The Blackhawks' draft philosophy has always been to take the best available player regardless of position, especially in the first few rounds. But they're in an interesting position this year.
In 2017, the Blackhawks spent their first- and second-round selections on defensemen (Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell). In 2018, they had two first-round choices and used both of them on defensemen again (Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin). In 2019, they jumped from No. 12 to No. 3, where they hope to have found their next franchise centerman in Kirby Dach.
The Blackhawks own the No. 17 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and, given their recent history, it's a fair question to ask whether factoring in the organizational depth chart plays a role in identifying which player to draft. But the team's philosophy hasn't wavered, and rightfully so.
"When you’re picking in the first round, my approach has always been you've got to take the player you value the most and the best asset at that point, even if it’s in a position you have a lot of," Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said Wednesday on a pre-draft video conference call. "I don’t think you should be drafting for positional needs when you're drafting in the first round."
The Blackhawks, as of Wednesday, have six regular defensemen under contract through the 2021-22 season and are probably looking to open up a spot or two to give some of their younger blue line prospects, such as Mitchell, a larger or full-time role.
From a center perspective, Jonathan Toews, as he showed in the postseason, is still performing at a high level, which gives the organization a dependable 1-2 punch up the middle in Dach and Toews. And we haven't even mentioned Dylan Strome, who's not a bad third-line option, either.
Sure, the Blackhawks may wonder how the puzzle pieces might fit down the road. But they'll cross that bridge when they get there if a high-end player is added that forces the front office to make a decision on their depth chart.
For now, the Blackhawks will continue to follow their script.
"As you get later in the draft and you're weighing players differently — those players down in the draft ... probably have a longer road to get to the NHL — you can take positional needs into account more at that point," Bowman said. "But when you’re picking in the first round, you’re looking for the best talent and the best player you can find there, biggest asset value. Because when you do that, if you're able to come out of the first pick with a high-value player, you can use him or move him and get additional pieces, so that’s why our focus on that first pick in the first round is going to be looking at the best player we value there."