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Blackhawks rumors 2017: Chicago will try to move up in 1st round of NHL draft?

Elliotte Friedman says he thinks ‘Chicago will try to make a splash.’

The Chicago Blackhawks are set to pick No. 26 overall in the 2017 NHL draft, but it’s possible they try to move up higher in the first round. In fact, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wrote in his latest 30 Thoughts column that he thinks “Chicago will try to make a splash at home by moving up in the draft.”

To be clear, this does not sound like a report coming directly from sources. Friedman isn’t saying here that the Hawks have engaged in talks with teams, or that a deal is imminent.

But there are few NHL reporters as plugged in as Friedman, so there’s probably some smoke here with this rumor, even if a fire never catches on draft day. The Blackhawks have 10 picks in the 2017 draft, including a pick in every round and three picks in the fifth round. Presumably they could package some of those together to move up if needed.

It wouldn’t be a new move for GM Stan Bowman.

Back in 2014, the Blackhawks targeted forward Nick Schmaltz in the first round, then traded up from No. 27 to No. 20 in order to grab him. They were worried the Blues, who drafted Nick’s brother Jordan in 2012, would try to reunite the brothers by grabbing Nick with the No. 21 pick.

So the Hawks leapfrogged the Blues in the draft order, got their man, and now Schmaltz figures to be a key player in Chicago next season. St. Louis ended up drafting Robby Fabbri with its pick.

Could the Hawks pull off something similar this year? It’s definitely possible if the team has identified someone it wants who likely won’t drop to No. 26. There are lots of potentially strong options who could be available around then, such as Robert Thomas, Henri Jokiharju, and Ryan Poehling.

But if the Hawks see a chance to move up to, say, No. 20 and get someone who they rated as a top-10 pick, that’d be a smart move even if it cost them a lower pick or two. For a system lacking high-level prospects outside of Alex DeBrincat and Gustav Forsling, the pressure is definitely on for Chicago to hit on its top selection this year.