What should the Blackhawks do with the No. 8 overall pick?


What should the Blackhawks do with the No. 8 overall pick?

The Blackhawks can officially start planning for the 2018 NHL Draft after learning they will be picking eighth overall following Saturday's lottery results.

And they have a few options to toy around with, thanks in large part to the additional first-round pick they received from the Nashville Predators in exchange for Ryan Hartman. But that selection won't be determined until the playoffs are over — the deeper they go, the lower it becomes.

So let's focus on the No. 8 selection and what the Blackhawks could do with it, knowing they have that later pick in their back pocket.

Here are four scenarios:

Trade up

Stan Bowman knows this is a crucial draft. This is the highest pick the Blackhawks have had since taking Patrick Kane first overall in 2007, and there's a real opportunity to pick someone who can step into the lineup right away.

With that being said, there's a good chance four defensemen will be off the board by the time the eighth pick rolls around and it's no secret that's a pressing need for the Blackhawks.

Perhaps they'll go in a different direction with Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell in the pipeline, two young blue liners the team has high hopes for, but if that's a position they're targeting and you identify a specific player you're unsure will be there at 8, you trade up to get him.

Would the package be worth it to move up a spot or two? That's where you have to decide whether the pros would outweigh the cons.

Trade back

Last summer, the Blackhawks went into the draft holding the No. 26 overall pick. But based on how it unfolded, they felt comfortable trading back three spots to No. 29, where they still got their guy (Jokiharju) while essentially acquiring a free third-round pick that was used to take Andrei Altybarmakyan.

This is probably not a route the Blackhawks are considering this time around — at least for their eighth overall pick — simply because of their desire to grab an impact-type player that's as close to NHL ready as possible. But it's still worth noting as something they haven't been afraid to do in the past.

Trade it in general

If you're expecting the Blackhawks to land a big fish in the free agent market (John Carlson), you might want to lower those expectations. Bowman has made it clear they plan on investing money in Alex DeBrincat, Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz for the long term.

But if the Blackhawks feel there's somebody out there, say a Top 4 defenseman, with one or two years left on their deal and want to maximize their chances next season, they have the ammo to pull off a trade.

It's a big risk if you're considering trading a Top 10 pick to do it for a player on a short-term contract, but the Blackhawks cannot afford to miss the playoffs for a second straight season. The time is now.

Stay put

This is the most likely path, and the wisest, too. It's still a position where the Blackhawks can draft someone that's advanced in his development and not have to sacrifice prospects or picks to land that type of player.

If the Blackhawks want someone ready to make an instant impact, they might be better off snagging a forward because young defensemen need time to get accustomed to the speed, size and style.

If they're confident in the developments of Jokiharju and Mitchell, and don't mind being patient with a third high-end defenseman prospect in the mix, then there shouldn't be any hesitation on limiting who you select.

At No. 8, position might not better for the Blackhawks. You can never go wrong with snagging the best available player.

"We're optimistic," Bowman told after the lottery. "It's a good draft. We're confident we're going to get a good player at No. 8. It wasn't our year for the lottery, but we'll still get a good player.

"This year especially it's different because you're going to get a guy that's hopefully an elite player in the league. Watching the players, I've had a chance recently to see a number of these guys and there are some special players out there, not just the top couple that get a lot of attention but even the player we'll get at No. 8 should be a special player."

Blackhawks' losing streak extends to eight in Cam Ward's return to Carolina

Blackhawks' losing streak extends to eight in Cam Ward's return to Carolina

It felt like the Blackhawks' seven-game losing streak was going to end Monday night. 

Cam Ward started was stellar in net, the Blackhawks' offense started hot and Alex DeBrincat snapped his scoring drought. In the end, though, Monday's hot-start was for all for naught.

Despite holding a 2-0 lead after the second period, the Blackhawks were outscored 3-0 the rest of the game, falling to the Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime. The Blackhawks have now lost eight-straight games for the second-straight season (they lost eight-straight in February 2018). 

While the loss hurts, there are several positives to take from Monday's game. Cam Ward was stellar in his first start in Carolina as a visitor.

Ward, who played for the Hurricanes in his first 13 NHL seasons, made 37 saves on 40 shots. The two regulation goals that he allowed came with the Blackhawks a man-down, however. 

Ward also made a huge save halfway through the third period during a 4-on-4 situation, keeping the score knotted at 2-2.

