MONTREAL — Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson made it very clear in May that he wanted to build his teams moving forward with "up-tempo speed players that play high-motor hockey." And he's staying very true to his word.
The Blackhawks selected 11 players in the 2022 NHL Draft, and every single one of them has some blend of speed, size and a high compete level, including all three of their first-round picks in defenseman Kevin Korchinski, center Frank Nazar and defenseman Sam Rinzel.
"Across the board, skating," Davidson said of the three first-round selections. "They're all well above average skaters. Korchinski and Rinzel, their size, skating combination is really, really appealing to us, combined with [their] hands and skill with the puck. It's pretty rare to find that in defensemen of their size, so we're really excited about that.
"And then Frank's just an absolute pistol. He competes like nobody else. He skates like nobody else. He's just full speed, all the time, and all-out effort. He's the kind of forward that will drag people into the fight with him. He's a character guy and a culture guy, and add that to some pretty good offensive dynamics, we're pretty happy with what we came away with."
The Blackhawks also understand the value of centers and defensemen, specifically, and made a conscious effort to draft them. Eight of the 11 players picked came from one of those two positions.
"A lot of centers, when they get to the NHL, they end up playing wing," said Blackhawks director of amateur scouting Mike Doneghey, who ran his first NHL Draft at the helm. "It's easier for a center to be bumped out to the wing instead of trying to teach a winger to get to the middle with faceoffs and everything else. The one word you heard us say over the last few months, you heard the players say it over the last few days, is speed. We certainly got a lot faster. We got very competitive.
"But yeah, centers and defensemen, we've talked before, prior to [associate GM] Jeff Greenberg coming on board, you build down the middle. Just like baseball, catcher, pitcher, shortstop, middle outfield. You build down the middle and you can move center fielders out to left and right field, you can move shortstops to second, whatever it may be."
There was also another interesting wrinkle. Of the 11 players Chicago drafted, six of them carry right-handed shots — three centers (Nazar, Ryan Greene and Riku Tohila), two wingers (Gavin Hayes and Nils Juntorp) and one defensemen (Rinzel).
"We just think there's always value in it," Doneghey said. "Even on defense, you can't get enough of them. There's just a lot of value. You can match up certain ways, certain faceoffs. I, personally, and I know Kyle likes it, the right-shot value is huge."
The other important position is obviously goaltending. A team source thought this was one of the weakest goaltending classes in recent memory, so it's not surprising the Blackhawks stayed away from that position.
The organization is really high on prospects Drew Commesso and Arvid Soderblom, but the position is so important these days — combined with the fact it takes a while for them to develop — that you can never have enough of them, and the Blackhawks may look to prioritize that position in future drafts.
"Eventually, hopefully Drew Commesso follows through and Soderblom follows through," Doneghey said. "But at some point maybe there's a high-end goalie over the next few years that we step up for."
All in all, the Blackhawks felt like they checked a lot of boxes in their first draft ahead of a full-scale rebuild. They got competitive. They added speed down the middle. And they added a pair of defensemen prospects with a high ceiling.
"We do feel very, very good about our depth at defense now," Davidson said. "I think we're really, really happy. Honestly if I had to tip where I was hoping we would fill some spots, if we could find some higher-end defensemen in this draft, I think that was best because we know the development curve of defensemen takes longer. So getting them in our system now along with the strength of our defensive prospect pool that's already developing, I thought that was better to get in the development path and the development curve now rather than wait for the coming drafts.
"We'll see how the players develop. They have to continue in a positive way, but I feel really good about our defensive depth."