How Hawks can utilize draft capital after winning lottery originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Blackhawks struck gold by winning the 2023 NHL Draft lottery and will check off the most important box of a full-scale rebuild by landing a foundational piece with the No. 1 overall pick, which is expected to be Connor Bedard.
All the attention is on the lottery selection, and rightfully so. But that doesn’t mean the Blackhawks can now kick up their feet and cross their arms. It’s actually the exact opposite.
Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson hoarded draft capital at the deadline and has given himself 11 picks in 2023, including eight in the first three rounds and six in the first two rounds. More notably, he’s given himself options on what exactly to do with all of them.
On a recent radio appearance with 670 The Score’s Mully & Haugh, Davidson said that trading up in the draft is “definitely something we’re exploring.”
“I think the level of success we reach will be dictated by the level of player we can acquire,” Davidson said. “And logic dictates that the higher you are in the draft, the better chance you have of getting a good player. And so we’re going to explore the opportunities available to us to potentially move up again.”
The Blackhawks have four second-rounders and two third-rounders, and it also helps that they have an additional first-rounder from Tampa Bay at No. 19 overall. Surely, the Blackhawks expected that to be in the late 20s or early 30s when the deal was executed, and the fact it’s closer to the middle of the first round shouldn’t be understated in a deep draft class like this one.
So how can the Blackhawks utilize all their draft capital? I can think of two potential “trade-up” ideas right off the bat:
1) If the Blackhawks are sitting at No. 19 and Davidson sees a player they have in a higher tier that’s still available, identify a team in the middle of the first round that doesn’t have a ton of draft currency and could afford to fall back a few spots for an additional draft pick like, say, Pittsburgh — which has only one draft pick in Rounds 2-4 — at No. 14 and sacrifice one of the later of the four second-rounders to go “get your guy.”
2) The Blackhawks can make their selections at No. 1 and No. 19 but then package one of their third-round picks with their highest second-rounder to move into the back end of the first round if a player they like is still on the board and may not be there by the time their next pick rolls around. It would essentially give them three first-round picks like Davidson acquired last year.
“The luxury is, you can take a chance on a guy that you don’t think you [can] maybe get later,” Blackhawks director of amateur scouting Mike Doneghey said on the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast of having a lot of picks in the first few rounds. “Because you already got some guys in the stable.”
The Blackhawks did that last year by taking a swing on defenseman Sam Rinzel with the No. 25 overall pick, which was earlier than some projections had him going. His upside is high, but he’s a longer-term project, and the Blackhawks didn’t mind snagging him that high because they had already secured two players they coveted at No. 7 with Kevin Korchinski and No. 13 with Frank Nazar.
The third longshot idea is, the Blackhawks could trade up twice: Once to move up from No. 19 to No. 14 and then again from the early second round to the late first round. That would obviously require giving up multiple additional picks, which isn’t the worst thing, but in a deep class like this, having a lot of picks in Rounds 1-3 might not be such a bad thing because it increases your chances of hitting on a player.
“I forget which general manager said it a few years ago, he said the only way to hit on more is if you have more,” Doneghey said. “It’s simple math.”
We haven’t enough mentioned how the Blackhawks are slated to have two first-round picks in 2024 and 2025, and 11 total picks in the first three rounds of the 2024 and 2025 drafts that could potentially be used to do the same, or, at some point, serve as trade chips to add impact-type NHL players when the team is ready to contend again.
Davidson has options this year and that’s all you could really ask for. It also takes two to tango. It’s easy to toss around ideas on paper, but we’ll see what presents itself when the draft rolls around.
“We’ve got eight picks in the first three rounds of the draft, which is a lot,” Davidson said. “I will concede that that’s a lot. I think it’s probably unlikely that we make all those picks.
“How that manifests itself, whether it’s in a move-up, whether we move some picks for future picks or something like that, that remains to be seen. But that’s a lot of picks.”
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