The Blackhawks’ first-round pick is officially gone.
Traded to the Blue Jackets last summer in the regrettable Seth Jones trade package, but with protection that would’ve kept it in the Hawks’ possession if first or second overall, the pick that could’ve provided a major early boost to new general manager Kyle Davidson’s rebuild was officially ceded Tuesday based on the NHL draft lottery results.
The Hawks entered the day with a 7.5% chance of winning the No. 1 selection and a 7.9% chance of winning the No. 2 selection, equaling a 15.4% total chance of moving up –the sixth-best odds of any team.
Instead, the Canadiens won the first overall selection and the Devils won the second overall selection in the 2022 NHL Draft, which begins July 7 in Montreal. The Coyotes will pick third, the Kraken will pick fourth and the Flyers will pick fifth.
The one silver lining is the Hawks, by giving up their 2022 first-round pick, are now guaranteed to keep their 2023 first-round pick, which would’ve instead transferred to the Jackets had the Hawks won the lottery Tuesday.
With the Hawks’ rebuild likely hinting at another low standings finish next season — resulting in another high draft choice and high odds in the lottery — coupled with the prevailing perception that the 2023 draft class looks better than the 2022 class, the Hawks could land an elite future superstar next year.
But they’ll have to wait a year for that. And as Davidson said last month, “If you don’t have a first-round pick, that means the talent’s pushed further down the road, which lengthens the speed at which you can get talent to the NHL.”
The Hawks nonetheless could still end up with a first-round pick this year –albeit a late one — if the Wild advance to the Western Conference Final, which would activate the condition on the second-round pick traded for Marc-Andre Fleury.
That Wild pick remains one of five picks in the first three rounds that the Hawks own, so they will be able to add a large quantity of decent prospects — if not elite ones –to their pipeline.
Nonetheless, they’ll spend the first hour of the draft salivating over the talent they could’ve had in other world as the top 10 prospects steadily fall off the board.
Shane Wright, this year’s consensus top prospect, projects as a well-rounded first-line center with equally stout offensive and defensive abilities. Compared by TSN’s Craig Button to Bruins star Patrice Bergeron, Wright tallied 94 points in 63 games this season with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs.
Meanwhile, American center Logan Cooley, Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovsky, Slovakian defenseman Simon Nemec, Czech defenseman and Canadian center Matthew Savoie are favored as the other top-five picks, with Finnish winger Joakim Kemell and Czech defenseman David Jiricek also in the conversation.
Cooley plays a similarly well-rounded game to Wright at an arguably faster pace, although he’s a bit smaller at 5-11, 174 pounds. He tallied 36 points in 24 games this season in the U.S. National Development Program and will play college hockey at Minnesota next year.
Slafkovsky is perhaps the most NHL-ready prospect in the draft class. He’s already 6-4, 218 pounds. He played a full season of pro hockey in Finland, tallying 17 points in 49 regular- and post-season games for TPS, but really gained fame for winning the 2022 Winter Olympics men’s hockey MVP trophy with seven goals in seven games for Slovakia.
Nemec is a smart, versatile puck-moving defenseman who tallied 43 points in 58 regular- and post-season games for the Slovakian club HK Nitra. Savoie is an aggressive, shoot-first scorer who tallied 90 points in 65 games for the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice.