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FEATURE: How the Blackhawks shaped the 2019 prospect class

Some of the top prospects on the board pointed to Chicago stars as their role models and mentors on the road to the NHL

by Austin Siegel / Blackhawks.com

Of all the eye-popping stats that future NHL lottery picks will bring to Vancouver this weekend, one number stands out above everything else:

Jack Hughes, date of birth: May 14, 2001...Alex Turcotte, date of birth: Feb. 26, 2001...Cole Caufield, date of birth: Jan. 2, 2001

No matter who he is, the third overall pick on Friday night will have grown up with hockey highlights on YouTube, NHL scores on their smart phone and watching the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on TV.

The impact of the Blackhawks in shaping this year's draft class was evident at the 2019 NHL Combine in Buffalo. Some of the top prospects on the board pointed to Chicago stars as their role models and mentors on the road to the NHL.

Jack Hughes, the consensus top pick in this year's NHL Draft, played alongside Patrick Kane at the 2019 Men's World Ice Hockey Championships in Slovakia this summer.

He was just nine years old when Kane and the Blackhawks lifted the Cup in 2010, but as teammates, Hughes said he gained a new respect for No. 88.

"Kaner is unreal. I've probably watched all of his goals from the last ten years. That's a guy I love watching play, he's probably my favorite player," Hughes said. "To kind of get to know him up close, be around him, see him play, practice with him, it's just a lot of fun to see that up close."

Video: Jack Hughes on Patrick Kane

Alex Turcotte grew up just an hour away from the United Center in Island Lake, Ill. and enjoyed a front row seat to Chicago's three Stanley Cups. The third-ranked North American center (NHL Central Scouting) pointed to Jonathan Toews as a player who captured his attention from an early age.

"Growing up in Chicago, [Toews] is definitely an idol of mine," he said. "Watching the Hawks all the way up, I would be lucky to be half as good as him."

Turcotte said his game is similar to the Blackhawks captain and showcased his potential with the United States National Team Development Program.

"I bring the same qualities as him, the compete and the 200-foot game," Turcotte said. "I want to be there and be similar to him one day."

Video: Alex Turcotte on playing like Jonathan Toews

 It's easy to understand how players that have raised banners for the Blackhawks caught the attention of the NHL's next generation. But one player who has impacted the Draft in a different way? Alex DeBrincat.

Read any almost any scouting report on USNTDP winger Cole Caufield and you will find comparisons to DeBrincat. Both are 5'7" snipers capable of breaking a game wide open with roots in the USNTDP.

The key difference is that while DeBrincat fell to Chicago with the 39th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Caufield is a near-consensus top 10 pick in 2019.

And he doesn't mind comparisons to the Blackhawks star.

"He does a lot of great things and has had a lot of success," Caufield said. "I don't get tired of it. He's a really good player so even to be compared to him is pretty special."

The Hockey News was even more effusive in comparing the USNTDP winger to DeBrincat.

"Aside from the Chicago Blackhawks, there was probably nobody in hockey happier to see Alex DeBrincat score 40 goals this season," the prospect report on Caufield reads. "Teams will not be fooled again."

The influence of the Blackhawks in shaping future stars and changing the way prospects are evaluated? It will be on display when the 2019 NHL Draft kicks off at 7 p.m. CT on Friday night.

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