As the 2012 NHL Entry Draft approaches this Friday, Chicago Blackhawks GM Scotty Bowman and the scouting department are facing a difficult decision with the 18th overall selection.
It is unclear if they should choose a goaltender or defenseman, because the 2012 NHL Draft is not about offense for the Blackhawks.
Goalie Corey Crawford was not at the top of his game during the playoffs this past season, but he will mature from the experience and would have benefited from a more aggressive, controlling defense.
The Hawks need help on the blue line.
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook began to show their age last year in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Hawks could not control their end and allowed the Phoenix Coyotes to maintain possession far too long in the defensive zone during the season-ending series loss.
Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya, acquired at the trade deadline, gave the puck away far too often in critical situations, leading directly to overtime losses.
That is why Bowman must select a defenseman with their first-round selection who can handle the puck and provide some muscle.
There are few solid blueliners with those skills that are projected to be available when the Hawks make the 18th pick on Friday.
Slater Koekkoek will be available, but his injury concerns are already mounting.
Brady Skjei from the USHL will be available, and Michael Russo from the Minnesota Star Tribune noted yesterday that Skjei “won consecutive Under-18 World Championships, leading the tournament in April in plus/minus (plus-10).”
Good stuff, but he has committed to the University of Minnesota and does not fill the need the Hawks have right now.
Bowman should take defenseman Matthew Finn from the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League.
Finn, listed at six feet and 197 lbs., is young and already seasoned, logging 60-plus games each of the last two years. He has playoff experience and is capable of holding his own in the NHL.
Steven Hoffner for NHL.com called Finn a “smart, skilled skater.” The kid has it all and should be there when the Hawks are set to pick.
The core of the Blackhawks is under contract for the next few years. Barring a trade, offense is not the biggest concern the Hawks face.
To be sure, offense was a big issue during the playoffs this past season. When Marian Hossa went down with a head injury thanks to Raffi Torres, the offensive production went south quickly.
That said, the offense was not the primary culprit in failing to advance.
The reason Chicago failed for the second year in a row to reach the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs rests on the defense.
By taking Finn with their first pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the Hawks will fill a definite need with an impact guy who will continue to grow (physically and mentally) and can turn into a top blueliner for years to come.