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, we took a look at some potential targets for the first round yesterday (so be sure to check that out), and we’ll settle in with some second-round targets today.
Needs: Top-Line Forward, Top-Pair Defense, Future Starting Goalie
Ben Gaudreau, Goalie – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
• No games played so far (League suspended due to COVID)
What the scouts are saying: “Standing 6-foot-2 and 170-pounds, Gaudreau features impressive size and is an intimidating presence in-goal. Of solid strength, Gaudreau is an explosive goaltender who can move throughout his crease with not only speed but power. Precise in his lateral movements and not one to overplay his position, Gaudreau is a highly technical netminder who can make highlight-reel saves when called upon to do so.” – Prospect Pipeline.ca
Mario’s Couch Scouting: Hard to get a read on Gaudreau since the OHL isn’t playing at the moment, but as stated in yesterday’s first round piece, the Blackhawks don’t yet have a long-term plan in net, at least in their farm system they don’t. Adding a technically-sound goaltending prospect to a group with Dominic Basse and Drew Commesso would be a good move for Chicago.
Zach Dean, Center – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
• 11 Games played – 3 Goals, 4 Assists
What the scouts are saying: “Dean’s an easy player to like. He works hard, plays through the middle of the ice and doesn’t give up on plays along the wall. He grew an inch and added some much needed muscle this offseason. And though I wouldn’t say he’s dynamic offensively, he’s certainly dangerous and he’s got a creative penchant that pops up regularly.” – Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
One of the most promising prospect from the #QMJHL for the #2021NHLDraft (& one favorite of mine), player from NL, watch Zach Dean this year, I'm sure he is going to be a riser on different rankings. Look his 3rd goal (pre-season). What a beauty! #LHJMQ @LesOlympiques pic.twitter.com/zsP67HRWNG
— Benoit Belanger (@BenoitGBelanger) September 6, 2020
Mario’s Couch Scouting: Dean’s two-way game is what’s most to like about him. A QMJHL All-Rookie last year, he wears a letter for Gatineau and is already off to a fast start this season. He’s grown into his frame and would add a mixture of skill and energy into the Blackhawks forwards group. If there’s one thing that can take players like Dean into the NHL, it’s skating and effort.
Jack O’Brien, Center – Lincoln Stars (USHL)
• 6 Games played – 0 Goals, 2 Assists
What the scouts are saying: “He moves well and finds soft ice in front of the net to be able to be a consistent and dangerous option for highly creative linemates. Lots to like and lots of room to grow. Quality two-way upside.” – Joel Henderson, Dobber Prospects
Mario’s Couch Scouting: He’s light at 6′ even and 155-pounds, so getting into an NHL bulk might be necessary for O’Brien. But his skill-set would give Chicago another high-end forward prospect down the middle in their farm system. Something the Blackhawks have lacked in recent years.
Matthew Knies, Left Wing – Tri-City Storm (USHL)
• 18 Games played – 4 Goals, 8 Assists
What the scouts are saying: “Knies isn’t a guy who is going to go end to end a lot, but he’s a very intelligent forward with size. He can find seams from the perimeter but also has the hard elements in his game to use his frame to win battles and get to the middle third of the offensive zone. His average footspeed is the main drawback in his game in terms of projecting to the NHL level.” – Corey Pronman, The Athletic
I love the determination shown here by Matthew Knies (#19 in black) @TriCityStorm while short-handed.
— Dylan Krill (@dylan_krill) January 9, 2021
Mario’s Couch Scouting: Blackhawks don’t have a ton of size on the wing in their farm system, especially size with offensive skill. Knies at 6’3″ and 205-pounds would be one of the top scoring forward options for the Blackhawks as soon as he steps in the door.
Sean Behrens, Defense – U.S. National Team Development Program (USHL)
• 32 Games played (USDP & USHL) – 4 Goals, 16 Assists
What the scouts are saying: “Behrens is a mobile, puck-carrying defenceman who excels in transition, leading the rush and carving up forechecking pressure to weave in and out of the neutral zone on exits and entries. He’s also a calculated defender who rarely puts himself out of position and does a good job recovering and disrupting when he doesn’t. But Behren’s biggest asset is that on a USA Hockey blue line with a little bit of everything, he has an ingenuity to his game that his top peers don’t quite have, regularly making NHL-level plays through traffic.” – Scott Wheeler, The Athletic
Mario’s Couch Scouting: For a team like the Blackhawks, where their biggest defensemen are Brent Seabrook and Nikita Zadorov, and their future on the blue-line is populated by Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, Ian Mitchell, and Lucas Carlsson who are all six-foot or shorter, the idea of taking 5’9″ Behrens might be a non-starter. But his skating and hockey-IQ make him an intriguing option in the early-to-middle of the second round. Think Torey Krug or Jonas Brodin, these guys are top-end options that are the same size and honed the same tools that Behrens has.
This will serve as a rolling preview for top prospects the Blackhawks could and should be targeting in the 2021 NHL Draft. The Blackhawks have needs everywhere in their farm system, but if Chicago is to land the top pick in the draft, the world will be theirs and the deep depth of this 2021 draft class plays into their rebuilding favor.