On The Clock: Central Divided's First Round Draft Predictions

The Cup has been raised. A team has been made immortal... and very drunk. Now is the time for 30 other teams to take a deep long look in the mirror and ask, “How do we get that drunk?” The first step is the NHL Draft. Five of the seven teams in the Central Division have first round picks, and all five of those teams are in need of improvements. Chicago wants to stop their slide into mediocrity. Dallas wants to prove their high octane attack is the real deal. Colorado wants to ensure last year wasn’t a fluke. Minnesota wants to prop open their Cup window. St. Louis wants to find that final piece of the puzzle.

There’s so much work ahead of these teams this offseason, but the first place where we will see their plans start to come together in Dallas, Texas on June 22nd. This year’s draft buzz has been dominated by Rasmus Dahlin, but behind his supernova of potential, there are dozens of young men who could become the next wave of NHL stars. 

 

Chicago Blackhawks: 8th, 27th

What Do You Need?

D-E-F-E-N-S-E ….and a lot of other things. The Blackhawks season ended the day Corey Crawford ended up on the trainer’s table with concussion-like symptoms, but the season wouldn’t have gone much longer than it did with the defensive play in front of him. Connor Murphy didn't take the step up his nearly $4 million contract warrants, Duncan Keith finally looked like a guy who’s played the equivalent of 13 seasons in the past 10 & Brent Seabrook became a dependable 3rd pairing guy… who makes $6.9 million a year. Now’s a good time to mention the Hawks have no real prospects to replace 33-year-old, oft-injured netminder either. This is a very important offseason for Chicago. If next season doesn’t pan out, you will probably see a new head coach and general management in the Windy City.

 

Who Should They Pick?

Well, this is excellent timing for the Hawks, because they have two picks in the first round. First, Chicago will pick 8th overall, where they should surely take a defenseman. Noah Dobson is the name Hawks fans should start to learn. Dobson had a great showing in the Memorial Cup this year with Acadie-Bathurst in the QMJHL. He’s a potent 2-way talent, with good size and surprising speed. Dobson probably wouldn’t be an instant NHL’er but he would be a tremendous investment in the future of Chicago’s blueline.   

Stan Bowman has had some success with later draft picks after deep playoff runs with the likes of Brandon Saad and Alex DeBrincat. He once again gets the chance to find a hidden gem later in the draft with the 27th pick. Two American D-Men might be good fits for the Hawks. The first is K’Andre Miller, a physical freak who has sky-high potential if he’s given time to properly develop. The other is Mattias Samuelsson, who seems to not really have a weakness to his game.

Should They Trade Their Pick(s)?

No. Use today to strenghten tomorrow.

 

 

Dallas Stars: 13th

What Do They Need?

The Stars will always need blueliners, but as long a Jim Nill is calling the shots, this team is going to focus on scoring goals, not stopping them. So finding some talent that can bolster a pretty weak forward core, excluding their top line, of course, will probably be the focus. The Stars are picking 13th, which still affords them some quality chances at hitting the jackpot.

Who Should They Pick?

If I were Jim Nill I’d look for a center along the lines of Barrett Hayton. Playing his junior hockey in Sault St. Marie, Hayton showed great potential to be a 2-way top-6 center who can produce at the dot and perhaps provide immideiate influence on Dallas’ lower lines. Ty Dellandre and Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Don’t ask me to say that) are two other solid options at center if Barrett Hayton isn’t available.

Should They Trade Their Pick?

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dallas try to move this pick for some established talent. Should they do that? No. No, they should not.

 

 

Colorado Avalanche: 16th *4th?

What Do They Need?

Much like the Stars, Colorado puts a lot of pressure on their top line to produce. That makes sense given it’s anchored by Nathan freaking MacKinnon, but even he needs some help. The Av’s need find some quality role players. On top of that, if they want to move from surprise playoff darling to quality contender, they absolutely need to add a defenseman or two.  

Who Should They Draft?

If Sakic wants a defenseman, he’s perfectly set up at pick 16 to have a shot at Bode Wilde. This kid has plenty of tools to be a John Klingberg type of producer, but he must put together consistent games and stop making simple mistakes. If Joe wants to focus on his forwards, Dominik Bokk might be a great dark horse. The German is very fast and very skilled with the puck on his stick. The Avs have plenty of two-way talent in the pipeline, time to inject some more speed into the system.  

Should They Trade Their Pick?

I wouldn’t bet on it. If the Matt Duchene ordeal taught us anything, it’s that Joe Sakic is just fine playing the long game. Greatness is coming, there’s no need to rush it. Speaking of trades though, there is a chance the Avs could have the 4th pick in the draft, thanks to their massive Duchene deal with Ottawa. The Senators have the choice to option this year’s 1st round pick or next year’s to Colorado. It wouldn’t make much sense to option this year’s, given the top-10 talent in the draft, but that franchise is such a dumpster fire that it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if they let it go.

 

 

Minnesota Wild: 24th

What Do They Need?

Well, for a team known for playing a stout, ridged game, their defense is pretty spotty. Only two blueliners eat up big minutes for this squad and when Suter went down with a season-ending leg injury, the remaining core was stretched too thin to give the team’s already weak offense a chance to steal games. The Wild also need a few role players on offense in the coming years, and the middle rounds of the draft can be a great place to grow that talent. But with the rich well of defensemen in this draft, the Wild should nab one in the first round.

Who Should They Draft?  

The Wild need to add someone who can become reliable on defense but can also inject the offense with much-needed pep. If K’Andre Miller is still available, he’d fit in nicely, but I’d like the Wild to take a chance on the undersized Ryan Merkley. Listed generously at 6' - 170, Merkely is an offensive expert at driving the attack. Defensively, he needs some work. He won’t be an instant fixture in the lineup but given 2 or 3 years in the pipeline to develop his defensive game, this kid could turn into a cornerstone of Minnesota’s next generation of talent.

Should They Trade This Pick?

Yeah, if it helps get rid of some cap crunch without losing on-ice talent. First-year GM Paul Fenton is starting in a real tough spot. Everyone loves the “soft reboot” but it’s so hard to pull off. Minnesota has expectations of extending their team's playoff window despite a poor playoff resume and a looming cap crunch. Adding a first-round pick to a deal that might land them a piece they need, say a Justin Faulk, at more of a cap discount might help meet those expectations.

 

 

St. Louis Blues: 29th

What Do They Need?

That’s a tough question. It’s hard to judge this team on last year simply because of how injury plagued it was. They could use some more speed up front, and not having Paul Statsny doesn’t help their center situation. This is a team that is close to contending, and forward depth will help extend a window for that Stanley Cup with has eluded the city for 50 years.

Who Should They Draft?

 The Hockey Writers 

The Hockey Writers 

The Blues are drafting late, thanks to the first round pick they received from the Jets for the before mentioned Statsny. Plenty of great talent will still be available though. This is a team that needs to get faster but still is tied to a physical identity. That’s a hard thing to marry, but Serron Noel might just do it. At 6’ 5” this kid is an imposing figure, but size isn’t his only gift. Noel is a missile on skates who loves to drive the net with the puck. Only good things happen when you get a big, fast guy crashing the net.

Should They Trade This Pick?

Much like Minnesota, if they can wiggle some cap space or add a piece which will make them better this season, sure. As I said earlier, there’s enough talent in this year’s draft to allow St. Louis to look back fondly on this pick if they keep it.

 

So there you have it folks. This list is sure to be exactly right. And if your teams do pick theses kids, I'm sure we won't be wrong about any of them.