Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman had just wrapped up the team’s selections at the NHL Draft on Saturday when he started talking about what was next on the agenda.
“It’s a very busy time. Really, up until the end of July it’s real busy,” Bowman said. “Our roster will start to take shape. There aren’t a ton of holes but there are some things we’re going to look to try and make headway on over the next 10 days to two weeks.”
The Blackhawks spent Saturday selecting nine players at the NHL draft. Bowman has long talked drafting and developing and the Blackhawks have to get back to that. In trying to win as much as they can now they’ve sacrificed a lot of youth, be it those who already proved themselves at this level or those who were on the cusp of doing so.
But this is where the Blackhawks are right now, so they’ll look at what they can do now.
The Blackhawks already re-signed Richard Panik and Dennis Rasmussen, and Bowman said they’ll probably ink a few more of their unrestricted free agents soon. Bowman had talks regarding some players on Saturday.
“It’s probably early to make a prediction on where we’re going to go but we have a pretty good idea of where things will end up. Probably won’t be too long, you guys will be figuring out who we’re signing,” Bowman said with a grin.
So what else? Oh, the defense. The Blackhawks’ defense isn’t a mess but the depth isn’t what it was two seasons ago. Trevor van Riemsdyk and Erik Gustafsson will be a year older and should benefit from their play from last season. Ville Pokka and Gustav Forsling are young guys in the system. The Blackhawks also signed Michal Kempny this offseason, and he could have a good shot of making the roster.
“I think [Kempny], we’re looking forward to seeing how he does.. I think he can come in and hopefully he can help us right off the bat,” coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday. “We’ll see on the free agents and how that market looks out. We know that looking at the top end and certainly we’ll definitely do whatever we can to get some depth and some quality if we can.”
The Blackhawks have young defenseman but Bowman said they could acquire a seasoned one.
“We do have a lot of young guys who are in the mix for that. I wouldn’t rule out a veteran defenseman. But we don’t have anything to announce right now,” Bowman said. “We’ll have discussions as we go along here.”
The draft is done but the Blackhawks still have work to do. They’ve parted with another would-be core player in Andrew Shaw, but the roster subtraction should be done – Bowman said following Shaw’s trade that the team no longer has a salary-cap problem. But they have a bit of a depth problem, and they’ll need to do things over the next few weeks to make it less of an issue come September.
The 2016 NHL Draft has officially come and gone, and it's time to assess how each team in the Central Division fared. Taking each team's circumstance under consideration, grades were determined by the execution of their big picture plan.
Chicago Blackhawks: B+
For the second straight year, the Blackhawks didn't own a first-round pick after trading it at the deadline for Andrew Ladd. They did, however, have the most draft picks out of any team in the Central Division (nine), including three second-rounders after acquiring two of them in a deal that sent Andrew Shaw to Montreal.
The first one, No. 39 overall, was used to select Alex DeBrincat, who was projected to go in the first round but slipped because of his size (5-foo-7, 165 lbs). Scouts are already comparing this pick to Brandon Saad in a sense that it's a player with high upside and has the potential to be a second-round steal.
One thing we do know is, DeBrincat can score and he does a lot of it. The 18-year-old winger registered two consecutive 51-goal seasons with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hocky League, where he compiled 104 points in 2014-15 and 101 points in 2015-16.
The Blackhawks added some defensive depth by drafting defenseman Chad Krys, who played with DeBrincat on Team USA at the 2016 World Junior Championship, at No. 45 overall and Russian winger Artur Kayumov with pick No. 50 to cap off the trio of second-round selections.
Along the way, the Blackhawks stockpiled a pair of 2017 draft picks, giving them 10 total when they host the draft in Chicago for the first time ever.
Colorado Avalanche: B
The Avalanche are quietly gathering a young and skilled forward group in Colorado. While defense has been an issue since Patrick Roy took over as head coach, they've been near the bottom of the league in puck possession numbers as well, and the selection of Tyson Jost at No. 10 overall is a step in the right direction to patch up both areas.
Draft experts are comparing Jost to Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, a two-way centerman who has the ability to play against top competition on a nightly basis.
Already with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog as the franchise cornerstones, Jost figures to draw into the lineup at some point over the next couple seasons, along with offensively-gifted Finnish winger Mikko Rantanen, who they drafted at No. 10 overall last year.
The Avalanche also selected two defensemen, Josh Anderson in the third round and Nathan Clurman in the sixth round, addressing a glaring need.
Dallas Stars: C
The Stars have created an identity in Dallas built on speed and strong puck possession numbers, and their first-round selection of Riley Tufte is an interesting one. He's one of the tallest forwards in this year's draft at 6-foot-5, but scouts say he's a strong skater with great hands for his size.
While he may not blend in with the fast-paced style, he's a versatile player that can play up and down the lineup, the type of hockey player every team needs.
To address their goaltending situation, the Stars drafted Colton Point in the fifth round as a potential long-term project and solution in the crease. This came shortly after the Stars officially gave up on and parted ways with netminder Jack Campbell, who was once thought to be the next big thing, after he was shipped to Los Angeles for defenseman Nick Ebert.
Minnesota Wild: C
The best move of the weekend for the Wild was, hands down, the decision to buy out the final year of Thomas Vanek's contract and the $6.5 million cap hit that came with it. While the penalty will be $1.5 million this year and $2.5 million in 2017-18, it opened up $5 million in cap space for a team that currently has just seven forwards under contract in 2016-17 and wants to contend before the championship window starts to close.
As for the draft itself, the Wild had only one pick in the first three rounds — and four total — but luckily for them it was a first-rounder used on forward Luke Kunin at No. 15.
