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FEATURE: Bowman, Blackhawks have their pick at No. 3

SVP/GM confident in who Chicago will take third overall after final scouting meeting

by Chris Kuc / Blackhawks.com

VANCOUVER - It is the morning of the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft and Blackawks Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman is calm, cool and collected moments after a final meeting with the members of the organization involved in making a decision that could alter the course of the franchise.

Thanks to some lucky bounces from lottery balls, the Blackhawks hold the No. 3 selection in the first round that will be held Friday evening at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Bowman knows the name of the player the Blackhawks will select (he's not telling) and the GM fully expects to add a player who will make a huge impact once he reaches the NHL.

When that occurs is among the biggest questions. Picking third affords the Blackhawks an opportunity to possibly add a player who is NHL ready and could immediate fill a need. For a team that could be an impact player or two away from being a contender, it is a tantalizing prospect.

"I would be lying if I said I didn't think, 'could this guy come in and play a role next year?,'" Bowman said. "Because you just have to look back at last year and four guys came in and played on their teams and played varying roles but they were important players. If that happens to us, I think it would be one less guy that we have to go try and find somewhere else."

Make no mistake: Bowman and the Blackhawks will be focusing on the long term when they make their top overall selection.

"The mandate is still the same: It's looking at who do we think is going to be the biggest impact player down the road, who has the potential to be an elite player?" Bowman said. "You're doing some projecting because as great as everyone is, they're not the finished product yet. They're still 17 or 18 years old and they're going to improve and take that next step over the next probably three or four years. But the guys that we're focused on right now that we've been watching, I think they all have enough ability and talent that the could step right in next year and play.

"That's not the primary driver, though," Bowman continued. "I think if it ends up playing out that way it would be great. We'd love it. We're not going to hesitate to give the player an opportunity. But we're not going to draft a player solely based on that because we're looking at this for who is going to have the biggest impact five years out and that's what has kind of led us to our decision."

Video: Chris Kuc on the eve of the draft

Practicing patience is the smart play because as Bowman pointed out, not a whole lot of teenagers are ready to step right into the NHL. The Top 4 players selected in the 2018 draft, Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Brady Tkachuk, respectively, all found regular roles with their teams last season but that was a bit of an anomaly. Only the top two picks in the '17 draft-Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick, respectively-have appeared in more than 84 games during their young careers.

Not surprisingly, the players the Blackhawks are likely considering selecting after Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are off the board as the No. 1 and 2 picks, all believe they can step in and play right away. Consider these thoughts from five of the potential draftees:

Bowen Byram, defenseman: "I'm a confident guy and a competitive guy. I want to play the best hockey available to me and obviously that's the NHL next year. That's my goal throughout the summer and going into training camp. But if it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be and I'll be back in Vancouver (of the WHL) for another fun year."

Dylan Cozens, forward: "If I'm privileged enough that the team wants me to play next year, I believe I'll be ready for it. But if not, I'll be happy to go back to my team (Lethbridge of the WHL) and lead them in junior."

Kirby Dach, forward: "As a player and an athlete you have to be confident in your abilities. If that's something I really want to do in my life, be a professional athlete in the sport of hockey, I think you kind of have to expect yourself to step in right away. Those are the expectations I have and it's a goal and a dream of mine to play in the NHL right away."

Alex Turcotte, forward: "I believe I could play right away but there is no rush. I feel real comfortable with the University of Wisconsin and their coaching staff and all the guys there. I kind of want to experience that and see how that goes. I'm really looking forward to that."

Trevor Zegras, forward: "I think I'm right there. I think my skills are as good as anybody in this draft. I think I'm right there in terms of NHL ready."

Video: Top prospects eager for draft night

Some of the potential top draftees are closer than others when it comes to physically being ready for the NHL, but getting bigger and faster in the months ahead will be a priority for each.

"Every player and even every non-athlete matures from the ages from 18-24," Bowman said. "They're all going to get a little bigger but you have to kind of go deeper than that. None of these kids have had the training yet that they're going to get when they go to the Blackhawks. It's a whole different level of attention to detail on their fitness. So when you look at that and look at the strength of the players where they're at now, some of them are developed and some of them have even more room for growth."

One thing that is certain is that Bowman and the Blackhawks realize they have an opportunity to add the type of player who can star on United Center ice for years to come.

"You don't get a chance to get these star players-the only way you get them is you have to draft them and then you have to develop them," Bowman said. "It's going to be a special moment when we get to make that pick."

The 2019 NHL Draft begins with the first round on Friday, June 21 at 7 p.m. CT from Rogers Arena in Vancouver. For full coverage, visit blackhawks.com/draft

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