It’s the fourth straight year the Blackhawks will have a first-round selection after they didn’t have one for 2015 or 2016. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has picked close to No. 17 before with three picks all on forwards: No. 18s Mark McNeill in 2011 and Teuvo Teravainen in 2012 and No. 20 Nick Schmaltz in 2014. Both McNeill and Teravainen were Chicago’s own pick, while Bowman traded up seven spots with San Jose to acquire the pick to select Schmaltz.
In SB Nation’s NHL mock draft, Second City Hockey decided to keep the No. 17 pick and use it to select, from Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, center Connor Zary.
Each year SBN NHL sites make the first-round pick of their respective team. The higher up in the round the easier the choice is, but the further you move down, the harder the exercise becomes with an increased pool of options. We correctly predicted Henri Jokiharju in 2017, but Adam Boqvist was already off the board in 2018 and we took Alex Turcotte last year. Maybe this year we’ll get this right?
SBN NHL Mock Draft
Alexis Lafrenière (Rangers)
2. Quinton Byfield (Kings)
3. Lucas Raymond (Senators via Sharks)
4. Tim Stützle (Red Wings)
5. Marco Rossi (Senators)
6. Jamie Drysdale (Ducks)
7. Cole Perfetti (Devils)
8. Anton Lundell (Sabres)
9. Alexander Holtz (Wild)
10. Seth Jarvis (Jets)
11. Dawson Mercer (Predators)
12. Jack Quinn (Panthers)
13. Yaroslav Askarov (Hurricanes via Maple Leafs)
14. Jake Sanderson (Oilers)
15. William Wallinder (Maple Leafs via Penguins)
16. Mavrik Bourque (Canadiens)
17. Connor Zary (Blackhawks)
The draft did not go as we had expected with Mercer off the board — or at least as high as he was — and Wallinder also picked up. Mercer was under consideration for us because of his offensive playmaking ability and two-way game.
We were also surprised to see Holloway still available. He’s a player the Blackhawks like and saw a lot of this past season at Wisconsin, where current prospect Josh Ess plays. We decided against Holloway because we think he’ll be gone by No. 17, and we’re trying to take a player we think the Blackhawks will be able to select. That line of thinking narrowed us down to Rodion Amirov, Hendrix Lapierre and Zary. It’s hard to see the Blackhawks selecting yet another defenseman, although if they were to left-hander Kaiden Guhle of WHL Prince Albert is the likely option. Zary doesn’t have the injury questions Lapierre does and has more size and a two-way game compared to Amirov.
Zary is more well-rounded and consistent player than others at this spot. He’s an offensive playmaker that thinks the game well and turned up his production down the stretch with 45 points (19 goals, 26 assists) in 29 games to finish tied for fifth in WHL scoring. His skating needs work, but he’s able to mask it with his compete level and strong defensive play. He’s considered by some as a “safe bet” with the expectation he can be a great third-line center and potentially a second-line center.