As much flack as we give Stan Bowman for his questionable personnel moves, he has actually done a pretty solid job in the past couple of years.
Recent draftees like Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw have already made their pro debuts with the Chicago Blackhawks, while others (Mark McNeill, Philip Danault, Adam Clendening, etc) are well on their way to joining the team within the next couple of seasons.
The Blackhawks have eight picks in the 2012 NHL Draft, the first of which is at no. 18 in the first round. Which direction they might end up going with that pick isn’t really clear, and projects are all over the place.
Obviously it all depends on what happens in picks 1 thru 17, but also what the Hawks view as their biggest need. With so many forwards already on the team and throughout the organization, defense and goaltending could be a focus, assuming they do choose to go the “need” route, rather than “best available”. Both are possible.
The Hawks have plenty of bodies on defense, but no one in the organization (or on the current roster, besides the obvious ones) really stand out at this point. They could end up looking at defense at 18, perhaps at a kid like Matt Finn. He doesn’t have great size, but he’s smart with the puck back on the blue line. He’s similar to another potential pick, Derrick Pouliot, in that respect. Pouliot is small, but an excellent puck mover.
If the Hawks want to add size on the blue line, they could look to add someone like Griffin Reinhart, who is a 6’4″ monster on defense. Olli Maatta is also pretty big, standing 6’2″ and just a touch over 200 pounds, is skilled with the puck, and has a good shot. He’s another option back on the blue line if he’s available.
Going after a goaltender is also a possibility. Corey Crawford is already 27 and Ray Emery isn’t capable of shouldering a full load as a starter. Malcom Subban, younger brother of P.K. Subban, is considered to be the best goaltending prospect in the draft and could be available there. The Hawks are pretty thin throughout the organization between the pipes, compared to the other positions. Subban could end up being an intriguing option.
Just because the Hawks have a large number of forwards, doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily stay away from them at no. 18. Zegmus Girgensons could be a great fit, and projects as a top six center with pretty good size. If he’s around, Brendan Gaunce could be an option as well, as one of the better two-way forwards in the draft.
Only Bowman and the Hawks know what their plan is and what direction they’re hoping to go in. But even they won’t know who could be sporting a Hawks jersey in Pittsburgh on Friday night, until we all know how the first 17 picks in front of them shake out. One thing is for sure, there are plenty of options out there for the Blackhawks, and Friday night is going to be very fun to watch.