Blackhawks ‘leaning toward drafting center’ at No. 3 overall in 2019 NHL draft, per report

Alex Turcotte and Trevor Zegras look to be the front runners now.

The Blackhawks are “leaning toward drafting a center,” a source tells Jay Zawaski of CBS Radio’s 670 The Score.

“From what I’m told, the Blackhawks are leaning toward drafting a center. It seems like Alex Turcotte would be the guy,” Zawaski said on the Madhouse Chicago Hockey Podcast (the report starts at 14:20). “I’m told Mark Kelley, the Hawks’ director of amateur scouting, is a big fan of the USA players. I won’t say not fond of the Canadian players, but leans toward American-born players. So if you’re putting the puzzle pieces together Alex Turcotte does seem to be ... he fits that mold. He fills in that gap for you.”

Kelley said last week at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo that the Blackhawks have narrowed their list of potential prospects to draft at No. 3 to six. Kelley didn’t name who they are, but Mark Lazerus of The Athletic said left-handed defenseman Bowen Byram of the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants and center/left wing Trevor Zegras, right wing Cole Caufield and Turcotte, all of the United States National Team Development Program are among them.

The other two candidates are likely WHL centers Dylan Cozens of Lethbridge and Kirby Dach of Saskatoon.

Turcotte and Zegras are the only American-born centers among that group.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Turcotte scored 12 goals and 34 points in only 12 USHL games for USNTDP for a 2.15 point per game average. In the other portion of the team’s schedule, the Wisconsin commit racked up 27 goals and 62 points in 37 games. His numbers could’ve been even better had he not missed time due to a hip injury early on and from having mononucleosis in March. He also tallied four goals and nine points in seven games at the under-18 World Championship in Sweden.

The Island Lake, Illinois native has draw NHL comparisons to Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who Turcotte calls his hockey idol, Bruins star Patrice Bergeron and Blues center Ryan O’Reilly.

Zegras offers similar size (6-0, 174 pounds) and models his game after Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane. Zegras scored 40 points (14 goals, 26 assists) in 27 USHL games then added 87 points (26 goals, 61 assists) in 60 games during the second part of the schedule. The Boston University commit didn’t score a goal at the U18 World Championship, but did display his elite passing skills with nine assists.

Affinity for American-born players?

Yes, yes indeed. Kelley and general manager Stan Bowman have together selected 79 players since 2010, including 33 American-born players to 17 Canadians. Of those 33 Americans, Chicago has taken eight USNTDP players including two centers in each of its last two drafts with third rounders Evan Barratt and Jake Wise, respectively.