Finnish defenseman Olli Maatta is one of several defensive prospects the Blackhawks could be eyeing heading into the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft Friday.
Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman will be selecting the organization's first-round pick Friday night at the 2012 NHL draft. It's definitely a possibility that he'll opt to fortify the blue line.
Aside from Dylan Olsen, who went 28th overall in 2009, the Blackhawks have avoided defensemen in the first round. You have to go back to the drafts of 2002 to 2004, when Chicago selected Anton Babchuk, Brent Seabrook and Cam Barker in consecutive years.
Of course, Seabrook is the only player who panned out for the 'Hawks.
With the 18th selection and the pipeline a bit thinner at defense than at forward right now, Bowman may be in a position to land one of these five blue line prospects.
Hampus Lindholm, D, Angelholm Rogle (Swedish Allvensken), 18 years old, 6'3", 193 pounds
Think of a more physical version of Niklas Hjalmarsson. Lindholm is several years away from being a NHL-ready defenseman, but uses his size and strength on the ice, especially near the crease.
He is a strong player in the defensive zone. He also moves pretty well for a player of Lindholm's size.
Chicago has few big stay-at-home types in the organization right now. If he becomes available when Bowman selects, Lindholm may be the pick.
Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa 67's (OHL), 18 years old, 6'3", 207 pounds
Ceci's potential is that of a big two-way threat. He scored 60 points (17 goals, 43 assists) this past season. He is an asset pacing the power play and a devastating checker.
He has been pretty sound positionally in juniors and is mobile for a big man. Ceci moves the puck pretty well and possesses better than average endurance.
If his hometown Senators pass on him, Bowman could have a shot at drafting Ceci.
Matthew Finn, D, Guelph Storm (OHL), 18 years old, 6'0", 192 pounds
Finn is one of the headier defenders available in this draft. He makes solid decisions in both the offensive and defensive zones.
His offensive game is improving in juniors. He totaled 48 points (10 goals, 38 assists) last season in 61 games with Guelph, more than doubling his output from the season before.
Finn has a knack for being in the right position. While he lacks the size of this year's draft crop, he knows the game and could be a solid pick.
Which defenseman will the 'Hawks select in the first round?
Olli Maatta, D, London Knights (OHL), 17 years old, 6'2", 202 pounds
Matta, a Finnish prospect who played in London last season, is a smart player who has the size to play in the NHL. He's a consistent performer who plays hard on both ends regardless of the situation. He has good speed, is an excellent passer and has a hard shot from the blue line.
Maatta notched 32 points (five goals, 27 assists) in the regular season. He impressed a lot of scouts with six goals and 17 assists in the Knights postseason run.
He is a solid all-around defenseman who could develop into a solid NHL player.
Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough Petes (OHL), 18 years old, 6"2", 184 pounds
Koekkoek could be a great value pick for Bowman. A shoulder injury limited him to just 26 games this season. He skates well with good quickness and mobility and his left-handed shot is already quick in execution.
He is effective in leading the offensive rush and could have as much upside as any defenseman in the draft. There is the matter of a surgically repaired labrum in his left shoulder, but Koekkoek is worth a look if he's still on the board when Bowman selects.