How long will this one last?

683458.png

How long will this one last?

The Blackhawks four-game win streak, which followed a nine-game losing streak, has been followed by a three-game skid. Weren't things looking OK again early in the 3rd period Thursday night?

The Ducks -- on the playoff ropes -- got a boost from a final-minute tying goal in the 1st, and carried that momentum through the rest of the game. Andrew Cogliano's goal was reviewed and upheld (even though Toronto was forced to rule without exact visual evidence that the puck went in off his stick following a kick).

The start was good, even including a power play goal, but the fact they were dominated in puck possession thereafter runs counter to how this team was built. Yes, the absence of Jonathan Toews cannot be understated. But there were times it looked like the effort could've been stronger -- or at least equal to the Ducks.

It's only a matter of hours now before we know the makeup of this roster for the stretch run. It's clear the current group needs another player or two, or three.

Losing 12 of 16, and scoring just four goals the past four games, won't get you in the playoffs when you look at what's ahead after hosting Toronto Wednesday: at Ottawa, at Detroit, at St. Louis. Home games include the Rangers, Kings and Blues before heading to Dallas.

Six weeks left. The Hawks still stand sixth in the West, but just four points out of ninth.

2016 NHL Draft: Report Cards for Central Division

2016 NHL Draft: Report Cards for Central Division

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. 

Alex DeBrincat, Chad Krys part of Blackhawks’ draft crop

Alex DeBrincat, Chad Krys part of Blackhawks’ draft crop

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.”

BLACKHAWKS’ SELECTIONS

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

Andrew Shaw ready for new chapter with Marc Bergevin, Canadiens

Andrew Shaw ready for new chapter with Marc Bergevin, Canadiens

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Andrew Shaw and Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin go back a few years.

It was Bergevin, when he was assistant general manager with the Blackhawks, who signed Shaw to his entry-level contract. And now they’re together again.

“He likes the rat in me, the work ethic,” Shaw said on Saturday via conference call. “He enjoys watching me play and dealing with him on my first contract was exciting for me as well. I owe him a lot.”

Shaw has run the gamut of emotions over the last day or so. The forward, who so fervently wanted to stay with Chicago, never got the deal to remain here. Instead he was sent to Montreal, where he’s reunited with Bergevin and will help the Canadiens increase their grit level. With Shaw and Brendan Gallagher together on that team, the pest factor will truly be high.

“Me and Gallagher, we have had some fun battles,” Shaw said. “Now I’m excited to be on his side to annoy people together, I guess.”

Still, the last five years with the Blackhawks, which included two Stanley Cups, will stay with Shaw forever. Shaw thought he and the Blackhawks were “pretty close” to a deal, but it never came to fruition.

“They have cap issues and it’s tough to get around, especially this time of year with the draft, free agency coming. It was tough. I thought we were close. Just have to move past it,” Shaw said. “Got a fresh start with a new team and I’m excited about that. It’ll be fun. Excited to meet the guys and get in that room. On the other end, I’ll miss my friends and teammates in Chicago as well.”

What contract Shaw gets from the Canadiens remains to be seen. Darren Dreger tweeted Saturday that talks between the two camps are going well, and Shaw could get “a 5-7-year extension in the days ahead.” The Blackhawks weren’t in a position to offer a lot of money or a lengthy term.

So Shaw turns a page in his career. His years with the Blackhawks were special to him but he’s reuniting with the man who helped bring him to Chicago in the first place.

“It’s a business. I knew the options that were coming my way. I just sat back and was patient and let that unravel. There’s not much I can do personally. Obviously five years in Chicago, two championships and a lot of friends, but I’m ready to move on and start a new chapter,” Shaw said. “I’m excited it’ll be with Montreal, and I hope everyone else feels the same way.”