Everything Else

Welcome to the FFUD #3 Pick Preview. Each day, we’ll look at one prospect the Hawks might have a chance at with the #3 pick and walk you through the ins and outs, the what-have-yous, the strands going through ol’ Duder’s head. We’ve narrowed it down to five guys, and much like the restaurant chain, you’ll likely walk in thinking, “This was a good idea,” and walk out grabbing or clenching some part yourself that you shouldn’t have to. Today is Alex Turcotte.

Physical Stats

Height: 5’11”; Weight: 185 lbs.; Shot: Left

On-Ice Stats (2018-19)

League: USHL/USDP; Team: USNTP Juniors/USNTP U18; Position: Center

53 GP, 39 G, 57 A, 36 PIM (Combined)

Why The Hawks Should Take Him

You rarely come across a player with the combination of offensive skill and defensive prowess at the center position that Turcotte brings. The last time the Hawks were in this position with a #3 pick, they found themselves one Jonathan Toews, and I’d venture a hot take and say that pick worked out. Turcotte has drawn comparisons to Toews, and some even have fentured to say that he may have a tad more offensive ability than Toews did at the time of his draft.

Turcotte’s ceiling is probably that of a 1C, although there are legitimate questions about A) his ability to reach that ceiling and B) how high he ranks on the list of 1C’s if/when he’s there. While the comparisons to Toews are certainly nice, I am of the belief that if NHL scouts really thought he had that kind of ceiling, he’d be the #2 pick in the draft. With all due respect to Kaapo Kakko, if it’s me I am taking the future 1C over the future top line winger.

Turcotte’s scoring ability seems to project well to the NHL, as some models (like this one) think he could be among the top producers at the NHL level among players in this draft. However those projection models are hardly 100% accurate, so of course take that with a grain of salt. That being said, at his ceiling Turcotte could be a franchise-anchoring center, and the Hawks don’t have anyone really close to that in the system right now. I love Dylan Strome and think there’s still a shot he can be a #1, but he’s more likely a long-term high-level 2C, which is perfectly fine. Turcotte’s timeline to the NHL and being that anchor of a team seems likely to align well with Toews eventual descent from greatness, but that also could be considered a negative as we will see now.

Along with it all, Turcotte is a local guy, which is certain to be a marketing home run and keep the giardiniera soaked idiots on their couches pleased.

Why The Hawks Shouldn’t Take Him

Let’s just rip off the band-aid here: the Hawks shouldn’t take him because he’s not Bowen Byram. More generally, he isn’t a defenseman, and while the 1C-ceiling type prospect is lacking in this organization, the Hawks don’t necessarily need to find one right away. Toews is coming off a strong “bounce-back” year in which the bad-luck bug finally left him alone. And while I did just say Strome is probably not a future-1C, we’re still only three years and 106 NHL games removed from NHL scouts thinking he was one, and he was nearly a point-per-game player after coming to the Hawks, and he’s still only 22, which all adds up to mean that he probably should get a bit more time to show if that ceiling is still there.

On top of that, Turcotte is not ready to play at the NHL level next year, and while that doesn’t necessarily have to be a priority with your #3 pick, it would certainly be nice to add someone who can contribute right away and has a high-level ceiling you lack in the system. You don’t get an opportunity like that in the draft if you’re not in the top-3, and the Hawks weren’t supposed to be here, so they have to maximize the return here.

On top of all of that, the Hawks picking a center when they so clearly need to address the blue line both now and in the future would signal a major lack of of what I call Knowing Just What The Fuck We Are Doing Here. We’ve talked about the embarrassment of riches the Hawks think they have on the blue line due to the NHL players (a term applied very loosely to most of the guys on the main roster) and prospects they have, but they lack major upside on anyone, unless you’re higher on Adam Boqvist than most, which I admittedly might be. But adding someone like Byram to the organization would actually put you in a position of strength, especially when you’d then have two of the better right-shooting blue line prospects in the game to potentially flip in the future for, say, a player who might have a ceiling as a 1C.

On top of that, Turcotte is a local guy, which certainly has the Hawks pitching a tent but has never proven to work out for them (Hinostroza, Hartman, Hayden, etc. WHY DID THEY ALL START WITH H?!?!). Not that being from Illinois means he is not the player people think he is, but if that ends up actually playing into his decision we have yet another red flag on this organization’s evaluative standards.

Also, you might end up handing Colorado a future pairing of Byram and Cale Makar, which would be grounds for firing on the stage immediately.

Verdict

Picking Turcotte would be fine, and I won’t necessarily be mad about it. But it has potential to be a major fuck up, would present a clear lack of understanding on the front office’s part of how to get back into contention, and I would definitely be disappointed.

