One concussion, one car accident, one too many moguls, one too many beers, one of any number of things can deep-six your carefully-chosen and highly-coveted first round selection in the NHL draft. In some ways, the pick has more value before it turns into a living, breathing human being: because once it is, you’re stuck with it — and whatever happens to it.

So in some ways, your first round pick is kind of like shooting skeet while blindfolded. You do your best and prepare carefully, but in the end your success rate depends just as much on luck and fate as it does on anything else.

When presented in that light, maybe we’re taking this draft business a little too seriously. But let’s face it: most of us aren’t interested in seeing who the Blackhawks pick with their #18 selection; we’re hoping that some deal gets done during the draft that changes the ‘Hawks roster, or draft position, or both. So let’s explore some possibilities.

Possibility #1 is that we trade the pick away for a roster player. This is a long shot, because I don’t think anyone’s willing to part with somebody who Stan would give up a #1 pick for. The exception I can think of is Jets’ winger Evander Kane, but Winnipeg already has the #9 pick, they don’t need the #18. So I think the chances of this happening are pretty slim.

Possibility #2 is a swap, our #18 pick for somebody else’s first-round pick. I seriously doubt anyone would be trading *up* to get to #18, so this would more likely be the Blackhawks trading with a team who didn’t mind moving down. Washington, for instance, picks at #11 and again at #16 thanks to acquiring Colorado’s pick in the Semyon Varlamov deal. So if the player the Caps were hoping for is off the board when their turn comes, they may be willing to part with one of those picks for Chicago’s pick at #18.

Such a deal would obviously involve additional consideration from the Blackhawks, which is where GM Stan Bowman has the opportunity to shed some salary. For instance, Washington acquires Niklas Hjalmarsson and Chicago’s pick at #18 for their pick at #11. If Washington is convinced they can get who they want with the #16 and #18 picks, they might bite on that and pick up a young stay-at-home defenseman in the process.

Buffalo is another trading partner with 2 picks to shop (#12 & #21), as is Tampa Bay (#10 & #19). Additionally, the Ottawa Senators have been rumored to be interested in Hjalmarsson, and that deal might be pending a draft-day swap of picks contingent on whether the youngster the Blackhawks want to choose is still on the board at #15.

So there are potentially deals to be made, and teams to make them with. Stan has made draft-day transactions that have surprised us before — paging Brian Campbell, your flight to Miami is now boarding — so there’s at least a 50/50 shot that something like this could materialize.

Possibility #3 isn’t really a possibility at all, which is trading a roster player for a pick above #18 while still holding on to the #18. Bowman would need to move one of his core players to accomplish this, and there is practically no chance that a deal like this comes to fruition. Even if Edmonton was offering the #1 overall pick for Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews, I think that offer gets laughed at. I’d put this one at 0%.

So once the question of whether to keep or swap the #18 pick is settled, there’s the matter of who Chicago might choose. First, I would like to deal with one particular topic up front and get it out of the way…

The Blackhawks are not — I REPEAT, NOT — taking a goaltender with their first pick.

The two goaltenders projected to POSSIBLY creep up into the first round are still a way’s away from cracking even the minor leagues, let alone the NHL. Russian Andrei Vasilevski apparently has consistency issues; and Malcolm “P.K.’s Younger Brother” Subban is apparently tremendously athletic and has great up-side, but needs substantial work technically. So there you go.

You do not take a netminder with your first round pick unless he’s a lock-solid guarantee to make an impact almost immediately — see Martin Brodeur, Marc-Andre Fleury. This is not the case with any of the goaltenders in this year’s draft class, and honestly I would be surprised to see any team take a goalie in the first round.

So: can we please dispense with the Blackhawks-picking-Subban discussion? It’s misguided, and it’s not happening. I do expect the ‘Hawks to take a goaltender, maybe even two, in later rounds. But that’s it.

All right. Moving on.

The consensus opinion out there is that the Blackhawks should take a big, strong defenseman in the first round. I don’t agree, but let’s run with it for now. The top 3 defensemen — Ryan Murray, Mattnew Dumba, and Griffin Reinhart — won’t drop out of the top 10 under any circumstances, so unless the Blackhawks trade up they’re not really viable possibilities. Morgan Rielly is more of a puck-moving defenseman, and he suffered a torn ACL last season. I doubt Chicago will look his direction given those facts.

Somebody they could potentially go after, however, is Jacob Trouba. If that’s who they managed to pick up, I wouldn’t be disappointed. Already 6’2″ and 195 lbs, he has a big, solid frame still waiting to fill out completely. He says he tries to emulate Shea Weber in his style of play, and scouts are saying he’s a potential Dion Phaneuf — big, punishing, strong shot, and offensively capable. Article on the lad here, some video here.

Trouba could go as high as #7-8-9, but also could drop into the #10-15 range. Scouts vary in opinion about his offensive upside, so where each team ranks him within the overall draft class is going to vary somewhat widely. If the Blackhawks get lucky, he could be there when they’re on the clock. Trouba is committed to the University of Michigan next season, so we’ll be waiting a while to see him at the United Center. But if we’re going after a defenseman, I hope this is the guy.

My strong desire, however, is to see the Blackhawks pursue a center. There are five players that could potentially go in the #10-20 range, and I have a little bit of info on all of them below.

Brendan Gaunce: This is the smartest player of the five, which is easy to see in his interviews. He’ll be a quick study and a hard worker. On the ice he is most often seen in the deep slot traveling full speed towards the net with his stick down and his head up: he is ALWAYS going to the net. Not the most offensively gifted of these five, but should be a future #2 or #3 in the NHL. Article here, video here.

Tomas Hertl: This Czech youngster has good hands and makes crisp, accurate passes. His foot speed needs work, but he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Came on strong at the World Junior Championships this year, and shot up the draft rankings because of it. He’s projected as a future top-six forward, and he would be a great kid to see mentored into that role by Marian Hossa. Article here, unfortunately not a lot of video on the kid. Yet.

Zemgus Girgensons: The consensus pick among those who want to hear Pat Foley stumble over his name 20 or 30 times a night, Girgensons has been a point-per-game player at every level in his career. At 6’2″ and 175 lbs. he needs to fill out his frame, but spending some time at the University of Vermont will help that. Scouts call him a solid, two-way center with good hands, but needs to work on his speed. I like him the least of these five. Article here, video here.

Mikhail Grigorenko: This kid was ranked top-three at mid-season, but his stock plummeted in the last half of the year. 6’3″ and 200 lbs. already, he has size, skill, and speed — some say as good as consensus #1 overall Nail Yakupov. What happened? Scouts are saying he’s fallen prey to “The Russian Factor” — consistency. This would be a risky pick for the Blackhawks, especially if everyone else passes on him until #18 comes around. But if he can show he is willing to put in the work and step up every game, he could turn out to be the sleeper of the lot. Or, not. Article here, video here.

Radek Faksa: If the Blackhawks land him, this is cause for celebration. This kid is exactly what we need. In a 62-game season with Kitchener last year he put up 29 goals and 38 assists. He’s 6’2″ and 183 lbs. with room to grow, and the Rangers’ coach has groomed him to be a hard-hitting, two-way center. The only knock on the kid is he’s not as offensively “flashy” as some of the top-ten picks, but who gives a shit. He is one of those players that is always there when the puck squirts loose in front of the goal. This is the kid who we need between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa on the second line. Could he be there next year? Probably not, he may need a year in Rockford. But oh man, please: let this be the guy. Article here, video here.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter to get the latest on the Blackhawks’ moves as they happen on Friday, we’ll keep you up to date.

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