Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman was in "go-for-it-now" mode at this season's trade deadline and relinquished a first- and second-round pick in the NHL draft to obtain center Antoine Vermette and defenseman Kimmo Timonen, respectively.
Barring a trade in which Bowman unloads salary for picks, the Hawks won't pick until late in the second round (No. 54). While fans wait for that pick, here is a look at some top prospects in a talent-rich draft Friday and Saturday in Sunrise, Fla.
Connor McDavid, center: At the top of the draft, the Oilers are salivating over a player who has drawn comparisons to another legendary Oiler — Wayne Gretzky. McDavid, the 2014-15 Ontario Hockey League MVP after racking up 44 goals and 76 assists in 47 games for the Erie (Pa.) Otters, also reminds scouts a lot of Sidney Crosby when the Penguins star entered the draft. To mix sports metaphors, McDavid is as close to a slam-dunk pick as there is in hockey. At the Stanley Cup Final, McDavid tried to cool expectations.
"There will be some growing pains, for sure," he said. "I don't expect to step right in and be that guy. It's a much different league. It's going to be a lot harder, so I'm just looking to do what I can in terms of getting better."
Jack Eichel, center: If McDavid is a sure thing, Eichel isn't far behind. The Boston University product is the top American prospect in the draft and won the Hobey Baker Award as the top college player after scoring 26 goals with 45 assists in 40 games. Analysts peg him as a franchise player who has the potential to make the same impact on a franchise as McDavid. The Sabres, who bottomed out to get in good draft position, should be happy with Eichel.
Dylan Strome, center: McDavid and Eichel are the consensus Nos. 1 and 2 picks, but after that the picture isn't clear. Some mock drafts have the Coyotes, who pick third, selecting Strome given that the they are in desperate need of offense. Strome also played for the Otters.
Noah Hanifin, defenseman: Hanifin is the top-rated defenseman in the draft and projects to be in a top-line pairing. The Boston College product had five goals and 18 assists in 37 games. The Maple Leafs, who own the fourth pick, may choose to trade the pick to a team craving defensive help if Hanifin is still there.
Mitch Marner, center/right wing: According to some analysts, Marner may be the closest player to Hawks winger Patrick Kane in the draft. He was second in scoring in the OHL with the London (Ontario) Knights and has good hands and quickness. He would be tempting for the Hurricanes at No. 5.