This was a tough season for the Blackhawks. They missed the playoffs for the second year in row. Coach Q was an early season casualty and they really never were able to right the ship in time after getting use to new coach Jeremy Colliton. Jonathon Toews had one of his best seasons ever and Patrick Kane was up to speed, plus second year player Alex DeBrincat joined an elite group by scoring 40 plus goals. The defense seemed to be where the Hawks were lacking and they also weren’t expected to grab a high draft pick either, but that all changed last night. Jimmy Greenfield had the full story in this mornings Trib.
When the Blackhawks’ turn in the No. 12 position came and went during Tuesday night’s draft lottery without their name called, general manager Stan Bowman knew they had defied the odds and secured a pick in the top three of the NHL draft. That’s when the tension really began to mount. Bowman moved alongside his counterparts with the Devils and Rangers — the other two teams to make it into the top three — waiting to see just how lucky the Hawks could get. Their luck may have run out there, but it didn’t change the magnitude of the moment. Despite having just an 8.2 percent chance at moving into the top three, the Hawks pulled off an upset Tuesday night in Toronto and will pick third overall in the draft, which will be held June 21-22 in Vancouver. “This is a game changer,” Bowman said. The Devils won the lottery, and the Rangers will select second. The Hawks had a 2.5 percent chance to pick first. The first two picks appear to be no-brainers. The Devils and Rangers almost certainly will pick consensus top-two prospects Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, likely in that order. So what will the Hawks do with the third pick? Russian winger Vasili Podkolzin should be among the excellent available consolation prizes. “At the early part of the season it was looking like we were going to be picking in this spot, so we have a pretty good handle on those players,” Bowman said. “Obviously, lately we’ve started focuing on some other guys. But it’s not like we’ve got to scramble. Bowman brought a good-luck charm to last year’s lottery, but since that didn’t work he decided to go empty-handed. However, he did come armed with a premonition from a couple of weeks ago that the Hawks would get the third pick. The last time the draft was held in Vancouver was 2006, when the Hawks held the third pick that turned into Jonathan Toews. After holding the league’s worst record as late as Jan. 19, the Hawks went 20-10-3 in their final 33 games. The long stretch of winning helped them flirt with the playoffs but quashed the dreams of the portion of Hawks fans who seemed to prefer getting a top pick to making the playoffs. The thought of tanking never crossed Bowman’s mind. “Even if we were picking 12th there’s some really good players at the top of the draft,” he said. “But there’s no doubt we’re in a different category picking in the top three. It’s sort of maybe poetic justice that it worked out that way.” Bowman said there’s a chance a pick this high could be NHL-ready but that won’t dictate whom the Hawks pick. The key is to get it right and not waste an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often. “We have some time to figure out who it’s going to be, and that’s the fun part about it,” Bowman said. “The next couple of months we’re going to watch a lot of hockey, continue to do our work to prepare, and we’ll be ready when we get to Vancouver.”