Blackhawks

Potential Blackhawks draft candidates excel in 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship

Potential Blackhawks draft candidates excel in 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship

Sunday, the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship concluded with Sweden taking down Russia 4-3 to win the gold medal game at the Fjallraven Center in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden. The United States, meanwhile, secured the bronze medal with a 5-2 victory over Canada earlier in the day.

The tournament, which featured many 2019 NHL Draft Prospects, is relevant to the Blackhawks, who hold the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft. While it’s anyone’s guess as to whom the Blackhawks will draft on June 21, several candidates played for the United States, Canada and Russia.

United States: Jack Hughes, Cole Caufield, Matthew Boldy, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras
Canada: Peyton Krebs, Dylan Cozens
Russia: Vasili Podkolzin

How did these players fare in the tournament, though? Let’s take a look:

United States

Jack Hughes is considered the best prospect in the entire draft and his play in Sweden reaffirmed this notion. In seven games, the 17-year-old from Orlando scored 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists). While he led the tournament in the latter category, he finished second in goals to Cole Caufield.

Caufield, 18, scored a whopping 14 goals in seven games. The 5-foot-6 forward, who is committed to University of Wisconsin, finished with the second-most points in the entire tournament (18), only trailing Hughes.

Matthew Boldy (three goals/nine assists in seven games), Alex Turcotte (four goals/five assists in seven games) and Trevor Zegras (nine assists in seven games) also were key contributors for the United States. The trio are committed to Boston College, Wisconsin and Boston University, respectively.

Canada

Peyton Krebs led Canada with 10 points (six goals, four assists) in seven games, with Dylan Cozens (four goals, five assists) not too far behind. Both players are 18 years old and capable of playing center and wing.

Russia

Vasili Podkolzin went goal-less until Sunday’s gold medal game, finishing the tournament with one goal and three assists in seven games. He is considered one of the top European prospects in the draft, though he has two years remaining on his KHL contract.

Read more on Turcotte, Krebs, Cozens and Podkolzin here

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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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