Blackhawks Head into Tonight's Draft Lottery as Winners/Losers Already

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Blackhawks Head into Tonight’s Draft Lottery as Winners/Losers Already

Chicago Blackhawks

The NHL Draft Lottery is tonight (broadcast begins at 5:30 PM CT on ESPN). It’s a big night for the Chicago Blackhawks, but in an awkward way.

As a quick reminder: the Hawks traded their first round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets last summer in the deal to bring in Seth Jones, but it’s protected to just the first two overall picks. So if the Blackhawks don’t land a pick higher than third overall, the Jackets own it.

Chicago has a 7.5 percent chance of winning the draft lottery.

Here’s the rub: forwards Shane Wright and Juraj Slafkovsky are considered the top two overall prospects in this year’s draft class by most analysts and scouts; they were ranked the top two overall by NHL Central Scouting. And they’re really good prospects who could help the Blackhawks soon.

But the 2023 NHL Draft is considered a potentially historic one. Like, we’re talking 2003-level good. The top prospect in next year’s draft class, Connor Bedard, has been mentioned in sentences that include names like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid; he has the look of a generational talent.

So the question becomes: do the rebuilding Blackhawks want the known commodity of a top-two pick this year — a really good player — or do you tank as hard as humanly possible to hope to get the No. 1 overall pick in 2023 to land Bedard? Because, remember, there’s a draft lottery… the worst team doesn’t automatically get the top pick. This isn’t the NFL, people.

(Note: the Blackhawks will likely have two first-round picks in 2023. They acquired Tampa’s first rounder in the trade that sent Brandon Hagel to the Lightning this season. That pick is top-ten protected… and we’re fairly confident the Bolts aren’t going to fall apart that much in one year.)