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Blackhawks receive A- grade from ESPN after solid draft haul

by Emerald Gao / Chicago Blackhawks

Some teams look at the draft as a way to patch up the system, drafting to fill certain holes; others simply take the players who they think have the most potential. Without any gaping organizational needs, the Blackhawks have been part of the latter group the last two years, casting a wide net on draft day for a full range of prospects.

The net haul: a high-end playmaker, a power forward with family pedigree, a puck-moving defenseman and a pair of goalies who have the tools to succeed as late-round surprises—and for the second consecutive year, a high grade from ESPN’s Craig Custance and Insider scout Grant Sonier. Six teams received an A, the highest grade, while Chicago was one of three teams to lock down the second-highest grade, along with the New York Islanders and Winnipeg Jets. Here’s what Custance and Sonier said about the Blackhawks’ newest additions.

"There was some speculation during draft weekend that GM Stan Bowman may upgrade his goaltending situation, but he appears content going into the season with Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. The Hawks did add a pair of goaltenders in the seventh round, both big in stature. They created a buzz among rival general managers by grabbing Teuvo Teravainen in the first round at No. 18, a player many had near the top of their draft boards.

"Sonier's prime picks: Christmas came early for the Blackhawks, as they snagged one of the highest-skilled players in this year's draft. The slick, playmaking forward Teravainen is drawing comparisons to Patrick Kane and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with his evasive style of play. This may allow him to play sooner rather than later, even though he is underdeveloped physically. Second-round pick, defenseman Dillon Fournier, had a breakout year after gaining confidence offensively, putting up good numbers in an injury-filled season in which he played only 52 games but posted 38 points from the back end."

Although first-round selection Teuvo Teravainen dropped further than most expected, he has consensus top-ten potential. Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus ranked the Finnish winger fifth in his final prospect rankings, describing him as "a player who sees everything."

"Teravainen is an impressive skater with a great first few steps who can get to a dangerous top speed that puts defenders on their heels, while also showing the ability to change gears quickly, and is very elusive from a standstill. His combination of quickness and speed is a great asset, but his possession skills are even better and really drive top-end value. Teravainen has high-end puck skills, which, when combined with the ability he has with his feet, allow him to make very rapid movements with the puck and create space for himself in an instant. He's a smart, creative player who knows how to miss checks and open up lanes. Tervainen has plus vision and regularly makes very aware distributions with regular moments of flash in his playmaking."
And here’s NHL.com contributor Justin Goldman with his pre-draft take on seventh-round goalie pick Brandon Whitney, NHL Central Scouting's second-highest ranked North American netminder after Malcolm Subban, who was selected 24th overall by Boston.

"Those accolades stemmed from a balanced approach of not only utilizing his large frame, but combining it with impressive quickness and natural reflexes. More importantly, Whitney was allowed to rely on those assets to play in a more comfortable and relaxed manner as the season rolled along.

"Dan [Frechette, Victoriaville’s goalie coach,] always emphasizes quickness in my play," Whitney said. "So we usually worked on that in practice, and toward the end of the season it was balanced with more of a focus on my positioning.

"Dan would always say to have grit in every play, to take every moment play-by-play, and to not think ahead," Whitney said. "I really do believe that he’s one of the best goalie coaches I’ve ever had.”

Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus liked the Blackhawks' picks on Day 2, citing Dylan Fournier's offensive tools, Chris Calnan's grit and Vince Hinostroza's work ethic. Here's Pronman's summary of the draft class overall:

There were a lot of discussion points that will emerge from this draft for the next few seasons, and Teravainen could end up being one of the major ones. Chicago got good talent on Day 2 as well, but being able to get a player with top-line tools in the middle of the first is a rarity and could make this a great draft class for the Hawks.

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