Things are a little bit easier this time around for Blackhawks Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman.
"We're not going to be cramming last minute," he told reporters in a conference call Wednesday evening, just 48 hours away from the No. 3 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft. "We're going to be very comfortable with the guy that we pick when we get to Friday night."
A year ago at No. 8 overall, he explained, the Blackhawks had to prepare for a litany of possible scenarios with the picks ahead of them. There, they took Adam Boqvist. This year, the formula for Chicago's first-round pick is much more straightforward.
"There seems to be an understanding of how those first two picks will go," Bowman said. "We're going to pick one of three players. There will be two guys gone and then we'll get to choose who we like. From that perspective, it's refreshing knowing that we don't have to do as much guess work."
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After months of scouting games, meeting with the picks and the combine, Bowman, the hockey operations staff and all the scouts are all fine-tuning their final list ahead of Friday night. They have the comfort of truly kicking off the draft if Jack Huges and Kaapo Kakko do, in fact, go first and second as so many around the league expect.
Who Chicago takes at No. 3 might not be a consensus externally as the top picks are, but it will be internally - picking a player who fits into the system in the years to come.
"We've spent a lot of time getting to know all of these players and they're different. Several of them play the same position, but they approach it differently," Bowman said. "Although a cluster of them may look the same on paper, they approach the game differently and they have different skills…part of it is your feel about what kind of player they are and what kind of player they will become."
Regardless of who the newest Blackhawk is within the next 48 hours, as years of work come to fruition, there's really not a bad option amongst the first-round favorites. It's a good problem for Bowman and his staff as they pick who is the right fit for them.
"It's been an interesting process and we've had a lot of fun with it," he said. "These are great kids and the one thing I've learned in the last couple months getting to know each one of them is they're all fantastic players and they're all going to have great NHL careers, so we're choosing between great options and that puts us in a really good position."
The 2019 NHL Draft begins with the first round on Friday, June 21 at 7 p.m. CT from Rogers Place in Vancouver, British Columbia. For full coverage, visit blackhawks.com/draft