God bless our friend Scott Powers. Here, even in this nuclear winter of Hawks news while the playoffs go one without them, he’s got seven thousand words on Hawks prospects, some of whom might even matter! I need to take whatever it is he’s taking.
Anyway, the meat of this stuff is right at the top, and concerns Bowen Byram. Scott does something I do a lot, which is to look at players drafted in the same or similar position that play the same spot. That list of first d-men taken certainly makes you sit up straight when you see names like Heiskanen or Makar, and then make your asshole itch when you see Gudbranson or Reinhart get mentioned, though some of this is varied based on the depth of forwards in the draft as well.
Let’s go one better than Scott, and just go through any d-man taken in the top three picks the past few years: Dahlin, Heiskanen, Ekblad, Ryan Murray, Gudbranson, and Hedman in the past 10 years. So that’s possibly three franchise-turners in Dahlin, Heiskanen, and Hedman (Heiskanen is the only reach there but he sure looks like he could be). One just below that in Ekblad, and then two whiffs in Murray and Gudbranson. And even Murray found some use this year.
No one would say Byram is a reach at three, and every projection you read says he’s a future #1 d-man, and could even be ready to play in the NHL next year. He’s certainly more certain and projects out better than anything the Hawks already have. But Powers goes on to note the wealth of other prospects the Hawks have on the blue line, the ones they already have signed, and says the Hawks might skip over him because of that.
Which I think is horseshit.
Look (say that like Terry Boers), if the Hawks think Alex Turcotte has the hands to take the torch from Jonathan Toews one day to anchor this team from center, then I or no one else could have complaints. He might be that. We wouldn’t get the immediate satisfaction of seeing him, because he’s going to Madison for a year (lucky boy), but long-term that could be just as good of a pick and prospect. Fine. If he’s higher on their board than Byram, you do that.
But if Byram is highest on their board, you take him and you worry about the rest later. That “wealth” of defensive prospects puts you on the radar for any big piece you want to trade for (say, what’s up, PK? You like Italian beef?). Having too many prospects or players for a position is a better spot to be in than not having enough. It’s not like any of these guys are on the cap yet anyway.
And none of the prospects the Hawks have are projected to be all-world, do-everything ass-kickers for the lord. They may become that, or combine with Byram to be that. But that’s built on more hope than it seems to be with Byram. There are no sure things after the top two picks, but Byram certainly is close enough.
We’ve run over this again and again, but you can’t talk about this without discussing what the Hawks already have locked in for next year. You know the list: Keith, Seabrook, Murphy, Jokiharju Gustafsson. And you know what we’ll say. Seabrook shouldn’t even be a consideration. Saying he has to play and play a lot simply because of his salary is doubling the mistake. Maybe the Hawks are doing this, and they would never say it publicly, but maybe they know that Seabrook is the #7 next year, and not just the number on his back.
Here’s another thing. The Hawks aren’t the only team badly needing defensive help, and there’s only one true difference-maker on the UFA market, and you know that by now. There’s one or two more that might help a team, but spending in the middle of the market is what gets you in cap hell. So a few teams are going to miss out on Erik Karlsson, and I’m willing to bet you could sucker them into Erik Gustafsson in a hurry. That points total is going to be the light that blinds some GM to his faults. He’s only going to be here one more year anyway, then be far too expensive for a glorified Lubomir Visnovsky. You were a dogshit team with him popping off for 65 points anyway, so what’s the difference here? I’d make the bet that Jokiharju can do most of the stuff he did on the power play with a little prodding. Byram or Boqvist certainly can, if they prove ready from the off. You can do something here.
If you were to take that tack, you only have three spots locked up for next year, and fuck Jokiharju could play himself out of one just like he did this term. You never know. That’s plenty of room for an actual prospect or two to take a dive, not Gustav Forsling or Carl Dahlstrom. It’s also enough room for an acquisition. And it probably saves your cap space for help at forward.
There, I’ve done it. I’m so smart.
It would be a mistake for the Hawks to draft for need when they may not have another swing at a pick like this for a while (and when they do, it won’t be this front office taking it). They also need to have a frank discussion of what they really have, not what they want us to think they have. There’s a lot of ways to screw this up, but there’s a lot of ways to get it right too.