With the 2014 NHL Draft less than a week away, the Blackhawks and the 29 other teams are finalizing their prospect lists and deliberating a host of scenarios for the first round and beyond. While it's certain that top prospects including Aaron Ekblad and Sam Bennett will be long gone by the time Chicago takes the podium for the 27th pick, there will be plenty of quality prospects still on the board.
Here are 12 possible players—in alphabetical order—who could still be available for the Blackhawks, along with their rankings and selected evaluations from NHL's Central Scouting, TSN's Craig Button, ESPN's Corey Pronman and independent scouting guide Red Line Report.
C Conner Bleackley, Red Deer (WHL)
71GP, 29G, 39A, 48 PIM
NHL: 35 (North American ranking) | TSN: 30 | ESPN: 27 | Red Line Report: 32
Bleackley served as captain for Red Deer under Brent Sutter last year, developing into a consistent model of hard work who battles tirelessly along the boards and plays a lot of minutes in all situations. Bleackley has shown a strong, accurate shot, and according to Pronman, he “kills penalties effectively, and anticipates the flow of the offensive pressure well...a very astute thinker on the offensive side of the puck.” Projects to be a two-way checking center with offensive upside.
RW Josh Ho-Sang, Windsor (OHL)
67GP, 32G, 53A, 44 PIM
NHL: 22 (NA ranking) | TSN: 39 | ESPN: 20 | RLR: 22
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One of the most skilled playmakers in this year’s draft, Ho-Sang’s skating and puckhandling stands out in the first round. According to Pronman, “He's one of the best skaters in the draft; his first few steps and overall stride are high end, and his top speed is elite.” However, Pronman adds, "Ho-Sang can struggle at times with his decision making with the puck, [and] off the puck, he's a work in progress." Ho-Sang has Blackhawks ties, having grown up with Steve Larmer’s son, and credits Hall of Famer Denis Savard as one of his childhood inspirations.
D Julius Honka, Swift Current (WHL)
62GP, 16G, 40A, 52 PIM
NHL: 11 (NA ranking) | TSN: 18 | ESPN: 29 | RLR: 31
The Finnish defenseman excelled in his first North American campaign, showing off a strong shot and power-play quarterbacking abilities, taking a break only to help Finland win gold at the U20 World Championship. Pronman writes, “The factor that's really elevated his play has been his improvement defensively, which has allowed him to be leaned on more in tough minutes.”
LW Adrian Kempe, Modo (SWE)
45GP, 5G, 6A, 12 PIM
NHL: 6 (EU ranking) | TSN: 10 | ESPN: 22 | RLR: 38
A classic power forward who can play both wing and center, Kempe combines speed and skill with an intense forechecking sensibility, along with a willingness to take the puck to the net. The Swede played across two levels with Modo this season and by all accounts elevated his game with the senior club; as one of the youngest draft-eligible players this season, Kempe likely needs to gain more experience to refine his game before transitioning to North America.
C Dylan Larkin, USNTDP (USHL)
60 GP, 31G, 25A, 56 PIM
NHL: 17 (NA ranking) | TSN: 21 | ESPN: 26 | RLR: 16
Larkin, a development team product who is committed to the University of Michigan for 2014-15, is a constant threat in the offensive zone due to his skating ability (one of the best in the draft class, according to Pronman), overall strength and work ethic. He also displays plenty of hockey instinct and plays off his linemates well. With his passing abilities, it’s not unlikely that Larkin could eventually move to the wing to open up his game even more.
C Jared McCann, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
64 GP, 27G, 35A, 51 PIM
NHL: 10 (NA ranking) | TSN: 19 | ESPN: 19 | RLR: 21
Smooth and fluid on his skates, McCann has a great touch in the offensive zone, whether it’s creating chances or sniping goals with a bullet of a shot. His high hockey IQ makes up for lack of size, writes Pronman: “His hockey sense translates to plus creativity, vision, positioning and defensive awareness. He regularly lined up against the opponents' best players in tough even-strength minutes, and was effective in doing so.”
