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NHL Draft

Central Division team draft needs

Blackhawks, Stars could add forward depth; Avalanche have two first-round picks

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

The 2019 NHL Draft provides an opportunity for teams to shore up positions of need with an injection of young talent.


The first round of the draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver is June 21 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are June 22 (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

Here is what Central Division teams could be looking to do when they arrive in Vancouver (teams listed in alphabetical order):



Top priority: Skilled forwards

First pick: No. 3

The situation: The Blackhawks have used their top two picks on defensemen each of the past two years, selecting Henri Jokiharju (No. 29) and Ian Mitchell (No. 57) at the 2017 NHL Draft, and Adam Boqvist (No. 8) and Nicolas Beaudin (No. 27) at the 2018 NHL Draft. Now it's time to put the same effort into finding young, high-end forwards. They moved up from No. 12 to No. 3 at the NHL Draft Lottery, which gives them a chance to select from a deep pool of high-end forwards. But vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley said Chicago would take the best player available, even if it determined that player is a defenseman.

Possible fits: Alex Turcotte, C, USA U-18 (NTDP); Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge (WHL); Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver (WHL)

Video: Turcotte is enjoying it all as the draft approaches



Top priority: Forward depth

First pick: No. 4

The situation: The Avalanche made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season and now have a chance to add two elite prospects in the first round starting at No. 4, a pick they acquired from the Ottawa Senators in the Matt Duchene trade Nov. 5, 2017, plus their pick at No. 16. The Avalanche were overly reliant on their top line of Nathan MacKinnon (41 goals), Gabriel Landeskog (34) and Mikko Rantanen (31) with those three players combining for 106 of the Avalanche's 258 goals (41.1 percent). Carl Soderberg (23) was the only other player who scored at least 20 goals. With defenseman Cale Makar, the No. 4 pick in 2017, already making an impact and defenseman Connor Timmins (No. 32, 2017) close, it's possible the Avalanche look to add forward depth in the first round and find defensemen with some of the six picks they have in Rounds 2-7.

Possible fits: Kirby Dach, C, Saskatoon (WHL); Dylan Cozens, C, Lethbridge (WHL); Bowen Byram, D, Vancouver (WHL)



Top priority: Forward depth

First pick: No. 18

The situation: The Stars have a sensational first line in Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov, but otherwise did not have a forward who scored more than 15 goals or had 30 points. They have good young forwards who could be contenders for full-time NHL roster spots next season, including Riley Tufte (No. 25, 2016), Denis Gurianov (No. 12, 2015), Jason Robertson (No. 39, 2017) and Ty Dellandrea (No. 13, 2018). The Stars have four picks, and adding talented players to their forward group should be a priority.

Possible fits: Ryan Suzuki, C, Barrie (OHL); Alex Newhook, C, Victoria (BCHL); Raphael Lavoie, C, Halifax (QMJHL)



Top priority: Young centers

First pick: No. 12

The situation: The Wild's top two centers this season were Eric Staal, 34, and Mikko Koivu, 36, who tore the ACL in his right knee Feb. 5. The Wild were 27th in the NHL with 210 goals, so finding young, dynamic offensive players is a must, especially through the middle.

Possible fits: Peyton Krebs, C, Kootenay (WHL); Vasili Podkolzin, RW, Neva St. Petersburg (RUS-2); Alex Newhook, C, Victoria (BCHL)

Video: Discussing the top NTDP players in the 2019 NHL Draft



Top priority: Skilled forwards

First pick: No. 24

The situation: Despite having a talented group on paper, the Predators were 19th in goals (236) and had the worst power play during the regular season (12.9 percent) and playoffs (0-for-15). No one they select with their seven picks at the draft is going to provide immediate help, but they can plan for the future. With Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm signed to long-term contracts, and one likely coming for Roman Josi, the Predators appear set on defense. So forward likely will be the spot Nashville focuses on, especially early in the draft.

Possible fits: Egor Afanasyev, LW, Muskegon (USHL); Bobby Brink, RW, Sioux City (USHL); Philip Tomasino, C, Niagara (OHL)



Top priority: Defensemen

First pick: No. 62 (second round)

The situation: The Blues' young veterans on defense were a big part of their Stanley Cup championship, led by Alex Pietrangelo, 29, who averaged 25:45 of ice time per game during the playoffs, and Colton Parayko, 26, (25:07). But Vince Dunn, 22, and Joel Edmundson, 25, were the only significant contributors during the regular season and playoffs who were 25 or younger. The Blues have drafted two defensemen in the second round or higher the past five years, Dunn (No. 56, 2015) and Scott Perunovich (No. 45, 2018). They don't have a first-round pick because of the Ryan O'Reilly trade with the Buffalo Sabres on July 1, 2018, but there should be quality defensemen to choose from when they select in the second round.

Possible fits: Domenick Fensore, D, USA U-18 (NTDP); Jordan Spence, D, Moncton (QMJHL); Danil Misyul, Yaroslavl 2 (RUS-JR)



Top priority: Forward depth

First pick: No. 20

The situation: The Jets began to prosper when Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine began to mature from draft picks into star players. Now they need to add behind those established veterans to keep the prospect pipeline going. They've taken that approach with defensemen, and Logan Stanley (No. 18, 2016) and Dylan Samberg (No. 43, 2017) could compete for NHL roster spots next season. The Jets traded their first-round pick to the New York Rangers for center Kevin Hayes on Feb. 25, but got it back when they traded defenseman Jacob Trouba to the Rangers on Monday.

Possible fits: Robert Mastrosimone, LW, Chicago (USHL); Nathan Legare, RW, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL); Nils Hoglander, LW, Rogle (SWE)



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