The Blackhawks organization was stuck between a rock and a hard place selecting third overall in the 2019 Entry Draft. With a defensive logjam already in their pool, consisting of Ian Mitchell, Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, Chad Krys, and, at the time, Henri Jokiharju, Bowen Byram already seemed like the selection for them not to make. This narrowed it down to players like Alex Turcotte, Kirby Dach, and Alex Newhook.
Alex Turcotte, C
Turcotte, going into the draft, seemed to be the best possible option behind the obvious picks of Kaapo Kakko and Jack Hughes, and he looked to fit the role that the Blackhawks were looking for. His two-way skill was unmatched in the seasons past and he was even being compared to Jonathan Toews himself. His offensive game isn’t anything to take lightly, though. In this past season with the USNTDP, Turcotte recorded 62 points in 37 games. As one of the most intelligent players coming out of this year’s draft, Turcotte proved his worth with a 48.98 Team GF% and a 29.11 Shot%. Turcotte is very dangerous in the offensive zone, as he picks his shots well to take the most effective shots possible. His vision is incredible, so when he doesn’t see a shot he likes, just know that he sees a pass. The 5’11” centerman would’ve been a great understudy for Jonathan Toews moving forward as Turcotte moves on to translate his game to the big leagues. The Hawks did end up passing on him, letting him drop to fifth overall to be taken by the Los Angeles Kings.
Alex Newhook, C
Alex Newhook was a huge “under the radar” type player. Coming out of the BCHL, which is a rapidly growing league, perhaps led scouts to look at him lower than players coming out of the CHL, USHL, or Europe’s top leagues. A very skillful center with a high hockey IQ can make a huge impact in today’s game, and Newhook is that guy. Newhook knows where to skate to be in the most dangerous offensive zones, and uses his smart skating and vision to get there. Coming into the draft, Newhook looked like the best playmaker center bar Jack Hughes, and that’s why he was a consideration for the third pick in the draft. The major downside of Newhook’s game that may have really caused his stock to drop off is that he seems to get lost at times, he causes turnovers leading to breakaways and other offensive chances for the other team. Now, this isn’t a make or break factor of his game, as he is still young and has plenty of time to sure up his game, so don’t look too far into it. He will be playing for Boston College next season and only time will tell how he develops there. Again, the Hawks did not take him, and the Colorado Avalanche selected Newhook at 16th overall.
Kirby Dach, C
So that leaves the last option, the player the Chicago Blackhawks selected at 3rd overall, Kirby Dach. Now I don’t think this was a horrible pick by any means. Kirby Dach is a fantastic player, putting up 73 points in 62 games last season for Saskatoon of the WHL, but his playstyle does not stack up to those of Turcotte or Newhook. In my eyes, Dach’s biggest downfall is that he is not a dynamic player. A shooting % of just a 12.02% and a team goal % (Team GF%) of 58.70% leave much to be desired in Dach’s game. Defensively, he doesn’t stack up to a player like ALex Turcotte, either. The Blackhawks have a very talented young core with players like DeBrincat, Strome, Boqvist, Beaudin, Mitchell, and Kubalik, but what they lack is a defense presence. When Toews wraps his career up, that TWF position needs to be filled. Kirby Dach isn’t the right player to try to fill it. Dach’s defensive game is good, yes, but he hasn’t quite gotten it down yet. Alex Turcotte came into the draft with a -55.05 DEF CAT%, which is incredible to say the least, whereas Dach had a 56.96 DEF CAT%. Dach’s numbers aren’t bad, and one could argue he was playing tougher opponents, but in the grand scheme of things, he was not the pick to make, in my opinion.
Alex Vlasic, D
In the second round, Chicago took Alex Vasic, the defenseman from the USNTDP. This is a quite weird pick for me, as towards the beginning of the year, Vlasic was seen as a clearcut first round lock, but slowly his stock plummeted. The 6’6” defenseman pocketed 15 points in 27 games last season, but still has a lot to prove. His skating isn’t bad, but it isn’t great by any means and his IQ will be worked on with time. A defenseman like him could develop well into a player that stays in the Hawks top 6, but he will need plenty of time before that happens.
Michal Teplý, RW,LW
In the fourth round, the Blackhawks selected Michal Teplý from HC Bílí Tygři Liberec in the Czech Extraliga. This was a great selection in my opinion. The 18-year-old has incredible hands and is extremely dangerous anywhere on the ice. His 6’3” stature proves to be one of his biggest weapons as he uses his size well in scrums, but also shows off his skating skills when maneuvering through defenses, which is a big plus for a player of his size. His only downfall may just be production. Teplý is a great passer and shooter with very high awareness, but he lacks that clinicality that would make him a true scoring forward. With plenty of time to develop, the Czech winger could slot into the Hawks middle six in a few years.
Antti Saarela, LW/RW
Also in the fourth round was Antti Saarela from Luuko. The winger notched 10 points in 24 appearances in the Finnish top league, but really shines in the physical aspect of the game. Saarela really likes to make his presence known on every shift and is a big impact player on the power play and penalty kill. His skating, hands, energy, and high hockey IQ make this a very valuable pick, and Saarela will certainly only get better with time.
Dominic Basse, G
The Blackhawks picked 6’6” goalie Dominic Basse in the sixth round. Basse is a very hard player to judge as he only played midget last season, but a 1.91 GAA and 0.924 SV% still look very nice on the record. Of course, due to his height, he is already getting Ben Bishop comparisons, and only time will tell if that plays out in his favor.
Cole Moberg, D/F
In the seventh, the Hawks selected Cole Moberg of the Prince George Cougars, and this may have been one of the biggest steals of the draft. Playing as both a defenseman and a forward in the past few seasons, Moberg is a threat on both halves of the ice with a 36.46 Team GF% and good zone defense; that accompanied by his 40 points in 61 games and extreme versatility make him a player to look out for in the future.
Grading the Picks:
Kirby Dach – B
Other players available: Alex Turcotte, Alex Newhook, Bowen Byram.
Alex Vlasic – C
Other players available: Samuel Fagemo, Vladislav Kolyachonok, Matthew Robertson.
Michal Teplý – A
Other players available: Yegor Spiridonov, Ethan Keppen.
Antti Saarela – A-
Other players available: Leevi Altonen, Marcus Kallionkieli, Judd Caufield.
Dominic Basse – C
Other players available: Dustin Wolf, Bryce Brodzinski, Nikola Pasic.
Cole Moberg – A+
Other players available: Bryce Brodzinski, Justin Bergeron, Billy Constantinou, Jake Lee.