It’s been an up and down season for the Chicago Blackhawks.
And, sure, we knew it’d be tough heading into the year, but even with the few bright spots aside, we’ve seen this team’s deficiencies highlighted. Of course, on the bright side, they’re looking at a high chance of earning one the top draft picks in the 2021 NHL Draft Lottery. With that in mind, here are a few players the Blackhawks could be targeting with their first round pick.
Note: We’ll check out round 2 tomorrow.
Needs: Top-Pair Defense, Future Starting Goalie, Top-Line Forward
Owen Power, Defenseman – University of Michigan (NCAA)
• 16 Games played – 2 Goals, 10 Assists
What the scouts are saying: “He checks a lot of boxes as a 6-foot-5 defenseman who is very mobile for his size and moves the puck at a high level. He projects as a tough minutes two-way defenseman in the NHL. Due to his size and mobility combination, some would even say he’s Power-ful. I think you could reasonably ask if his offensive skill and output is ever going to be truly elite, which makes me lean to him as No. 2 instead of No. 1 right now, but he’s right there in the discussion.” – Corey Pronman, The Athletic
Mario’s Couch Scouting: Power is the complete package as a defenseman. Desirable size (6’5″, 200+lb), vision, poise, and skating all check the boxes with Power. He is a stud and should be at the top of the Blackhawks draft board.
Luke Hughes, Defenseman – U.S. National Team Development Program (USHL)
• 38 Games played (USDP & USHL) – 10 Goals, 31 Assists
What the scouts are saying: “Hughes is most known for his skating. The young defenseman has a silky smooth stride and possesses elite edges. With Hughes’ edge work, it allows him to be more spontaneous and quick with the puck than most. We see that quite a bit with his transitional play and defensive zone puck possession. Aside from Hughes’ skating, my second favorite attribute about the left-handed defenseman is his soft hands. Hughes can truly thread the needle with his smooth feeds.” – Josh Tessler, Smaht Scouting
Mario’s Couch Scouting: Hughes has hockey in his blood. With older brothers Jack and Quinn, his Dad Jim, and his Mom Ellen all playing high-level hockey, Luke has quite the pedigree. In the NHL, skating alone can get you pretty far, add in his abilities with the puck on his stick and Luke could follow his brother Quinn’s early success on the blue-line.
Matthew Beniers, Center – University of Michigan (NCAA)
14 Games played – 4 Goals, 9 Assists
What the scouts are saying: “A 200-foot player who can play physical or produce offensively. He is an explosive skater with strong edgework and mobility. With that he can beat defenders in one-on-one situations, but also use his skating to create space for himself, which makes it easy to see his available options.” – Clare McManus, Dobber Prospects
Matt Beniers rags the puck for nearly 20 seconds while killing a penalty.
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) January 9, 2021
Mario’s Couch Scouting: Another elite prospect playing at the University of Michigan, Beniers was part of Team USA’s Gold Medal winning efforts at this past World Junior Championships. For Blackhawks fans to relate, his game is much like that of Jonathan Toews. 200-foot responsibility and a heady playmaker. Michigan is so stacked, it’s ridiculous.
Brandt Clarke, Defenseman – Barrie Colts (OHL)
• 12 Games played (Loan: HC Nove Zamky) – 1 Goal, 1 Assist
What the scouts are saying: “He picks teams apart as a handler and passer, he gets open as a fourth forward into the attack and he disrupts plays defensively with a quick close. Clarke has dominated his peers his entire life, creating with ease and dictating the flow of the game. His instincts are on another level and he’s absolutely fearless in his execution. Once he puts it all together, he’s going to offer a truly unique NHL package.” – Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
Mario’s Couch Scouting: Clarke may end up as the top overall pick in the 2021 draft, so unless the Blackhawks bottom-out, he may not be available. Without an OHL season available to him, Clarke has spent time in Slovakia playing with HC Nove Zamky. He’s already playing against men and excelling. It’s a deep draft for defensemen and he would be a steal for anyone outside of the top three picks.
Carson Lambos, Defenseman – Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
• 15 Games played (Loan: JYP U18 & U20) – 2 Goals, 11 Assists
What the scouts are saying: “A defender with no glaring weakness, Lambos is a powerful skater who can contribute in all three zones. At 6’1″ and 201lbs, he has the size and strength to close on attackers physically, often leading with his stick to poke the puck free before closing in and finishing with the body. His defensive positional play isn’t perfect but he has the IQ to read a play and react when he is out of position. When he gets the puck on his stick in his own zone, he moves it up ice quickly and efficiently with either his feet or the pass. He is adaptable and versatile, capable of leading a rush from the back end or identifying when to join the rush as an extra attacker.” – Tony Ferrari, DobberProspects
Mario’s Couch Scouting: Much like Clarke, Lambos is playing overseas in Finland due to no WHL season. And again like Clarke, Lambos is excelling. Solid size and a defenseman who can jump into the attack when called up, Lambos could possibly be NHL-ready right out of the gate.
Jesper Wallstedt, Goalie – Luleå HF (SHL)
• 19 Games played – 11-8-0, .918 Save %, 1.97 GAA
What the scouts are saying: “He’s got good size, excellent net coverage, plays with confidence and was the difference-maker in many games this season. He reads the game well, has very good quickness and plays an athletic style. Wallstedt is considered the best goalie prospect in Sweden in the past 5-to-6 years.” – Mike Morreale, NHL.com
Mario’s Couch Scouting: The Blackhawks still don’t have their goaltender of the future. Kevin Lankinen has emerged as a surprise this season, but he is still not likely a long-term solution in net. With Dominic Basse and Drew Commesso in the system, the Blackhawks could add to their future goaltending depth with a special player in Wallstedt. At 18-years-old, he’s playing against men in Sweden and putting up amazing numbers for his age. If Chicago were to go with a goaltender in the first round, Wallstedt would become their future in net immediately.
Aatu Räty, Center – Kärpät (Liiga)
• 20 Games played (Kärpät U20 & Liiga) – 6 Goals, 4 Assists
What the scouts are saying: “Raty has tremendous hands and offensive instincts, and is an above-average skater. Despite those positives, extremely early on as a major caveat, it’s hard to say Raty is an exciting No. 1 prospect. He has a high talent level, but it doesn’t jump off the page like Jack Hughes or Alexis Lafreniere.” – Corey Pronman, The Athletic
Mario’s Couch Scouting: The early top-overall prospect, Räty has become a tough prospect to pin down. He’s all over the draft boards and could go first or second overall, all the way down into the teens. His skating and playmaking abilities are at the high-level you would come to expect from a top prospect, but his consistency in stringing those efforts together could be a concern. Either way, the Blackhawks could benefit from a playmaker like Räty in the system alongside 2020 top draft pick Lukas Reichel.