The obvious joke, and one I’ve made several times, is that for a second time in recent history the Hawks have landed the third pick in a two-player draft. The thing is, if you go look at history, the 2004 draft where the Hawks were left with the pan-scrapings after Ovechkin and Malkin and chose Cam Barker, there wasn’t much directly after Barker. They ended up with Andrew Ladd anyway, and the only other name in range is Blake Wheeler. And he didn’t even sign in Phoenix.
BUT THAT’S NOT WHY YOU CALLED.
The Hawks won the lottery last night, and ended up with the third pick again, as the NHL rigged it to get the New York area to care about hockey again (as they probably should). But whereas the Devils and Rangers are in the midst of total rebuilds, the Hawks are not. What the Hawks do have is a bevy of options, which I find more terrifying than exciting because I’m fairly sure they’ll choose the wrong one.
Let’s rewind a year. For the second straight offseason, the Hawks were promising you urgency and that nothing that went on during the season was acceptable. They told you they wanted a quick return to being relevant, and having a higher pick than they’d had in basically a decade gave them ways to act on that. They proceeded to take the biggest project in the top-10, and Boqvist might be the only pick in the first 10 who won’t appear in the NHL either this past season or next. And no one seems sure if he’ll be the next, pint-sized Erik Karlsson, Jared Spurgeon (which would be more than fine, honestly), or a Gustav Forsling sequel.
So to me, all I ask is that the Hawks don’t do something that’s not going to do anything for this team next year. And that should be everyone’s ask. If they were an organization you could trust had any idea what it’s doing, and not one still attempting to bask in the fading glow of success they were mostly born on third for, you’d have hope they’ll take the chance.
Let’s get this out of the way. As good as Valeri Podkolzin might be one day, he’s not a choice for the Hawks. If there’s any chance he won’t be coming over from SKA for two years, that does the Hawks no good whatsoever. They might not even have two years. That doesn’t move them forward in any way. They need help now. Maybe you regret that in three years, but that’s not where you are now.
That doesn’t mean the Hawks can’t just use the pick. They definitely can. Bowen Byram can probably step into the NHL next season, and then the Hawks could package two or three of the other defensive prospects they’ve been bleating on about all season and yet have no idea if they’ll work for even more immediate help. That’s one option. Alex Turcotte might be a reach, but he’s also probably ready to step in right away. So could Dylan Cozens, and might have a Garbage Tkachuk Son aspect to him, which we know the Hawks brass will get tumescent over. These are the simplest options.
The more complicated one, but the one that probably that could net the biggest reward, is trading it. It’s hard to gauge what the #3 pick’s value is, though. Most every other team knows it gets them no Kaako or Hughes. But to a team that’s probably trying to get as many lottery tickets as it can, and who don’t terribly mind if it takes a year for that player to get to the NHL, it probably still has a lot of value. Or maybe a team that needs to add cheap talent with cap problems that needs to unload something. Or just a dumb team. Hi there, Oilers.
I don’t know what is available and what isn’t, but the Hawks need to listen to all of it. Perhaps packaging the #3 pick and one of Boqvist or Jokiharju lands you some big game from someone. Maybe the pick alone can pry a Chris Kreider or Brady Skjei or both loose from the Rangers, who can dream about kick-starting their rebuild with both the #2 or #3 pick. Maybe our dreams of HAMPUS! HAMPUS! come alive for a team that needs to start over. We could do this all day.
If the Hawks take another project, then you’ll know they’re trying to plan for the post-Daydream Nation era. Which I guess they can do, I just wouldn’t want to bother with the next three years. And I’d also love to be in that meeting when they lay out that plan to Toews and Kane, and Keith as well if he does actually want to stick around.
The Hawks have spent the last two seasons standing still, and not even in a good area. They have watched the league pass them by and still don’t look like they’ve adjusted. It’s almost as if they don’t know why they suck. They have a chance to propel themselves forward here. If they miss on it, then just maybe, finally, someone or everyone will be held accountable. You’d think if you were trying to save your job, you’d do something pretty big and instant.