Blackhawks

'It's all right now': Blackhawks treating every game like must win from here on out

'It's all right now': Blackhawks treating every game like must win from here on out

When the calendar flips to March, that's when teams in the NHL start to get excited about the thought of playoffs. The dog days are in the rearview mirror and the stretch run has arrived.

Originally, it didn't seem like the postseason was remotely possible for the Blackhawks. Then they rattled off wins in 10 of 12 games, and while that was happening, everyone that they needed to lose was losing. It reached a point where they sat in a wildcard spot for a brief moment.

But in a matter of two weeks, things have changed drastically.

Going into Thursday's game, the Blackhawks are nine points out of a wildcard spot in the Western Conference and have a 0.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to sportsclubstats.com. Despite those long odds, they're not giving up hope until the math says they're out of it.

"It's just win the game tonight," Jonathan Toews said of the team's mindset. "We played pretty decent in San Jose, but we didn't come up with the win and then obviously gave up some goals in the third. But we've got to be better. These are our playoffs right now and it's time to raise our game, raise our level, so we'll see what we've got."

The projected playoff cut is around 88 points, which is lower than in year's past. But with the Blackhawks at 63 points and only 16 games remaining, they have no margin for error. They need to go on a run of 11-2-3 — or something along those lines — just to reach that benchmark, and there's no guarantee they'll win any tiebreaker scenario because they're behind in the regulation plus overtime wins category.

So yeah, every game from here on out is a must-win situation. Preferably in regulation, but one step at a time.

"There's no playoffs, there's no offseason, there's no next year," Toews said. "It's all right now. We want to be as good as we can be. ... We don't have that many games left this year so we're trying to make the most of it."

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2019 NHL Draft Profile: C Jack Hughes

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NBC Sports

2019 NHL Draft Profile: C Jack Hughes

From June 10-20, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile one top prospect per day — 11 total — leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft as the Blackhawks prepare to pick third overall.

Jack Hughes

Position: Center
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 170 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report from NHL.com draft expert Adam Kimelman:

The most talented player in the draft should be the first one selected. The 18-year-old has a package of skating, passing, vision and hockey sense that's reminiscent of Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane."

NHL player comparable: Connor McDavid/Patrick Kane

Fit for Blackhawks:

Listen, we know. Hughes isn't going to be on the board at No. 3. But let's dream just for one minute because when the Blackhawks jumped into the top-three on lottery night, the thought crept into everyone's minds.

Hughes is one of the most talented players to ever come out of the United States National Development Program, and is the most pro-ready out of any prospect in this year's draft. He could step onto an NHL team tomorrow and play in a top-six role seamlessly. 

Stylistically, Hughes' game is reminiscent of McDavid and Kane: A playmaker, goal scorer, smooth skater, unreal vision, high hockey IQ. He is the complete package. And just wait until he adds some muscle to his frame under the care of an NHL organization.

If the Blackhawks landed the No. 1 overall pick, their center depth for the next 7-8 years could've consisted of Hughes, Dylan Strome and Jonathan Toews. Alright, now back to reality. 

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GM Stan Bowman: Blackhawks 'unlikely' to trade out of No. 3 overall spot

GM Stan Bowman: Blackhawks 'unlikely' to trade out of No. 3 overall spot

The 2019 NHL Draft is 48 hours away from now and the Blackhawks are slated to pick third overall for the first time since 2006 when they took Jonathan Toews. Coincidentally, that draft happened to be in Vancouver. 

The Blackhawks are sitting in a unique spot this time around.

The consensus is that Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko will go first and second overall, respectively, which essentially puts the Blackhawks in a position where they have the first overall pick in a different draft. There's a large group of players to choose from and there doesn't appear to be much separation amongst them.

So would the Blackhawks consider trading out of the No. 3 spot if a team wants to make the jump and the Blackhawks feel good about their player being on the board a few picks back?

"That’s a tough question to answer because it's not like we have a magic formula that we’re waiting for some to call and offer us," GM Stan Bowman said on Wednesday during his pre-draft conference call. "If somebody made a really appealing offer then we’d have to consider it, but that hasn’t happened yet. If it does, then as a group we’ll talk about it. That’s one of those things where a team has to want to put together a really appealing package to move up. It’s happened before, pretty rare though. So I wouldn't say it's out of the realm, but it’s unlikely to happen."

All signs point to the Blackhawks keeping their pick at No. 3, as expected. And it sounds like they already know who it's going to be, which isn't surprising considering the Blackhawks have done extensive research on the prospects — both on and off the ice — for months now.

The Blackhawks staff met on Wednesday a group, they'll meet again on Thursday, and then one more time on Friday before the draft to finalize their list. At this point, it's more about ironing out the later rounds.

"It’s more just fine-tuning the list," Bowman said. "We have more than just one pick in the draft. We’re looking at players we think are going to be around in the second round, and then we don’t have a third-round pick right now so there’s a bit of a gap there between our 43rd and then the two picks in the fourth round. So we have to look at that and determine which players we’re going to target for those rounds. I wouldn’t say there’s anything new that's being discovered at this time of year.

"We’re not going to be cramming last minute. I think we’re going to be very comfortable with the guy we pick when we get to Friday night."

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