Blackhawk fans wait and hope as the Draft, July 1 approaches - New York News

Blackhawk fans wait and hope as the Draft, July 1 approaches

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

This time of year for die hard hockey fans is like early December for young children who are waiting for Christmas. Anticipation is at a high level for Blackhawk faithful and they are hoping GM Stan Bowman doesn't disappoint. Bowman didn't come close to placing a shiny new ten speed under the tree the past two summers, rather it was more like an assortment of hand-me-downs from the local thrift store.

Blackhawks fans are bracing for more failed attempts to acquire the necessary improvement for a long playoff run. Some believe they will be hearing another July 1 late afternoon speech form Bowman on how much he likes his guys. Others think this will be the summer for some big changes which will enable the Hawks to be true Stanley Cup contenders. The improvements could be starting this week as the NHL Entry Draft approaches.

Not basing anything on credible rumors but more my own instinct, my take is the Blackhawks will make some significant changes. Bowman won't be able to solve every issue. The goaltending will likely remain the same. There could be help coming in the way of a true top six forward, either a left wing or a center. Maybe a big swing at a free agent could come about.

A Draft week trade could set the Hawks up with needed improvement or additional cap space to sign a talented free agent.

Much talk has been made of the need for a second line center. Most often available third line centers are viewed as being second line possibilities in Chicago. That really isn't much different than taking a quality checking line center like Dave Bolland and trying to turn him into something he hasn't been. If so, why not just give Bolland a shot to move up and look to acquire an experienced third line pivot.

My answer is there might be a better opportunity to snag a player once considered a first line center and drop him down to play on the second line in Chicago. A similar strategy worked well with the LA Kings who traded for Mike Richards and moved him down a notch to play on the second line.

There is a club besides Pittsburgh, with three quality centers and they could be looking to shed some salary and acquire cheaper young talent. Colorado has Paul Stastny who may no longer be the best center on the club, but still is paid like it. The Avalanche have a bunch of RFA's to resign and Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly have emerged as very good centers so Stastny could be available. Actually, last season, O'Reilly recorded a couple of more points than Stastny.

Stastny is a $6.6 million salary cap hit for the next two seasons, so he is expensive but has the ability to flourish while being flanked by either Marian Hossa or Patrick Kane. Stastny is only 26-years-old and is a lefty. He is a quality skill player Hossa or Kane could benefit from.

My next thought could come about if rumblings are true and Bowman is unable to acquire a second line center. Word going around is Evander Kane of the Winnipeg Jets could be on the trading block. The Hawks have a need for a big scoring left winger and Kane could be that player.

The Jets are in a unique position because they are guaranteed sellout crowds. Season ticket holders had to commit for three to four seasons when signing up. Jets management didn't mislead anyone into thinking they are going to spend to the salary cap limit. They are a club which is going to stick to a budget.

Kane is a restricted free agent who will be looking for a raise from his $3.1 million cap hit. He has good hands, can skate and is only 20-years-old. Kane is 6'2" tall and weighs about 195 pounds, and no doubt will be even stronger and craftier in years to come.

The Hawks could add some goals from the left side and gain a power forward in the making if they can acquire Kane. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff knows the Hawks system very well and could have his eye on a few prized youngsters. Dealing Viktor Stalberg and a couple of highly thought of prospects could be enough if the Jets realize resigning Kane is more than their budget can bear.

The Blackhawks trade strategy for Draft week could indicate how active or not they will be on July 1.

Al's Shots

Selecting the correct draft prospects is far from a science. Much of the information on hockey websites concerning particular options for the draft is kind of phony. Many times prospect reports are read and then spun into what appears to be a knowledgeable opinion by the writer. In fact, unless a great deal of time is spent by those with the background to make an educated opinion, mock drafts shouldn't be considered much more than guesses.

My view on the Draft is to keep my guesses to myself and not portray them as if I have spent the time to have a solid opinion. If given the chance, I will pass along credible information concerning whom the Blackhawks are going to select. That was the case when Kyle Beach was chosen in the 2008 Draft.

Currently, I don't have any interesting whispers about who the Hawks may select. Fortunately I can share the opinions of others who have done the necessary homework. Before we take a look at the Draft through the eyes of those who are dedicated to analyzing it, let's look at tradeable options that are playing in Rockford.

