Could — SHOULD — the Blackhawks’ 2023 Draft Pick Impact the Futures of Toews, Kane?
The Blackhawks begin February with the second-best lottery odds. And there’s a chance, if the trade deadline goes as many have assumed it will, that they could wind up in dead last in the league by the time the ping pong balls fly in April.
What happens if the Blackhawks land the top pick? Or the second? What if we’re given the gift of Connor Bedard or Adam Fantilli by the hockey gods?
When Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews broke into the NHL, Denis Savard was their head coach. He knew first-hand what it means to be the face of the Chicago Blackhawks, and how to conduct one’s self in the position of being the face of the Original Six franchise.
Luke Richardson is a tremendous coach; I’ve praised that hiring from Day One and absolutely love the culture he’s building in the room. But there’s a very real opportunity for Toews and/or Kane to be the mentor for Bedard or Fantilli that Savard was for them.
On the ice, Bedard has been compared to Kane. His playmaking and size combination makes it a natural comp, but having the future Hall of Famer to whom he’s heard the whispers could ease his transition into the NHL.
On the ice, Fantilli has played both center and wing for Michigan and Canada this year and enjoyed a great deal of success. But, as we learned from the Kirby Dach debacle, having a veteran center around to help a young player learn the ropes in the faceoff circle is impactful. And when you listen to what I’ve quoted from guys like Max Domi, Sam Lafferty and Jason Dickinson this season, the value of Toews on the ice is still strong.
And, having one or both of them still around next year would take some of the pressure off a teenager trying to establish himself as “the man” in Chicago.
There will be other young players hoping to make their move to the NHL next year in Chicago as well. Kevin Korchinski has a sky-high ceiling, but he’s an offensive defenseman. The idea of pairing him with Seth Jones is a defensive nightmare. Lukas Reichel is doing all of the things the organization wants in Rockford this season and should be an NHL regular next year, but will he be a top-line center Day One? I’m still not sold on that — especially if both Domi (a UFA after this season who might be traded) and Toews are both gone.
I don’t think Toews needs to be a No. 1 center any more; he’s been penciled in as the No. 2 center all season and spent his last game before the break on the third line. Kane’s biggest reason to move would be to skate with other elite players who can help him elevate his game back to where it still could be. This week a number of NHL insiders have talked about the line to speak with Kane if he says he’ll accept a deal.
But both are Chicago Blackhawks.
The value they bring is still there. And the organization won’t be as dependent on them to sell jerseys and put butts in the seats if a top-two pick arrives next season. The off-ice reality is still very real for the Blackhawks.
Leadership is still important in the NHL.
And, if the Blackhawks land one of the top two picks in the draft, there’s a reason to have one — or both — of them come back.
We won’t know until weeks after the trade deadline where the Blackhawks will pick this summer. By that time, we’ll know if either of them has asked for or accepted a trade. And either of them could start extension negotiations with their new club if that scenario plays out.
For now, we now wait for them to have that conversation with Davidson about their futures. And the trade deadline’s arrival isn’t going to slow down any time soon. But the larger value of Kane and Toews may be a component of this process that we haven’t considered nearly enough.