The 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft will be held June 28-29 at Sphere in Las Vegas. The first round will be June 28 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS) and Rounds 2-7 are June 29 (11:30 a.m. ET; ESPN+, NHLN, SN, SN1). is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects, podcasts and other features. Today, we examine draft needs for teams in the Central Division.'s full draft coverage can be found here.

The 2024 NHL Draft provides an opportunity for teams to shore up positions of need with an injection of young talent.

Here are what the eight teams in the Central Division could be looking to do at the draft (teams listed in alphabetical order):

Chicago Blackhawks

Top priority: High-end talent

First-round picks: No. 2, No. 18

The situation: The Blackhawks got their rebuild started a year ago when they chose Connor Bedard with the No. 1 pick of the 2023 NHL Draft. They have the No. 2 pick this year, the No. 18 selection and six of the first 72 picks. Bedard showed the foundation of being an NHL star. He's a finalist for the Calder Trophy given to the rookie of the year and led the Blackhawks with 61 points (22 goals, 39 assists) in 68 games. They also saw positive development from some of their other young players, among them defensemen Alex Vlasic and Kevin Korchinski and forwards Lukas Reichel, Landon Slaggert and Frank Nazar. There's more coming, but with the No. 2 pick there's a chance to add an elite-level talent who either can play with Bedard or provide the foundation on defense for seasons to come.

Possible fits: Artyom Levshunov, D, Michigan State (NCAA); Cayden Lindstrom, C, Medicine Hat (WHL); Anton Silayev, D, Nizhny Novgorod (RUS)

Colorado Avalanche

Top priority: Forward depth

First pick: No. 24

The situation: Colorado has two elite forwards in Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, but no one else at the position reached 60 points. There certainly is talent there. Jonathan Drouin had his best NHL season (56 points; 19 goals, 37 assists) in 79 games, the Avalanche got nice contributions from Ross Colton and Artturi Lehkonen, and Casey Mittelstadt and Miles Wood were good during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Calum Ritchie, the No. 27 pick of the 2023 draft, had an outstanding season for Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League (80 points; 28 goals, 52 assists) and the 19-year-old could push for an NHL spot next season. But more youth is needed at the position, and with one pick in the first three rounds the Avalanche could focus on selecting the best forward available when their turn comes.

Possible fits: Igor Chernyshov, LW, Dynamo Moscow (RUS); Trevor Connelly, C, Tri-City (USHL); Jett Luchanko, C, Guelph (OHL)

Dallas Stars

Top priority: Defenseman

First pick: No. 29

The situation: With Logan Stankoven, 21, and Mavrik Bourque, 22, joining Wyatt Johnston, 21, and Jason Robertson, 24, in key roles at forward, the Stars have done a nice job building a core group of emerging stars under age 25 up front. Miro Heiskanen, 24, and Thomas Harley, 22, have emerged as young foundational pieces on defense, but with one pick in the first four rounds, the Stars could look to add another potential building block on the back end. Adding depth at center also could be a direction they look.

Possible fits: Aron Kiviharju, D, HIFK (FIN); Julius Miettinen, C, Everett (WHL); Leo Sahlin Wallenius, D, Vaxjo Jr. (SWE-JR)

Minnesota Wild

Top priority: Defenseman

First pick: No. 13

The situation: The Wild have taken one defenseman in the first round in the previous five years, Carson Lambos at No. 26 in the 2021 NHL Draft, and the organization lacks top-end prospects at the position. But with a draft strong in high-skill prospects, finding the best defenseman available likely will be the direction Minnesota looks with its first pick.

Possible fits: Adam Jiricek, D, Plzen (CZREP); Stian Solberg, D, Valerenga (NOR); Carter Yakemchuk, D, Calgary (WHL)

Nashville Predators

Top priority: Center

First pick: No. 22

The situation: Predators assistant general manager and director of scouting Jeff Kealty said center could be a priority with Nashville excited about some of the prospects on the wings it has coming, and size on defense. The Predators have four of the first 59 picks, including three in the second round, making them well-positioned to fill their needs.

Possible fits: Adam Jiricek, D, Plzen (CZREP); Jett Luchanko, C, Guelph (OHL); Egor Surin, C, Yaroslavl Jr. (RUS-JR)

St. Louis Blues

Top priority: Defensemen

First pick: No. 16

The situation: The Blues have built their future around forwards Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou and have some young pieces stepping up around them in Zack Bolduc, 21, and Zach Dean, 21, with top prospects Jimmy Snuggerud (2022, No. 23), Dalibor Dvorsky (2023, No. 10) and Otto Stenberg (2023, No. 25) close to joining them. They lack top-end defenseman prospects, and in a draft heavy on talent at the position, that's where they could look. But with three of the first 56 picks, they also could look at center.

Possible fits: Michael Brandsegg-Nygard, C, Mora (SWE-2); Adam Jiricek, D, Plzen (CZREP); Stian Solberg, D, Valerenga (NOR)

Utah Hockey Club

Top priority: Defensemen

First pick: No. 6

The situation: This will be the fourth draft overseen by general manager Bill Armstrong, and after making 31 picks in the first three, the prospect depth is starting to emerge on the NHL roster, topped by forwards Dylan Guenther (2021, No. 9), Logan Cooley (2022, No. 3) and Josh Doan (2021, No. 37), and defenseman J.J. Moser (2021, No. 60), with forward Conor Geekie (2022, No. 11) and defenseman Maveric Lamoureux (2022, No. 29) close to joining them. Armstrong said his mandate hasn't changed with new ownership following the move to Utah from Arizona, meaning the focus will be on selecting the best player available when its time comes. But with seven picks in the first three rounds, Utah is prepared to be creative and potentially take big swings.

Possible fits: Zeev Buium, D, Denver (NCAA); Berkly Catton, C, Spokane (WHL); Sam Dickinson, D, London (OHL)

Winnipeg Jets

Top priority: Defenseman

First pick: No. 37

The situation: The Jets traded their first-round pick (No. 26) to the Montreal Canadiens in the deal for forward Sean Monahan on Feb. 2, and other trades have left them with one pick in the first three rounds. They have one defenseman who played for them this season signed beyond next season, Josh Morrissey, so addressing the position in the present is important, but it's also a need for the future. Defenseman prospect Elias Salomonsson (2022, No. 55) is expected to move from Sweden to North America next season and will have a chance to make the NHL roster, but he's the closest thing the Jets have to a top prospect at the position.

Possible fits: Spencer Gill, D, Rimouski (QMJHL); Cole Hutson, D, USA U-18 (USHL); Colin Ralph, Shattuck-St. Mary's Prep (HIGH-MN)

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