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NHL Draft

Blackhawks could set tone of first round with No. 3 pick at 2019 Draft

Forwards Turcotte, Caufield among intriguing number of options

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The Chicago Blackhawks and the No. 3 selection likely will be where the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver begins to get interesting.

Center Jack Hughes from USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team is expected to go No. 1 to the New Jersey Devils followed by forward Kaapo Kakko from TPS in Liiga in Finland to the New York Rangers at No. 2.

What the Blackhawks then do could set the tenor for the remainder of the first round June 21 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are June 22 (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

 

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Chicago missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season, finishing six points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card from the Western Conference, but at the NHL Draft Lottery won the opportunity to move up from No. 12 to No. 3.

Getting younger and more skilled, especially at forward, could be the plan.

"Where we're picking we get our choice," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley said. "I think if you looked at the draft as a whole probably the depth of the first round is at the forward position."

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

The Blackhawks have selected defensemen with their first two draft picks the past two years -- Henri Jokiharju (No. 29) and Ian Mitchell (No. 57) in 2017, and Adam Boqvist (No. 8) and Nicolas Beaudin (No. 27) in 2018 -- but Kelley said they're looking for the best player available regardless of position.

"It's my job to come up with some kind of draft board ranking for Stan (Bowman, general manager)," Kelley said. "And then in discussion team needs ... they can come in but really at this point where we're picking third we're going after the best available."

Kelley wouldn't go into detail on who that might be but said he and the scouting staff had narrowed their list to six players.

Alex Turcotte, who was born in the Chicago suburb of Elk Grove, Illinois and has a skill set reminiscent of Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, could be one of those six players. He missed 22 games early in the season because of a lower-body injury and played through mononucleosis for the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship. He still had 62 points (27 goals, 35 assists) in 37 games and his 1.68 points per game was second on the NTDP to Hughes (2.24).

"[Turcotte] missed a significant amount of time but I think we saw him enough," Kelley said. "And really from the second half of the year he didn't miss a beat until he came down with the illness, but the illness was when the season was over and before the Under-18 tournament."

Turcotte at No. 4 is one of five NTDP forwards in the top nine of NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters along with Hughes (No. 1), center Trevor Zegras (No. 6), right wing Cole Caufield (No. 8) and left wing Matthew Boldy (No. 9).

Video: Alex Turcotte lands at No. 4 on Draft Prospects list

"Zegras brings the skill, as skilled as anyone in the draft," Kelley said. "Caufield shoots the puck and scores as good as anyone in the draft. Turcotte, the two-way game….

"When we're looking at the U.S. players you go back and see how they did because at times it looked like certain players, like Jack and Cole were always together, we saw Boldy and Turcotte a lot together. And then at times you saw them mixed up, Jack was out for a while, Turcotte was hurt. We went back and looked at what happened. But it's a really good team, lot of depth there."

Caufield, at 5-foot-7, 163 pounds, has been compared to Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat, who has flourished in his two NHL seasons, including 41 goals this season, while standing 5-7, 165.

"He gets to a spot, he opens up and he shoots the puck, a lot like Alex," Kelley said of Caufield, who set the single-season NTDP record with 72 goals this season. "For Cole Caufield, I think Alex opened a door for him. People in my business say fool me once, (but) fool me twice, good luck."

Other options at No. 3 could be centers Kirby Dach of Saskatoon and Dylan Cozens of Lethbridge in the Western Hockey League, forward Vasili Podkolzin of Neva St. Petersburg in Russia's second division and defenseman Bowen Byram of Vancouver in the WHL.

Kelley said there would be more meetings, including input learned from the fitness testing at the NHL Scouting Combine and analyzed by strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman, and then a decision would be made.

"I don't think it's going to be difficult," Kelley said. "What we want to do is get all the information so when we do make the decision we're very comfortable with it."

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