by Andy Jachim
With the biggest night in this Chicago Blackhawks rebuild less than 48 hours away, it’s time to look at who could be joining Connor Bedard in the 2023 draft class. Having six selections in the first two rounds of this draft is a luxury and I expect Kyle Davidson to use them wisely. There’s a decent chance that some of these picks are packaged together to move up or down, and by the end of the second round there might not be six picks made by Chicago. Either way, I suggest you buckle up, because this draft is going to be a thriller for Hawks fans when everything is all said and done.
Round 1, Pick 1: Connor Bedard – C – Regina Pats (WHL)
This selection was made from the moment the Blackhawks card was revealed for the top selection in this draft back on lottery night. Connor Bedard is the crown jewel of this draft and is the most touted prospect we’ve seen since Connor McDavid burst onto the scene eight years ago. Bedard’s amateur status has been in the same discussion as McDavid and Sidney Crosby in terms of being the best prospects in this millennium. The 17-year-old put up 143 (yes you read that right) points in the WHL with the Regina Pats this past season. He’s one of 29 players to score at least 71 goals in the entire history of the WHL. In all my years watching hockey, I’ve never been more excited for a player to put on a Hawks sweater for the first time (I was too young to remember Toews’ and Kane’s first games in Chicago). Winning the lottery has sped up the rebuild process big time, and even though the team will still be rough to watch next season, Bedard gives you a reason to tune in every night. The North Vancouver, BC native doesn’t just have the potential to be the next great Blackhawk; he has the makings of a hockey god.
Blackhawks Receive: Pick 14, Mikael Grandlund
Penguins Receive: Pick 19, Future Mid-Round Draft Compensation
This wouldn’t be a proper mock draft without a trade, and Kyle Davidson gets back into the Top 15 in this deal with Pittsburgh. It’s a true win-win scenario for each side. The Hawks get to move up five spots in the first-round while gaining Mikael Grandlund’s bad contract in the process to help Chicago meet the salary floor. We’ve already seen Davidson and co. take Taylor Hall’s hefty contract off Boston’s books, so he’s not afraid to pull the trigger on a deal like this. Grandlund is set to be under contract for the next two seasons, so Pittsburgh won’t be able to receive much back for him besides moving down five spots and gaining a future mid-round selection.
Round 1, Pick 14: Matthew Wood – LW – University of Connecticut
With the pick acquired from the Penguins, Matthew Wood is an awesome fit at 14. Wood and Gabe Perreault are my two dream prospects I’d love the Hawks to grab alongside Bedard in the first round. In a perfect world, one of them falls to 19 and the Hawks don’t even have to make a trade like this one with Pittsburgh. However, both Wood and Perreault have seen their stocks skyrocket after the combine process and are both likely to be gone once the 19th selection rolls around. One major thing that stands out about Wood is his build. The winger currently slots in at 6”3, 190 lbs which is exactly what the Hawks need. Bedard is 5’10, and Frank Nazar is on the smaller side, so having a skilled scorer with size is something this deep system lacks. That 190 lb mark will increase for Wood once he gets on a professional weightlifting and dietary program. He was nearly a point-per-game player at the University of Connecticut this past season, posting 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 35 games. Drafting Wood would be a slam-dunk selection for the Hawks, regardless of if it’s at 14 or 19.
Round 2, Pick 35: Bradley Nadeau – LW – Penticton Vees – BCHL
The 35th pick is a mystery for Chicago. There are a variety of directions they could go, with some first-round prospects potentially falling through the cracks. There’s also a chance the Hawks don’t even own this selection come draft night. The possibilities are endless here. If they do end up making the pick, I really like Bradley Nadeau. Some scouts have said Nadeau has the best shot in this draft behind Connor Bedard, and after watching some of his tape I can see why. In his second season in the BCHL with the Penticton Vees, Nadeau lit the world on fire. In 54 games, the winger scored 113 points (45 goals, 68 assists). Those insane numbers, along with his wicked shot, makes him worthy of this selection at 35, as long as he’s still on the board.
Round 2, Pick 44: Danny Nelson – LW/C – USNDTP
The fourth selection for the Hawks in this mock has them taking yet another forward in Danny Nelson. The Maple Grove, MN native spent 2022/23 representing the U.S. in a variety of ways. Most notably, he played 62 games with the U.S. National U18 squad. He put together a solid campaign, posting 47 points (21 goals, 26 assists). From there, Nelson scored 23 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 23 games with the USNTDP team in USHL play. His final stop was in the World Juniors tournament where he put up seven points (four goals, three assists) in seven games. Nelson has had success scoring at all his stops in this most recent season, which helps his draft stock a ton. It’s even more impressive to see the scoring numbers he’s been able to post after transitioning from a defenseman to a forward just a few years ago. The projected second rounder brings size to the table as well, measuring in at 6”3 and weighing 191 lbs. From what we’ve learned, you can never have too many big forwards so that’s a plus. Another fun perk with Nelson is that he’s committed to Notre Dame, so the Hawks can keep close tabs on him as he plays at the collegiate level.
Round 2, Pick 51: Trey Augustine – G – USNDTP
The Hawks haven’t drafted a goalie since they took Drew Commesso in the second-round back in 2020. That changes here with the selection of Trey Augustine. The young crop of goaltenders in the organization right now consists of the aforementioned Commesso, Arvid Soderblom, and Jaxson Stauber. Despite having this pool of netminders, you can never have enough in your back pocket. I have Augustine ranked as the best goalie in this class, so the value at 51 is pretty good. In 33 games with the U.S. National U18 team this past season, he went 29-1-2 with a GAA of 2.13 and a .926 save percentage. The Michigan State commit slots in the Chicago prospect pool nicely and will look to grow his game even more in the Big Ten as a Spartan.
Round 2, Pick 55: Cameron Allen – RD – Guelph Storm – OHL
One position the Hawks have some solid depth in their system is at defense. However, most of the defensive prospects Chicago possesses are left defensemen. Cameron Allen helps the lack of right defensemen with this selection. Despite having an underwhelming second season with the Guelph Storm in the OHL, Allen still offers some upside for an NHL organization. The former OHL Rookie of the Year has excellent leadership qualities, as he was the U18 Captain for the Canadian National Team this past season. Allen is seen as a two-way defenseman that skates just as well as any other blueliner in this draft class. The tools are there for Allen and I’d be more than pleased with him going here toward the end of the second round.
Regardless of how many of these selections the Hawks make, I couldn’t be any more excited for draft night. The selection of Connor Bedard will change the direction of this franchise as we know it. Big things will be coming the way of the Hawks in the coming years and hockey will soon be back in Chicago. Wednesday night is a fantastic first step in that process as this draft will forever change Chicago Blackhawks hockey.