Welcome to the 2017 edition of the Hockey Wilderness mock draft. We’re doing things a little differently this time around. You’ll still be getting the same great draft profiles, but we’ve gone ahead and condensed the format to drive through all the picks in the first round in the 10 days leading up to the draft. In prior seasons we’ve brought you a pick each day up to the draft, but now we’re bringing 3 picks each day, culminating with the 31st pick right on draft day.
Regarding our good friends and neighbors, the Chicago Blackhawks… My oh my, what a strange season. After once again building that “Hey, this isn’t the team we want to play in the playoffs” mantra, the team quickly crumbled and got swept out in round one, falling to the eventual Western Conference champions and darlings of the NHL, the Nashville Predators.
Immediately following the completion of said sweep, the General Manager of the Blackhawks, Stan Bowman, went on record in stating that sweeping (pun intended) changes would be made, and that such a disappointing finish would “never happen again.” These words would make one think that this will be a busy offseason for Chicago, as they look to re-build a roster without really… re-building the roster. The ’Hawks did make changes within their coaching staff, replacing Joel Quenneville’s assistants with Ulf Samuelsson and Don Granato, but one would have to think that changes to the bench staff were not exactly what the General Manager was implying when he spoke of sweeping changes.
With the anticipated alterations, there’s no chance that any of the core players move on, save for Marian Hossa, who apparently is suffering from a serious medical condition. As an aside, that’s interesting timing for the condition to become too much to endure, being that he’s now 38 years old and probably close to... dare I say... retiring. The timing is especially interesting with the ’Hawks desperate for cap space, but that’s all I’ll say on the topic. I wish the guy well. Regardless, the supporting cast around three of the NHL’s Top 100 players could certainly be improved. This was the knock on the most recent version of Chicago’s lineup, because there truly was not the same depth that we have seen in the past decade, which arguably put the Blackhawks into the conversation of being a dynasty.
Leave it to the Blackhawks to find diamonds in the rough, though, even when the future starts to look a bit bleak. A prime example is their snagging of Artemi Panarin from the KHL, who rapidly ascended to stardom, immediately after putting on the iconic red sweater in 2015. Similarly, Alex DeBrincat, who fell to the Blackhawks with the 39th overall (2ND ROUND!) pick in 2016, looks to be the real deal, and is just waiting to burst onto the NHL scene. DeBrincat notched 127 points in 63 games last year for the Erie Otters of the OHL. My goodness.
So, who’s next for the Blackhawks? What gem has Bowman dug up with the 26th overall pick in the 2017 Entry Draft? In this theoretical draft, Chicago has theoretically turned to one of us, Ryan Poehling, with high hopes that he too will develop into a true stud in the coming years.
The Scouting Report
Poehling, who hales from Lakeville and plays his collegiate hockey at St. Cloud State, joined the Huskies as a freshman a year earlier (or more for those that play in the USHL) than is typical of Division I players. The decision to finish high school a year ahead of his classmates was made so that Poehling would have another chance to skate with his brothers, Nick and Jack (twins), who are two years older. The trio dominated at Lakeville North, leading the Panthers to an undefeated season and state championship in 2015, when they were the top three scorers on the team. It’s a decent hockey family.
Ryan Poehling had a solid first season at SCSU, scoring seven goals and six assists. He was also a vital part of Team USA’s U18 Gold Medal win in Slovakia, where he registered five points in seven games.
At 6’ 3” and just 185 pounds, Poehling will get much bigger as he grows into his frame. He isn’t expected to be immediately ready for the rigors of NHL play, but as he develops, Poehling is projected to become a top-six winger, though he plays center for the Huskies. With Poehling expected by many to go in the top 15, this is a great theoretical value pick for the theoretical Blackhawks at 26.
How He Fits the Wild
It’s no secret that Minnesota fans love the “one of us” hometown hero, so there could be some draw there... Right? With what has transpired for the Wild in the past week, however, it’s looking ever more likely that the team may soon find a hole on the blueline. With a bevy of impressive forward prospects knocking on the door for the Wild, the more immediate need may be to backfill the defensive depth with prospects. Never say never, but I don’t see a great fit for Poehling on the Wild at this time. Even so, if the Wild somehow finds itself with a draft pick that falls late in the opening round, and Poehling is still on the board, then this would be a great pick for the team, regardless of positional need/fit.
How Could the Wild Get Him?
There have been SO many trade rumors floating around regarding the Wild and its desire to offload one of its defensemen, that pretty much anything is in play right now. All signs are now pointing to Erik Haula heading to Vegas as the player lost in the expansion draft, meaning the team doesn’t get the cap relief that many of us expected. A significant trade could potentially mean draft picks coming back, so who knows? Maybe Minnesota does end up with a pick that lands right in the Poehling wheelhouse when it’s all said and done.
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