Just pick Byram.

Everything Else

So, as the season is about to wrap up (in a most unpleasant fashion no matter how it goes) and we can really get our teeth into the offseason, Scott Powers is here to give you, the people, some nuggets. They’re not…great nuggets.

The headline is that the Hawks have called the Jackets about Ryan Murray. Murray is an RFA this summer, and he can go completely unrestricted next summer if he were to sign a one-year deal. Which is probably what he wants to do, but that’ll be a hard sell to any team.

Murray had a pretty decent season last year, one for which he was finally able to stay in one piece for. At least for him. 56 games is an avalanche of efforts for him, but yeah, he’s got health issues. He’s been around six seasons now, if you can believe it, and has only gone the route once. And that 82 game season is the only one he’s managed more than 66. That’s generally the headline with Murray, something will fall off of him during the year.

Murray racked up 28 assists and 29 points, both career-highs. His metrics from this past season look pretty good, as he was +0.72 Corsi relative and +3.6 xGF% relative. The caveat is he spent a good portion of the season with Seth Jones. There is no Seth Jones here. However, Murray’s numbers don’t crater away from Jones, and Jones and Nutivaara’s (his other main partner) do go down without Murray. It’s perfectly in bounds to say that Murray is a fine player.

The thing is though, he helps your middle when the Hawks don’t have a top. They probably think they do, but they don’t. If you’re going to give up any kind of assets for a d-man who is made of balsa wood, why not just commit money to the one with red bursting crotch dots who is a top pairing player? There are more than a few guys who can do what Murray does that don’t involve giving up picks or prospects and then paying them. Fuck, Henri Jokiharju is supposed to do what Ryan Murray does and he’s already here and cheap. And if he can’t after a training-wheels season, then you better get his ass up outta here while other teams are still bewitched by his promise/have blind scouts. Connor Murphy basically already does what Murray does, and even better he’s now got the same health issues.

I understand why the Hawks might think they need a player like Murray. He’s stable in his own end. He’s big, but not immobile. And that certainly can’t hurt. He’s an upgrade on whatever they have now, but that’s hardly saying anything. But he’s not a puck-mover. He doesn’t pick up the Hawks’ pace, and the Hawks need that. He doesn’t get them out of the zone. They may think that Boqvist is going to do that one day but they also seem pretty damn determined to make sure that isn’t this day.

But you don’t get where you want to go by shopping in the middle. You get high end and then fill in below. The Hawks don’t have high end. They don’t have it anywhere, at least not proven. It’s not Keith anymore. It’s not Jokiharju, at least not proven. It’s not Boqvist, at least not proven. Either go big or go little but finding the middle is how you end up in the middle.

There isn’t a suggestion that this deal is close. And there isn’t a suggestion why the Jackets would even consider this unless Murray has made it clear he wants out (which is the trend around there). Losing their best forward makes their strength on the blue line all the more paramount, so unless they’re turning Murray into forward help I can’t see it. And the only forward help the Hawks have to move is Saad, and the Jackets have seen that movie and weren’t all that enamored then.

There’s a long way to go on this. It’s a defensible move, but it isn’t an inspirational one. My fear is that the Hawks don’t think they need an inspirational one, when it is clear that they do.

-Powers also adds to the rumble that the Hawks are going to take Alex Turcotte, which we probably should have all just accepted once you found out he was from here. Look, if the Hawks think he’s a genuine #1 center in waiting, and more of a sure thing to be that than Byram is to be a #1, then you can do that. And then you wait the year until he’s here, because while I wouldn’t bet on Jonathan Toews repeating that season, he’s still going to be productive. You don’t need the help at center the way you do at defense now.

I think I’d rather Byram, and we’ll dive into this during draft week. While the Hawks’ drafting generally gets good marks, remember it’s been six years since their 1st round pick made a serious impact (our dear sweet boy Teuvo). No, I’m not counting Ryan Hartman fuck you. Boqvist appears to be a major project. Jokiharju is an anything. The one before that was three years previous and it was Schmaltz and he ain’t here no more. You can’t miss on a #3 pick.

If you’re suspicious because of how the Hawks lust after local players, I’m not going to stop you. Turcotte’s scouting report is glowing as well. So are Byram’s though, and he could be here next season. He also creates flexibility via trades of your other prospects. Turcotte does not.

Getting itchy.