D Roland McKeown, Kingston (OHL)
62 GP, 11G, 32A, 61 PIM
NHL: 27 (NA ranking) | TSN: 51 | ESPN: 23 | RLR: 27
Widely regarded as one of the draft's best skaters to go along with a soft touch on his passes, McKeown has the chance to be a quality playmaker on an NHL team's blue line someday. While not the biggest defenseman on the board, the Ontario native has developed his defensive game considerably, writes NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory: "When defending you, he presents himself as a big, strong and mobile guy. He'll push guys to the side; he's a legitimate top prospect.”
RW David Pastrnak, Sodertalje (SWE-2)
36 GP, 8G, 16A, 24 PIM
NHL: 5 (EU ranking) | TSN: 25 | ESPN: 16 | RLR: 14
A small, shifty forward (5-foot-10, 165 pounds), Czech winger Pastrnak has proven himself on some of the biggest stages. An assistant captain with the silver-medal Czech Republic team at the 2014 U18 World Championship, he recorded five assists in seven games in the tournament. As a 17-year-old at the 2014 World Junior Championship, he netted one of his team’s two shootout goals in a 5-4 upset over Canada in the preliminary round. "He's very smart on ice but will need more weight and strength to excel at the next level," says NHL Director of Eurpean Scouting Goran Stubb. "David is an offensive-minded player with smooth hands, great instincts and a very quick shot. He's an excellent skater with speed and acceleration."
LW Brendan Perlini, Niagara (OHL)
58 GP, 34G, 37A, 36 PIM
NHL: 8 (NA ranking) | TSN: 11 | ESPN: 14 | RLR: 20
One of the OHL's breakout stars this season, Perlini improved his point total from 12 in 2012-13 to 71 in 2013-14. Perlini has a long family history in hockey: His father played professionally in Great Britain, and his brother was a 2010 Anaheim Ducks draft pick. Already 6-foot-2, Perlini has the chance to grow into his frame and become a big scoring winger. "He plays an unselfish game moving the puck around, and he gets his stick on pucks and arrives on time for chances," says Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr. "He's a good shooter and has a good touch finishing chances.”
D Markus Pettersson, Skelleftea (SWE-2)
38 GP, 4G, 14A, 38 PIM
NHL: 7 (EU ranking) | TSN: 29 | ESPN: 51 | RLR: 25
A towering blueliner with room to grow at 6-foot-4 and 168 pounds, Pettersson could be a long-term investment with lots of potential. Pettersson recently converted from forward to defense, and has the offensive ability to match, but will need time to hone his defensive game. "His defensive sense and reads are a significant work in progress," says Pronman, "[but] he's also an intriguing player due to his upside and how he's tracking."
C John Quenneville, Brandon (WHL)
61 GP, 25G, 33A, 71 PIM
NHL: 23 (NA ranking) | TSN: 44 | ESPN: 42 | RLR: 24
Second-cousin of Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville and nephew of Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk by marriage, Quenneville has made a name for himself on his own, finishing third on the Wheat Kings with 25 goals and ranking fourth with 58 points. In the WHL playoffs, he posted a team-leading 13 points in nine games, including nine points in the club’s first-round sweep of Regina. "He has the pro makeup and is a hard worker," says Central Scouting's David Gregory. "He makes good plays very quickly and is good at moving the puck. I'd like to see more consistency from him, but I like the way he finds open spaces and his ability to make any kind of pass."
C Nick Schmaltz, Green Bay (USHL)
55 GP, 18G, 45A, 16 PIM
NHL: 19 | TSN: 24 | ESPN: 30 | RLR: 47
One of the USHL's best scorers for the past two seasons, Schmaltz is known as a creative puckhandler who can make something out of nothing, but as a smaller forward (6 foot, 172 pounds), he has had trouble forcing his way out of high-traffic areas. "Schmaltz isn't the biggest guy in the class, so he needs to bulk up and play less bashfully in battles," writes Pronman. "High risk, high reward is the school of thought among NHL scouts."