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DRAFT: Deep Draft Class Could See High-End Talent Through Third Round

VP of Amateur Scouting Mark Kelley sees high-level prospects being available with all of Chicago's first four picks

by Carter Baum @CarterBaum /

With picks in the middle of the first and second rounds next week, the Blackhawks expect to be able to select a pair of high-end prospects that could impact the NHL roster in a few short years.

But it's the team's double-dip in the third round that could prove surprisingly fruitful. 

"I think the depth of this year's draft is strong right through the third round," Vice President of Amateur Scouting Mark Kelley told earlier this week. 

Chicago holds firm with their natural selection at No. 79 overall and will also hold a second selection within a handful of picks, a result of the trade deadline deal with Calgary for Erik Gustafsson. As it stands now, that pick is No. 81 overall, but it could improve to the No. 76 overall pick by the time the Blackhawks are on the clock. (You can read more on that unique scenario here.)

That third-round talent could net Chicago a total of four skilled prospects before some teams even get to make a second or third pick. 

"You look at the first round and you have different tiers (of players). Then, you get late to the first round and start talking about players, all of the sudden you realize from late in the first round through the second round, there's not a lot of separation (in talent) of players," Kelley said. "When you carry it further, (the quality depth) really goes right through the third round."

Video: Bowman ahead of 2020 NHL Draft

From there, it's up to each team's scouting staff to really find the guys they think could be the proverbial late-round steal. And there's a reason that the Blackahwks scouting staff led by Kelley -- one that remained largely unchanged over the last decade -- has such a strong track record in the deeper rounds, historically taking names like Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger and Vinnie Hinostroza in the fifth round or later. 

"After the third round (this year), I think the draft becomes just like any other draft," Kelley said. "There's going to be outliers there. It's the inside information that we have (from our scouts) that gives us the indication that somebody's on the right track, projection-wise."

"You really lean on the scouts because they're the ones watching the videos, they're calling the coaches, they've created relationships probably as early as their under-age year, the year before (the draft)," Director of Player Evaluation/Recruitment Mike Doneghey said on the latest Blackhawks Insider. "This group's been together for 11 years, so we're in a spot where we're comfortable (with each other)."

See how it all shakes out at the 2020 NHL Draft on Tuesday, Oct. 6 and Wednesday, Oct. 7.

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