the last article in our 2019 Draft Outlook series prior to the NHL Draft on June 21st. The Blackhawks have the third overall pick and also the 43rd overall pick in the upcoming NHL Draft. In this article, we are going to look at the defence prospects that may be available in those two draft positions. The focus is on these two picks because the Blackhawks do not have a third round pick. They do have two picks in the fourth round but at that point in the draft and beyond the defence prospects are more of a gamble.

We will look at the current defence corps and the events that led to their recent decline. We will then provide the defence prospects as ranked by Last Word’s Ben Kerr. Each prospect will have a brief profile but be sure to click on their name for Ben’s full profile and a video highlight link.

Blackhawks 2019 Draft Outlook – Defence

The defence has been an issue for the Blackhawks for several seasons. Their defence corps has gradually lost its effectiveness and reliability since their last Stanley Cup in 2015. This is due in part to their annual salary cap issues. Those issues caused general manager Stan Bowman to make trades that have left the defence in a bad state. The expansion draft involving the Vegas Golden Knights also cost them a solid defenceman in Trevor van Riemsdyk.

Blackhawks Defence Drafts 2010-15

The biggest reason for the decline in defence is the lack of success Bowman has had in drafting defence prospects. He took over the franchise as general manager in 2009. His next six drafts were drafts that can be called less than spectacular when it comes to defence prospects. The drafts from 2010-15 involve six drafts that should have stocked the team with talent that would hopefully be producing for the team after 3-5 years in the system. Unfortunately, Bowman’s draft picks on defence resulted in minimal impact on the team when it needed it most.

Here are the sad numbers – 17 defence prospects drafted 2010-2015 and only Carl Dahlstrom is contributing. You read that right, 17 defence prospects drafted and Carl Dahlstrom is the only Bowman 2010-15 draft pick currently playing for the Blackhawks.

After being drafted in 2013 Dahlstrom began playing for the team in the 2018-19 season. His contributions in 38 games last season as a bottom pair defenceman who was rotated in and out of the lineup were six assists. Meanwhile, the only other 2010-15 defence pick by Bowman to make the NHL is Stephen Johns. He was traded to the Dallas Stars in a cap move and unfortunately spent last season on injured reserve. The lack of success during these crucial years while winning three Stanley Cups resulted in a significant impact on the current defence corps.

Blackhawks Defence Drafts 2016-18

The more recent drafts,  2016 through the present, brought in some highly touted defence prospects. Unfortunately, the time it normally takes to develop as a defenceman in the NHL is generally 3-5 years. They need time to work on their game and physically prepare for the job. The picks from 2016 forward need some time before they are ready for physical Western Conference. Henri Jokiharju, Adam Boqvist, and Nicolas Beaudin have great mobility, offensive potential, however they still have to be able to defend well in order to play in the NHL.

In comparison look at the team that just won the 2019 Stanley Cup. The St. Louis Blues defence used no defencemen under 6′ tall, and only one of them was under 200 pounds. They are big, mobile, and have grit. The Blackhawks current defence corps is also 6′ or bigger, has some mobility, but has nowhere near the same grit as the Blues. The Blackhawks, however, have an opportunity to change the face of their defence with the third overall pick, which leads us to their defence prospects.

Chicago Blackhawks 2019 Draft Outlook – Round One

At Number Four – Bowen Bryam

Byram has the skills to be a number one defenseman in the NHL. However, he may not be ready next year as he still needs to add some muscle to his frame before he is ready for the pro game. It is also natural that defensemen take a little longer than forwards to be NHL ready. In terms of stylistic comparison, Byram’s game is reminiscent of Drew Doughty, however, this is not comparing skill level.

At Number Nine – Philip Broberg

Broberg will likely look to continue his growth in Sweden next year. He is at least a year or two away from the NHL. He could grow to become a top-pairing player at the NHL level, with the ability to play big minutes and on both the power play and penalty killing unit. Broberg’s skating ability will help him to take advantage and make an impact in the new NHL. In terms of stylistic comparison, his game is reminiscent of Mattias Ekholm but this is not a comparison based on skill or ability.

