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NHL Draft

Eventful weekend for Blackhawks as hosts of NHL Draft

Chicago makes four trades, selects nine players in two days

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

CHICAGO -- It was a memorable two days for the Chicago Blackhawks at the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas.

The Blackhawks hosted the event for the first time and took full advantage of being center stage.

In addition to two trades Friday before the draft began, they also showed off their next practice facility, watched fans flock to the NHL Draft Fan Fest and generated plenty of excitement at United Center prior to selecting Finnish defenseman Henri Jokiharju with their first pick, No. 29 in the first round.


[RELATED: Artemi Panarin traded to Blue Jackets by Blackhawks for Brandon Saad | Niklas Hjalmarsson traded to Coyotes by Blackhawks]


The Blackhawks even began the draft the way they start games, with anthem singer Jim Cornelison's voice bellowing throughout the arena.

"It's been an incredible weekend here," Chicago general manager Stan Bowman said after making eight picks in rounds 2-7 on Saturday. "I have to say, I've gone to a lot of drafts, and I've never seen something like this. I think we set a record attendance for the weekend (47,514 fans), and you could tell. There was a lot of energy. It was really neat."

That energy was mixed with uncertainty, with fans and teams processing the trades the Blackhawks made hours before the draft began. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, a three-time Stanley Cup winner, was traded to the Arizona Coyotes, and left wing Artemi Panarin was sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a trade to reacquire forward Brandon Saad.

Video: Stan Bowman on the Blackhawks' big trades

"Very emotional deals," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who joined Chicago's draft table for the second day. "There's a lot to process there. You look at it, and you lose a couple of pretty special players. It's tough when you're losing players of that dynamic."

Chicago added players in the trades and with nine draft picks, headlined by Jokiharju, defenseman Ian Mitchell (No. 57) and Russian forward Andrei Altybarmakyan (No. 70). Jokiharju and Mitchell were the first two of five defensemen the Blackhawks picked.

"I think this year we probably had a little bit bigger focus on defensemen," Bowman said. "There's a high value on defensemen. Not necessarily looking at the draft, but when we're looking at our team this year and over the next couple years, I think those are the assets that are really valuable around the League. Defensemen are really a valuable commodity, so for us that was a priority coming in, and we were able to accomplish it."

They also found a way to make their fans in the arena happy, drawing three ovations prior to selecting Jokiharju.

Video: Jokiharju selected 29th overall by the Blackhawks

The first preceded their initial first-round pick (No. 26), which Bowman traded to the Dallas Stars for the No. 29 choice. The second happened as the Chicago brass approached the stage to make their first pick, and the third was prompted by Bowman, who halted his announcement to bring the Blackhawks' most recognizable faces onstage.

Bowman ceded the announcement to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who have spearheaded the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup championships since Chicago drafted them in the first round in 2006 (Toews, No. 3) and 2007 (Kane, No. 1).

On Saturday, the Blackhawks traded a fourth-round pick (No. 112) to the Vancouver Canucks for a fifth-round pick (No. 135) and a sixth-round pick (No. 181).

Chicago's roster took two hits earlier in the week. Veteran right wing Marian Hossa announced Thursday he will miss next season with a progressive skin disorder, and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk was taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft on Wednesday.

Video: Marian Hossa will miss entire 2017-18 season

"There was a lot happening," Bowman said. "There were some big trades and some big players that we just added to the mix. It's a busy time of year. It's not always this busy, but I think the [NHL] Trade Deadline and the draft are probably the two times when you're able to make the most changes to your team, and that's when other teams are more open-minded to it. It just sort of came together."

Bowman promised changes were coming after the Nashville Predators swept the Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round. He started the shake-up by changing Quenneville's staff, and then traded backup goalie Scott Darling to the Carolina Hurricanes on April 28.

Bowman then pulled off the two biggest trades of the offseason Friday. It was a lot to digest, even for Quenneville, who's seen a lot of key players traded or leave as free agents since the Blackhawks won the Cup in 2010.

"Over the last week, in a short amount of time, the dynamics of our lineup have changed dramatically," Quenneville said. "Sometimes when you're making decisions, they're business decisions, not always hockey decisions, and things can get a little tougher. There's been some interesting summers."

This one already is among them after draft weekend.

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