The upcoming 2018 NHL Draft is less than a month away. The Chicago Blackhawks have four picks in the first three rounds of the draft. The centre position is an area that the team may focus on after the first round. There are several good prospects at centre that could help the Blackhawks lineup.
Chicago Blackhawks Draft Targets Part 4 – Centres
In the earlier Draft Targets series, we looked at the Blackhawks options with their first and third round picks. In Part 1, we focused on potential defensemen who could be taken with the eighth overall pick. Evan Bouchard was featured as the best defenseman that may be available when the Blackhawks draft at #8. Improving their D Corps is a must for the Blackhawks this off-season.
In Part 2 of the Draft Targets series, the options for the Blackhawks second first-round draft pick were reviewed. The team can use the 27th overall pick to draft another defence prospect, choose a solid winger, or trade the pick. As discussed, the Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators do not have a draft pick in the first two rounds this year. As a result, either team may be willing to deal an NHL ready player in their system to get back into the first round of the draft.
In Part 3 of the series, the winger position was reviewed. While the Blackhawks have several winger prospects in their system, none of their recent draft picks have set their respective leagues on fire. Riley Sutter or Nando Eggenberger are great prospects the Blackhawks could target with their two third-round picks.
In this piece, the centre position is the focus based on insight from Last Word’s own Ben Kerr. Potential centre draft targets will be listed, and also centres recently drafted by the Blackhawks. There are also centres playing for the Rockford Ice Hogs who may be pushing for a spot on the roster in the fall.
Drafting a Centre
The Blackhawks have the 69th and 87th picks in the draft. Listed below are centres who may be available when the Blackhawks are drafting twice in round three. Several of these prospects also have the size that the Blackhawks now lack up the middle of their roster. Be sure to click on their names to link to their career stats.
- Aidan Dudas 5’7” 165 pounds
- Luka Burzan 6’0” 185 pounds
- Jack Drury 5’11” 179 pounds
- Brandon Saigeon 6’2” 196 pounds
- Blade Jenkins 6’2” 194 pounds
In last years 2017 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks picked Evan Barratt with the 90th overall selection in the third round. The 6’0“187-pound centre had a solid year playing for Penn State University. In 32 games, Barratt had 11 goals with 7 assists. As a freshman playing for Penn State, Barratt had a good first season. He also brings some grit along with his offensive game. Check this out from Chief at Barstool Sports.
“Evan Barratt looking like a nice player here the past month or so. This is the type of energy and talent the Blackhawks need. They need bullies. Haven’t had a real bully in a while. Barratt is a bully and it looks like he can play a bit. Let’s go.”
Based on the video links in this piece, Barratt will definitely be a fan favourite playing with an edge like this. The kid is tough, he’ll be one to follow as he develops for the Blackhawks.
Other centres that were recently drafted by the Blackhawks are Nathan Noel in 2016 and Dylan Sikura and Nick Schmaltz, both in 2014. Sikura and Schmaltz both played for the Chicago Blackhawks last season and have a bright future ahead of them. Noel played for the Indy Fuel in the USHL and the Rockford Ice Hogs of the AHL where he had one goal in 17 games.
Down On The Farm
The Rockford Ice Hogs have two young centres on their roster who could be pushing for a spot on the Blackhawks in the fall.
Luke Johnson 6’0″ 192 pounds. The Blackhawks drafted Johnson in 2013. The last two seasons Johnson has scored 21 goals and 26 assists in 146 games for the Rockford Ice Hogs. He also has 4 goals and 4 assists in the 12 playoff games this year. Johnson has been getting rave reviews recently for his play in Rockford’s quest for the Calder Cup. Recently John Dietz of the Daily Herald featured Luke Johnson and what makes him a player to watch.
“Well, offence is just one component of a centre’s game. The 6-foot, 192-pound Johnson is tenacious on the penalty kill and plays like an annoying little gnat all over the ice.”
“I pride myself on being hard to play against,” Johnson said. “I can grow into that shutdown centerman at the next level, and that’s what I’m going to have to do to get there.”
Luke Johnson is definitely one to watch as the Ice Hogs continue their incredible 9-3 playoff run against the Texas Stars. Based on his play, he will soon be competing for a spot with the Blackhawks.
Another centre prospect playing well for the Ice Hogs is Victor Ejdsell. The Blackhawks acquired Ejdsell in the Ryan Hartman trade with the Nashville Predators. The 6’5″214-pound centre got in six games with the Blackhawks at the end of the 2017-2018 season. After the season, Ejdsell joined the Ice Hogs playing in 5 regular season games and 12 playoff games. In the playoffs, Ejdsell has shined, scoring 7 goals and 5 assists for the Hogs.
The Blackhawks have a great opportunity to draft a centre early on in rounds one and three. With four picks in the first 87 players chosen, they should be able to get a quality prospect to help fill their needs up the middle. Youngsters Luke Johnson and Victor Ejdsell are playing well and will be battling for a spot on the roster in Chicago.
Goaltending is a hot topic in Chicago since Corey Crawford was injured in December. There are a lot of questions about Crawford’s health and his ability to recover from his injury. The biggest concern is if he can play at the same Vezina level as he was before the injury. Crawford’s absence this season revealed a lot of the Blackhawks defensive weaknesses. The Blackhawks will need a healthy Crawford to succeed next season.
Our next article in the Blackhawks Draft Targets series will address goalies available in the draft. We’ll also look at the current goaltenders with the team who may be battling to back up a healthy Crawford next season.
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