Round One Verdict

Byram is hands down the best defence prospect in this draft. He is a lock to be in the NHL in the very near future and should be Bowman’s pick at number three. Picking Bryam would lift the spirits of the Blackhawks faithful who long for better defence and a return to the playoffs for their favorite team.

Based on past Bowman drafts there can always be last-minute deal-making. There are several teams drooling over Byram and that may provide a trade offer the Blackhawks cannot refuse. Should they choose to move down Broberg is the next best defence prospect. The first round on NHL Draft night June 21st could be full of drama early on in the evening.

Blackhawk 2019 Draft Outlook – Round Two

In the second round, the Blackhawks have the 43rd pick overall. We are going to provide you with the defence prospects from numbers 38 through 50 as ranked by Last Word’s Ben Kerr. The uncertainty of draft night can see prospects be taken earlier or later than projected. Our list gives you five defence prospects that may be available when the Blackhawks pick at 43. Be sure to click on their names for Ben’s full profile and the highlight video link.

At Number Thirty Eight Mikko Kokkonen

Kokkonen does a lot of things well, both with and without the puck. However, he needs to improve his skating. He will have time to make those adjustments and could be ready in a couple of years. Kokkonen could become a top-four defender with plenty of power play opportunities if he reaches his ceiling. Kokkonen’s game is reminiscent of Erik Gustafsson but this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on talent or ability.

At Number Forty Two – Lassi Thomson

Thomson is good at defending against the rush. His strong skating ability helps him to keep forwards in front of him and maintain good gap control. However, he has some difficulties when defending plays in his own end. Thomson can get over aggressive looking for a big hit and get himself out of position. He can chase the puck a bit too much, not switching his coverage properly and this can leave his man open. He could also stand to be better at using his stick to cut down passing lanes.

At Number Forty Three – Marshall Warren

Warren uses his skating ability to play a stout defensive game. It is hard for attackers to beat him one-on-one. He does a good job of forcing forwards wide and away from the front of the net. Despite his lack of size, Warren is willing to throw hits, as well as battle in front of the net and in the corners. This is another area he can improve by bulking up. Warren’s ability to move the puck and get it out of his zone with quick transition helps to keep possession and avoid long periods of zone time.

At Number Forty Six – Vladislav Kolyachonok

Kolyachonok could develop into a top-four defender capable of playing in all situations and matching up against top lines. He could be three or four years away from the NHL, but if he develops to his ceiling, could be a valuable piece of an NHL team. Excellent skating, good size, strong work ethic and high hockey IQ all suggest that he could develop with proper coaching. In terms of style, Kolyachonok is similar to Mattias Ekholm, however, this is a style comparison only and not one based on skill or ability.

At Number Fifty – Kaedan Korczak

Korczak projects as a top-four defender who will play against the other team’s best players and kill penalties. A couple of more years in junior adding muscle to his frame and continuing to develop his offensive game would be very good for his development. If he can continue to grow that offensive game, to the point where he can bring some offence at the NHL level, he could be a huge steal for the team that drafts him. Korczak’s game is reminiscent of Josh Manson. This is a stylistic comparison only though and not one based on skill and ability.

Round Two Verdict

Of the five potential second round defence prospects Marshall Warren is the most interesting. He has an incredible shot and is great with the puck. Be sure to click on him and watch his video highlights. He has great vision and tenacity too. The fact that Ben compares him to the Blackhawks Duncan Keith is the ultimate complement. Keith came into the league undersized but with the heart of a lion. The Blackhawks could use another defenceman cut from the same cloth in the very near future.

Blackhawks 2019 Draft Outlook – Defence Wrap Up

Today we covered the defence prospects the Blackhawks may target. That said chances are that they will not draft two defence prospects back-to-back in rounds one and two. If the team picks Byram at third they will probably look at a forward with their next pick at 43 despite needing more depth at defence in the system. Regardless of which direction they go NHL Draft weekend will be very interesting. There is tremendous pressure on Bowman to get this number three pick right. The last two number three picks taken by the Blackhawks were Denis Savard and Jonathan Toews. If he fails to find an impact player of that caliber he may be given his ticket out of town.

Blackhawks 2019 Draft Outlook Series Concludes

Previously we covered the impact of a number three pick, and the prospects at forwards and goaltending. After the NHL Draft, we will 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.

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