Alex DeBrincat scored his ninth goal of the season to put the Blackhawks up 2-0. Not only was the goal DeBrincat's first since Oct. 25, but it also put him in exclusive company.

Monday was DeBrincat's 100th career NHL game; his 37 goals in those 100 games matches Artemi Panarin and Eric Daze through their first 100 games with the Blackhawks.

And while a loss is still a loss, the Blackhawks picked up a point for the first time since Oct. 28. There's always some positives, right?

The Cat is out of the bag as Alex DeBrincat hits century mark in games

The Cat is out of the bag as Alex DeBrincat hits century mark in games

Before the 2016 draft, the question marks surrounding Alex DeBrincat never had much to do with skill or production. Instead, it was his size.

When the Blackhawks selected him 39th overall, The Cat was let out of the bag.

After a 127-point season with Erie (OHL) in 2016-17, followed by an impressive 2017 preseason, DeBrincat earned a roster spot earlier than many expected.

The Cat starred in his rookie campaign, leading a struggling Blackhawks squad with 28 goals and maybe even more impressively, remaining healthy enough to play in all 82 games. He finished third among all rookies in goals and also third among players drafted in his class, behind only Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, the top two selections in the 2016 draft.

With DeBrincat reaching the 100-game milestone in his NHL career Monday against the Hurricanes, his production through the century mark stacks up well with some of the best players in recent Blackhawks history.

Through their first 100 NHL games ... 

— Patrick Kane: 31 goals, 65 assists, 96 points
— Artemi Panarin: 37 goals, 58 assists, 95 points
— Jeremy Roenick: 35 goals, 50 assists, 85 points
— Jonathan Toews: 33 goals, 50 assists, 83 points
— Eddie Olczyk: 30 goals, 48 assists, 78 points
— Alex DeBrincat (99 games): 36 goals, 31 assists, 67 points
— Eric Daze: 37 goals, 26 assists, 63 points

Start with the faces of the franchise and two of the most highly touted rookies the Blackhawks have seen: Kane and Toews.

Toews posted 24 goals and 30 assists in an injury-shortened, 64-game rookie season. The Captain got off to a slower start in his sophomore campaign, notching nine goals in his next 36 games, taking his total to 83 points in his first 100 games.

Like DeBrincat, Kane played in all 82 games during his rookie campaign. He hit the ground running in 2007 and never looked back, tallying 72 points. In his first 18 contests the following season, Kane added 10 goals and 14 assists, combining for a total of 31 goals, 65 assists and 96 points in his first 100 NHL contests. Not surprisingly, he is at the top of the list.

How about Panarin? The Bread Man was already 24 in his rookie campaign with the Blackhawks in 2016 and found instant chemistry playing opposite Kane. Panarin potted 30 goals in 80 games that year, adding 47 assists. His 77 points in his rookie season were the most of anyone on the list. In the next 20 games in his second season, Panarin added seven goals and 11 assists, good for 95 points in 100 games, just a point shy of Kane’s total.

Going even further back, Roenick and Olczyk also had great production in their first 100 games.

Roenick broke in as a 19-year-old in 1988 but didn’t get to his 100th game until his third season in the NHL. In total, Roenick posted 35 goals and 50 assists in his first 100 games.

Meanwhile, Olczyk was an 18-year-old rookie in 1984 with the Blackhawks. In his first 70 games, Olczyk scored 20 goals added 30 helpers in 70 games. Over his next 30 games, he added 10 goals and 18 assist, combining for 78 points in his first 100 contests.

While the next comparison could not be more different than DeBrincat, the production might be most equivalent through 100 games.

Eric Daze checked in at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds — nearly a foot taller and 70 pounds heavier than DeBrincat. Much like DeBrincat, he was an elite goal scorer in his rookie season, netting 30 goals, but lacked in the assists department with just 23. Through his first 100 games, Daze tallied 37 goals and 26 assists - good for 63 points.

As it stands, DeBrincat has 36 goals and 31 assists in his first 99 career games. He sits behind only Matthews, Laine, Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk and Arizona’s Clayton Keller in total points from those drafted in 2016. Not bad for a guy passed on 38 times by 25 different teams.

While his first 100 games might not mean much toward his next 100, DeBrincat has proven his ability as a goal-scorer and sets the standard for the next wave of core players. And with Kane and Toews approaching the wrong side of age 30, it couldn’t come at a better time for the Blackhawks.