Everything Else

We spend a lot of time here trying to figure out where the Hawks want to go and how quickly they want to get there. After a day of pondering in initial response to the Hawks getting the #3 pick, which I assumed  only upped the urgency and if they can’t take a player who can help next year they have to trade it, now I’m not so sure. That’s certainly A solution, but is it THE solution? We have spent two seasons now trying to figure out what the Hawks want to do, how they want to go about it, while navigating what we perceive are the forces and what actually are the forces influencing their decisions.

Maybe they don’t even know?

We can say there are two, opposing sides pulling at the Hawks. One is their ONE GOAL URGENCY, which means you have to get as good as you can as fast as you can, in service to your Four Horsemen Of The Cup-acalypse and a fanbase that really has only known winning aside from the “hardcore” who aren’t really going anywhere but do include the construction workers yelling at McDonough outside his office window. It’s that feeling that causes them to utter words like, “Unacceptable, urgency, accountability.” It makes them say them, it doesn’t make them necessarily live up to them.

On the other side, you have the pretty rational urge to try and build a team for the next wave. A team that can stand on its own with Toews and Keith only being contributors instead of pillars (it’s hard to see anytime soon where Kane won’t be the latter). That the Hawks have to find a way to give a team to DeBrincat and now Strome and Boqvist and whoever else ends up being here.

We have spent a lot of time saying that there are so few avenues to getting a #1 d-man or center. That whatever “rebuild” or “retool” they want to embark on is pointless until you can find a way to either or both of those. And the main way is having a top three pick. Well, look at that.

So what do the Hawks balance here? Maybe they look at it and think to themselves that Dylan Cozens or Alex Turcotte is the future #1 center that can take the torch from Toews in three years. And while that might not help you next year, it helps you for more years down the road. They may not get another chance to find that player. Certainly not an easier one.

While Boqvist, Mitchell, Jokiharju, and Beaudin all seem to have their problems, promise, ceilings, and floors, it’s pretty much agreed that if things progress as they should, Bowan Byram is a #1 d-man in the future. He has it all. And maybe Stan Bowman sees the most surefire heir to Keith’s reign. We know development curves for d-men are longer, and you have to live with some shit for a while, but again, that sets you up for longer. Again, this might be your best and/or only chance to get that player.

So how do you weigh that?

For the Hawks front office, things have gotten easier. Because Seabrook’s and Keith’s play this year, along with Keith’s attitude on the ice, means they have less influence. Or they should. You don’t have to “sell” to them, because if they throw a bitch about a continued rebuild, Seabrook should be bought out anyway and Keith doesn’t really have to be here.

So essentially, on the players side, you’re only selling this to Toews and Kane. Maybe they have enough pull between the two of them to say, “No, we’re not waiting around for another season, and certainly not another fucking two years.” And maybe that puts the brakes on any plans. Should it? I can’t really answer that. Is working in their interests best for the team in five years? 10?

Is there a push from outside the organization? Again, it’s hard to say that. The building is still full, even if they’re eating through their beloved waitlist. It’s hard to know how much longer that will last, and while there were some scatterings of open seats earlier in the year, there wasn’t anything resembling a mass exodus.

There isn’t a press baying for heads and blood. There aren’t column inches being devoted to changes the Hawks must make, riling up an already twitchy fanbase and poisoning the atmosphere in the arena. None of the columnists care. Do columnists even exist anymore? And the fanbase isn’t twitchy.

I’ve been of the opinion that the Hawks were either lying or incompetent. That their proclamations of being a playoff team were either being undercut by a front office actually trying to rebuild the roster on the fly using that as cover, or they really thought this was a playoff team and they have no idea how to build one. Maybe the answer is both? Or none? Maybe they’re trying to thread that needle of doing both? Maybe they don’t have any idea which they’re doing? Maybe they keep making half-measures toward one side or the other, which only leaves them stuck in the middle, moving toward neither?

Which makes this third pick fascinating. Because it’s something definitive either way. It also could be their chance to actually thread this needle and do both. For example: they could take Byram or Turcotte or Cozens, and then none of them would be here next year. A week after that, they could splash some cash for a free agent or two, package a couple of prospects for another, and improve the team for the now while really building it for the later. And this is what feels like is the most likely route.

There are a lot of ways that can go wrong, of course. You could spend on the wrong free agent or two. Make a bad trade, and leave your future depth in rubble. The kid you take at #3 just never makes the leap, or makes it at all and you look at them like the Coyotes looked at Strome, except deservedly.

What’s been so frustrating for some Hawks fans, clearly not all, is that there just didn’t seem to be any direction for the team. They said one thing, did another, and then said something else. But I haven’t Occam Razor’d this until yesterday. The most likely explanation is that they just don’t know.

Well now they have a key. They can do one, they can do the other, or they can attempt both. At least maybe they’ll pick one now. Maybe.