Chris Block from TheThirdManIn.com covers the Rockford Ice Hogs better than anyone I know. Below is his response to the following question:

Who are the most likely Ice Hogs with NHL potential that could be used as trade bait this summer?

"Brandon Pirri, 21, has the tools and may one day be the secondary scoring line center the Blackhawks have been missing. Unfortunately, Pirri's footwork and shift-to-shift compete level are not quite NHL ready. If Stan Bowman can acquire a true second-line center this summer, Pirri may not have a future in the organization. He'll never be a checking center and would be out of place on a fourth line. Thus, Pirri would be easily expendable if Bowman finds a proper number two pivot."

"Twenty-two-year-old defenseman Shawn Lalonde will be entering his third pro season. In two years in Rockford, Lalonde has shown flashes of the puck rushing skill set that made him a value pick at 68th overall in 2008 but his defensive abilities are well below average. He also seems to lack the motivation needed to improve. If the Blackhawks can spot another team thinking they can reform Lalonde, Bowman could use him as a throw-in to a bigger deal or to acquire an additional mid to late-round draft pick."

"As for other names, 2008 first-round pick Kyle Beach still has a lot to prove and might need a change of scenery. After missing most of 2011-12 due to shoulder surgery, Beach may be a less valuable asset than other wingers Jeremy Morin or Jimmy Hayes, who in the past Bowman has resisted the idea of moving."

Corey Pronman is the NHL Draft/Prospects writer for Hockey Prospectus and ESPN.com. You can follow him on Twitter @coreypronman.

Corey was asked to name the top five prospects in the Hawks system not including players we saw in Chicago toward the end of last season.

His response was…

1. Brandon Saad

2. Brandon Pirri

3. Mark McNeill

4. Jeremy Morin

5. Adam Clendening

NHL Entry Draft June 22-23

The Blackhawks select 18th in the first round and it's anyone's guess who they will choose. It wouldn't be a shock if the Hawks traded up or down, as this Draft is rated as more uncertain than most.

The comments below are the Draft opinions from Paul Shaheen and Eric Krupka who own and operate Amateur Hockey Report. Their site is subscription-based but does contain some useful free information as well.

"The Chicago Blackhawks will be selecting 18th overall and in need of a few different things when looking towards the future: a second strong center to compliment Jonathan Toews (and Pat Kane assuming he stays there), a quality goaltending prospect, and more strength on the wing, the spot many of us had Kyle Beech pegged for but has yet to live up to that expectation."

"The goaltending need can be secured with our #20 ranked player, Andrey Vasilenskiy, a very strong tender who played for Tolpar UFA in juniors this season. Vasilenskiy was very strong in his performance last holiday season in the 2012 World Junior Championships where he showed a ton of poise and rebound control (point of interest, Andrey did NOT play in the final of the WJC versus Sweden—that was Markov.) Still, Vasilenskiy is amazing, and a very good prospect."

"One of the strongest centers in the draft could be available for the picking in Czech native Radek Faksa (our No. 15), a big burly bull who played in the OHL for Kitchener last season. Faksa is the #15 ranked player for the draft by AHR, primarily because he came on so strong this past season with 67 points in 62 games and he showed on the international stage that he has breakaway speed and solid hands when wearing his native Czech jersey in the 2012 World Junior Championships."

Paul also points out their tenth highest rated prospect, Alexander Galchenyuk has local ties. The 6'2" center is from Lincolnwood, Illinois. Galchenyuk could be the first top ten draft selection since Eddie Olczyk went third overall to the Blackhawks in 1984.

Our final bit of Draft information comes from long time Blackhawk die hard Bill ‘Wiz" Placzek. His detailed views on prospects and a mock draft can be found at DraftSite.com.

Bill has the Blackhawk selecting big right winger, Henrik Samuelsson from the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL in the first round.

Bill spends many, many hours going over hundreds of prospects by watching video. This year Bill makes a bold call and has the Blackhawks selecting goaltenders in both the second and third rounds.

The ratings on prospects this year are more scattered than in any other Draft in recent memory. Those that were cited in this article spend the time and know their stuff. Hopefully you will find their input beneficial.

If you don't already, now would be a good time to follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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