The Chicago Blackhawks may not be taking part in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season, but there is some good coming from the disappointing 2018-19 campaign. Despite having the 12th-worst record in the NHL, the Blackhawks managed to come out of the draft lottery with the 3rd overall selection. While Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are without a doubt the top two picks, the rest of the top 10 is a mystery. With so many options on the table, who should the Blackhawks select with the 3rd pick in the 2019 Draft?
17-year-old Vasili Podkolzin is currently regarded as the third-best player in the 2019 NHL Draft. The 6’1”, 190 lb winger is known for his ability to create scoring chances at a high speed, and also his strong play in all three zones. He has all the skills to become a top-line wing of the future for many years to come. The Russian prospect can also play on both the penalty kill and power play units. If the Blackhawks select Podkolzin with the 3rd overall pick, there is no doubt he would be the team’s top forward prospect since Patrick Kane.
Unfortunately, there is a small problem with Podkolzin. He has two years left on his current deal with Saint Petersburg of the KHL. With the current state of the Blackhawks, they would certainly like immediate help rather than waiting two full seasons. Podkolzin may be a superstar in the making, but the pressure is on the ‘Hawks front office to win NOW. The Chicago Blackhawks may just have to go in another direction is Vasili Podkolzin plans to stay in Russia for the next couple of seasons.
Dylan Cozens is another prospect that seems to be a Chicago fan favorite. The Canadian forward has a lot of similarities to a current Blackhawk that was selected 3rd overall: Jonathan Toews. Cozens is known for being a solid face-off man and for his intense 200-foot game. The 18-year-old has a big 6’3 frame, but he’s only 185 pounds. That number will go up as time goes on, and the thought of having a big and talented center like Dylan Cozens sure sounds good for the future. Just like Vasili Podkolzin, Cozens can also play on both the penalty kill and the powerplay.
While providing solid face-off numbers and two-way play, Cozens has also lit up the scoresheet for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. After nearly averaging a point-per-game during his first season in the WHL, Cozens came back with 34 goals and 50 assists in 68 games this year. All in all, it’s hard to not like Dylan Cozens. If the Chicago Blackhawks have any doubts about the immediate future of Vasili Podkolzin, Dylan Cozens very well could be their guy.
Alex Turcotte is an even more intriguing prospect due to his ties to Chicago. The University of Wisconsin commit is an Island Lake, IL native, and he grew up playing for the local Chicago Mission before moving on to the United States National Development Team. When Jack Hughes was called up to the Under-18 team last season, Alex Turcotte took over as the top center on the Under-17 team. Turcotte missed the first half of this season with a significant hip injury, but he was dominant when healthy, averaging well over a point-per-game. He is a smaller center at 5’11”, but he’s a thick 195 pounds and is hard to knock off his skates. Turcotte’s biggest strength is his speed, which has been dubbed as “game-changing”.
Alex Turcotte has committed to the University of Wisconsin, so it will be interesting to see if he decides to go pro once he’s drafted. Turcotte could need another season before he is NHL ready, which could be a factor for the Blackhawks. The skilled center recorded 35 goals and 52 assists in 46 games this past season, and he has the making to be a strong NHL player one day. Alex Turcotte might not be the favorite to be selected 3rd overall, but with Stan Bowman calling the shots, it certainly isn’t out of reach.
18-year-old Kirby Dach is the sleeper of the group, but he’s also the largest. Dach has a tremendous 6’4″, 200 lb frame for an 18-year-old, and he combines that size with soft hands and strength. He also has grown up playing center, which is likely enticing to the Blackhawks. The St. Albert, Alberta native isn’t afraid to throw his body around, and he has a ton of skill to his game.
Dach looks like the exact type of player the ‘Hawks need right now. He is a terrific combination of size and skill, and he has lit up the WHL for the Saskatoon Blades the last two seasons. Dach has been called a pass-first player, but he did score 25 goals in 62 games this year. He’s known as a player who is tough on the puck and in front of the net, rather than someone who stickhandles and uses their speed. Due to his ability to play center and his combination of size and skill, Dach is right in the mix for the 3rd overall pick. If the Blackhawks have doubts about Vasili Podkolzin, it could very well come down to Dylan Cozens or Kirby Dach.
The pressure may be on the Chicago Blackhawks to make the correct selection with the 3rd overall pick, but no matter who they draft, they are certainly going to be in a better spot than most people thought just a short time ago. Recent history suggests the Blackhawks could come away with a franchise-changing player with this pick.
Hopefully, whoever the Chicago Blackhawks select with the 3rd overall pick winds up making an impact next season.