Blackhawks

Blackhawks need core players to step up

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Blackhawks need core players to step up

Patrick Kanes game on Thursday night was an example of what he can do when everything is clicking. It was also an example of the leadership the Blackhawks need, be it on or off the ice, in their captains absence.

As Jonathan Toews continues to recover from a suspected concussion, its up to the other core players to pick up the slack, whether its during the game or in that locker room.

Our top guys have to be not just our best players, but they have to lead us through this stretch, coach Joel Quenneville said after the Blackhawks 5-4 victory over Toronto on Thursday. Everybody goes through key injuries. This is the time we need them and we liked what we saw.

Indeed. Obviously the core guys biggest impact comes on the ice. The whole best players need to be your best players bit. Clich as it is, its true. And on Thursday, Kane and Marian Hossa typified that. Coupled with Andrew Brunette, the line was effective and productive, with Kane and Hossa each having two-point nights.

Their second-period work helped the Blackhawks overcome a deficit and avoid what wouldve been another brutal loss.

I think our teams always been about group leadership and I think last night, you saw that in the way Kane and Hossa played, said Duncan Keith. They took over that game. Its tough for guys to stop them when theyre skating like that. That just showed their ability to step up when needed.

And right now the Blackhawks need every healthy guy theyve got, but especially their core players. Kane, Hossa, Keith, Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, Dave Bolland; the guys who went through the Cup battles together are the ones who have to get the Blackhawks through this final critical stretch.

Missing Johnny, its a huge loss but we still have a lot of good pieces, Hossa said. We have to find a way to win without Johnny. Its not easy but we have to find a way. Who knows how long hes going to be out for, so we cant just wait for him. Especially our top players, we have to be at our top games to win.

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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