The Blackhawks have been consistent in their draft approach over the years: Don't prioritize an organizational need or a player who may be the most NHL ready. Select the prospect who has the highest ceiling and best chance at making an impact in the long term, no matter where they're at in their development.
Which brings us to a topic that is heating up around Chicago: Should the Blackhawks consider taking a defenseman at No. 3? And by that we mean standout 17-year-old Bowen Byram.
We know what you’re thinking: Another defenseman? After using the past three first-rounders (Henri Jokiharju, Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin) and a second-rounder (Ian Mitchell) on defensemen? Really?
In his latest NHL mock draft, TSN’s Director of Scouting Craig Button didn't waver on Byram going to the Blackhawks at No. 3. Button, who joined the Hawks Talk Podcast in April, called Byram as close to a No. 1 defenseman as there is and raved about his ability to make an impact on the game in every facet.
That's tempting for the Blackhawks because, while there's certainly a surplus of young defensemen in the organization, they could knock out two birds with one stone in drafting the 6-foot-1, 192-pound Byram because he might be the best available player while also filling an immediate NHL need who could become their next franchise-changing two-way defenseman.
"I'll tell you this: He's the best defenseman in the draft," Button said. "When I talk about Bowen, no question in my mind he's a top pair defenseman and very well could be, should be and probably will project him as a No. 1. I don't project very many defensemen as clear-cut No. 1s and Bowen Byram is clearly moving in that direction. He controls the game in every single regard: defensively, neutral zone, offense, with the puck, without the puck, skating, shooting.
"Scott Niedermayer had 26 goals in his draft year; that's how many Bowen Byram had. I am not suggesting he is Scott Niedermayer, but his ability to command the game in so many different ways and to play big minutes, effortlessly cause his skating is so good and his mind is so free and he's so smart and so in tune to what's going on, and a big-time competitor, Bowen Byram to me could fit the needs right in. And I don't know where you find No. 1 defensemen. I don't know where you find them. We can talk about drafting defensemen and using their picks on the defensemen, I don't think any of the guys they've drafted are No. 1 defenseman. Bowen Byram, to me, I guess I gotta take a stand here: I think he can be a No. 1 defenseman."