He's regarded as a solid two-way player who plays with high energy, something the Wild could use as they transition into the Bruce Boudreau era.
Nashville Predators: B+
The Predators had eight draft picks this year (with at least one in each round), and — surprise, surprise — they used five of them on a defenseman, including their first-round pick (No. 17 overall) Dante Fabbro and second-round selection (No. 47 overall) Samuel Girard.
Fabbro is expected to play next season at Boston University, but with Shea Weber on the back-nine of his career and Seth Jones being traded to Columbus in exchange for Ryan Johansen, the Predators are hoping Fabbro can be their next young stud on the blue line.
St. Louis Blues: B
The Blues owned only one draft pick in the first three rounds last season, but this year they had three in the first two, and eight overall.
Tage Thompson fits the crop of the Blues as a versatile power forward with offensive skill, and they liked him enough to trade up two spots to take him at No. 26 overall. Jordan Kyrou, their second-round selection, drew some positive reaction as a guy that jumps off your television screen.
Thompson and Kyrou were two of seven forwards drafted by the Blues, with the other being a goaltender, Evan Fizpatrick, with the 59th overall pick.
Speaking of goaltenders, the Blues also made one of the biggest trades of the weekend by dealing Brian Elliott to Calgary for a second-round pick (which turned out to be Kyrou at No. 35) and a conditional third-rounder in 2017, with the caveat that Elliott re-signs with the Flames.
With Jake Allen ready to take on the full-time role in net and the Flames desperately needing a starter, it's a deal that made sense for both sides, but perhaps the Blues could've gotten more for Elliott given his 2016 success, both in the regular season and postseason, and great value at $2.5 million.
Winnipeg Jets: A-
The Jets are building something special in Winnipeg after owning two first-round picks for the second straight year.
Auston Matthews, who went No. 1 overall to Toronto, is certainly the most well-rounded player in this year's draft, but the Jets arguably drafted the player with the highest ceiling with the second overall pick: Patrik Laine, who compared himself to Alex Ovechkin, a six-time Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy winner.
Laine will make an immediate impact on the Jets in his first season. Factor that in with the possibility of Kyle Connor, who was named USA Hockey's College Player of the Year and left college early to sign his entry-level contract in April, joining the Jets at the same time as Laine and Winnipeg's future is almost here.
Logan Stanley, a 6-foot-7 defenseman, may have been a reach at No. 18 overall, but the growing threat of losing Jacob Trouba, who's a restricted free agent on July 1, via a trade or an offer sheet may have forced their hand to keep that blue line stocked with young, promising talent.
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Chad Krys couldn’t resist the moment.
The defenseman, whom the Blackhawks selected with the 45th overall pick on Saturday, threw his GoPro into the media session of Alex DeBrincat, picked by the Blackhawks six selections prior to Krys.
“Excuse me, Alex: what would you think if you got drafted to the same team as fellow World Junior teammate Chad Krys?” Krys asked.
For two more American players, it was one more reason to smile.
DeBrincat and Krys were two of the Blackhawks’ three second-round picks as the NHL Draft wrapped up in Buffalo on Saturday. Other selections included forward Artur Kayumov of Russia (50th overall), goaltender Wouter Peeters of Belgium and defenseman Lucas Carlsson of Sweden.
“It was good to have a nice mixture and you don’t always know how it’s going to work out with what you get,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “We did a lot of work last night planning for the picks we had in the second round. I know everyone says this but we’re really excited for the guys that we got.”
About two weeks ago the Blackhawks were short on 2016 draft picks and their first wasn’t until the third round. They ended up with nine, including those three second-round selections.
“When you’re at that point of the list, there are a lot of players that are probably at an equal value. So what we’re discussing is what we’re trying to get out of with those three picks,” said Mark Kelley, the Blackhawks’ director of amateur scouting. “I don’t think we stuck verbatim through the list in the order that it was, all close. The two wingers were very, very high skilled, and the defenseman he’s just a smart, puck-moving. He’s just a mature player.
The Blackhawks' 39th overall selection, DeBrincat is a small but offensively gifted player with the Erie Otters (Ontario Hockey League). DeBrincat, who played one season with Connor McDavid, had consecutive 51-goal seasons with the Otters.
“I don’t know the exact number of guys that scored 50 goals back-to-back in the OHL. It’s a very small list. He certainly is a competitive kid and really knows how to find the back of the net,” Bowman said. “People talk about his size but he did something that is rarely done. So really impressive performance with him and we’re excited.”
Given the Otters’ proximity to this year’s draft host Buffalo, there was a pretty sizeable cheer when DeBrincat’s name was announced.
“It’s pretty hard to put into words. I’m really excited to be a part of this organization,” DeBrincat said. “It was a long day [Friday.] I didn’t really know if I was going to go or not, but I’m really happy now and glad it’s over.”
Krys, who is headed to Boston University this fall, was part of Team USA’s U20 team with DeBrincat. For Krys, who hopes to develop his game more in college, the possibility of playing for the Blackhawks one day is enticing.
“I think they like skating defensemen who can move the puck quickly, get the puck up to their forwards and handle the puck well and be involved,” Krys said. “So it’s great to be part of an organization that has defensemen who play like that.”
No. 39: Alex Debrincat, F, Erie Otters
45: Chad Krys, D, committed to Boston University
50: Artur Kayumov, F, Russia
83: Wouter Peeters, G, Belgium
110: Lucas Carlsson, D, Sweden
113: Nathan Noel, C, Saint John
143: Mathias From, D, Sweden
173: Blake Hillman, D, University of Denver
203: Jake Ryczek, D, Waterloo Black Hawks