Blackhawks

What if Blackhawks get No. 1 pick and select Alexis Lafrenière?

What if Blackhawks get No. 1 pick and select Alexis Lafrenière?

The Blackhawks received a gift when it was announced they'd be included in the NHL's 24-team playoff format under the Return To Play plan.

They're set to play the Oilers in a best-of-5 play-in series after being 12th in the Western Conference and six points out of a playoff spot with four teams to jump and 12 games remaining at the time of the NHL pause on March 11.

They received more good fortune on Friday during Phase 1 of the NHL's Draft Lottery when it was announced the No. 1 overall pick for the 2020 NHL Draft will go to one of the eight teams that loses in the qualifying round of this year's potential playoffs during Phase 2 of the Draft Lottery. Meaning, if the Hawks lose their series with the Oilers, they have a 12.5 percent chance of walking away with the top pick.

If the season or the playoffs don't conclude, the Hawks would have a 12.5 percent chance at the top pick as one of the bottom four teams in the Western Conference.

Phase 2 is slated to be conducted at some point between the qualifying round and the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The No. 1 pick of this year's draft is expected to be forward Alexis Lafrenière, who registered 35 goals and 77 assists for a league-leading 112 points in 52 games this season with the Rimouski Océanic of the QMJHL, where he also served as the team captain. 

Listed at 6'1, 192 lbs., Lafrenière will not only bring offense wherever he goes, but a little bit of size.

According to The Athletic's Corey Pronman, the left winger "attacks the net, has some physicality in his game and gets a lot of goals in the dirty areas." 

Pronman also believes the already highly-coveted forward, who shoots left, makes up for his "average" speed with skill, smarts and vision.

Let's say the Hawks lose to the Oilers, luck out again and land the 18-year-old Saint-Eustache, Quebec native. We saw the Blackhawks strike gold in last year's draft when they had an 8.2 percent chance of getting a Top 3 pick and moved up nine spots to select center Kirby Dach third overall.

So, for fun's sake, let's fast forward and envision the Hawks ending up with the No. 1 overall pick for the 2020 draft. (Obviously, it would also be fun to see a great series with the Oilers and Chicago advance, but seriously, what if they get the No. 1 pick??)

When it comes to his road to the NHL, Lafrenière should be instantly ready for the show. It's incredibly doubtful the Blackhawks would pass on his skill and ability to score from tough areas if they possessed the top pick. Those assets would give the Hawks several options next season.

Even with an impressive training camp, it may be safe to assume Chicago head coach Jeremy Colliton would ease Lafrenière in on the team's third line, the way he did with Dach for a majority of this season.

As with a lot of forward personnel on the Blackhawks, who's around the potential No. 1 pick in the lineup could be dictated by where Patrick Kane is penciled in.

If we see a nuclear line with Saad-Toews-Kane and Andrew Shaw is healthy from his latest concussion, the forward groups could look like this:

Saad-Toews-Kane
DeBrincat-Strome-Shaw
Lafrenière-Dach-Kubalik
Caggiula-Carpenter-Nylander

Note: Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik and Drake Caggiula all become restricted free agents after this season. It's doubtful the Hawks let Kubalik, who scored 30 goals as a rookie, walk away. Caggiula's grit and the goals that come with it should be somewhat affordable. 

Strome's future is a bit more uncertain with his sophomore season in Chicago lagging a bit compared to his first one, partially due to injuries. If the team does part ways with Strome after this year, Dach may be trusted to be the new No. 2 center in his second NHL season.

If Kane is placed on Chicago's second line, Kubalik will probably go up top, where he saw a lot of success next to the Blackhawks' captain as a rookie:

Saad-Toews-Kubalik
DeBrincat-Strome-Kane
Lafrenière-Dach-Shaw
Caggiula-Carpenter-Nylander

Like we saw at times with Dach earlier this season, it's possible Colliton could also either give Lafrenière a look among the team's top six forwards on the first or second line or reward him for playing well with some minutes there.

In the land of Make Believe, anything is possible.

Training camps for teams leading up to the NHL's 24-team playoff format are still being targeted for July 10. The series against the Oilers could prove to be an entertaining one and with the layover plus Chicago's mix of vets and young players, they've got a shot. So don't schedule your draft parties yet.

We'll see how things play out in a matter of time. 

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Report: Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook aiming to return for NHL playoffs

Report: Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook aiming to return for NHL playoffs

A source told Scott Powers of The Athletic that Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook will try to play if the season continues and the NHL sees its 24-team playoff format kick off.

"Just a month ago, the Blackhawks didn’t think Seabrook would be far enough in his rehab to be considered an option, but he’s made strides and has expressed his desire to try to play again this season," Powers writes.

The three-time Stanley Cup champ Hawks blueliner had surgeries on his right shoulder in December, left hip in January and right hip February.

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The NHL is targeting July 13 for the start of team training camps and August 1 for the start of the postseason tournament, which has the Blackhawks taking on the Edmonton Oilers in a best-of-5 play-in series.

Related: Calvin de Haan takes next step in recovery process, joins Blackhawks for Phase 2

The two hub cities for the playoffs are reportedly Edmonton and Toronto.

Powers also mentioned that Seabrook hasn't been cleared for contact yet but that he has been skating. He last played December 15 in a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Wild 

Why the Stanley Cup was late to Blackhawks' 2015 Game 6 win over Lightning

Why the Stanley Cup was late to Blackhawks' 2015 Game 6 win over Lightning

Out of tradition and superstition, the Stanley Cup is never in the building until after puck drop during a Stanley Cup Final game in which it could be won, unless it's a Game 7 when both teams have a shot.

On June 15 in 2015, when the Blackhawks won their sixth Stanley Cup in franchise history, old Stanley was a little late to his own party at the United Center.

As the Keeper of the Cup Philip Pritchard tells host Pat Boyle on the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, fans were already celebrating the Hawks Cup-clinching win over the Lightning outside the UC as the trophy was pulling in.

Broadcasters 'Doc' Emrick and Eddie Olczyk were filling time waiting for the Cup to arrive, which was still absent during the handshake line.

According to Pritchard, the Cup left the hotel around puck drop and it was the stormy weather that made the Keeper and the best trophy in sports tardy for the celebration.

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"People that weren't (at the game yet) were in traffic and just leaving their cars and walking and the roads were flooded, the highways were flooded, the bypass was like a lake. And as we were coming out towards the arena, we realized then that we were going to need some help, not just Mother Nature help, but we're going to need security help with it as well," Pritchard said.

"As we pulled into the arena — obviously the game had finished and the Blackhawks won — the home team's going nuts, the hometown fans are going crazy. So we presented (the Conn Smythe) to Duncan Keith and then we brought the Stanley Cup out and I remember on the ice talking to Jonathan Toews and he said, 'That was so cool that it took so long and the fans were loving it.' And I was telling him what went on and he goes, 'Really? I just thought it was part of the effect.'"