This is a hectic offseason across the National Hockey League and especially for the Chicago Blackhawks. With general manager Stan Bowman throwing out the dreaded “R word” last year, he finally started to act like the team was rebuilding with the trade of Duncan Keith to the Edmonton Oilers. He will have a lot to accomplished in this compressed offseason, including adding to the organizational depth at the NHL Entry Draft this weekend.
I have already tackled multiple possibilities for the Blackhawks’ first-round pick (11th overall) by breaking down the top five forwards, top four defensemen, and top two goaltenders. It is time to focus on the second round, where the Blackhawks have two picks; their pick at 44th overall and the 62nd pick acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in the Mattias Janmark trade.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
Here are the best five players who could be on the board when the Blackhawks make their two second-round picks.
First Pick, 43rd Overall
Matthew Samoskevich – RW, Chicago Steel (5-foot-11, 190 pounds)
The Blackhawks scouting staff did not have to travel far to see Samokevich play with the Steel this past season. 2020-21 was his second season in the United States Hockey League (USHL). In 85 total USHL games, he had 26 goals and 73 points. He had a goal and 10 points in eight playoffs games to help lead the Steel to the 2021 Clark Cup Championship.
Samoskevich has deceptive speed to move quickly through the neutral zone and begin the offensive attack. Some scouts feel that he has the best hands of the entire draft class and there is a good chance he is selected well before this pick. His defensive game still needs some work, but he is heading to the University of Michigan in the fall to further his development. He has speed, creativity and is a threat to score from anywhere on the ice. He has all the makings of a top-six NHL forward.
William Strömgren – LW, MODO Hockey (6-foot-3, 176)
Strömgren will bring size up front, which is something the Blackhawks need more of. If you watched the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you’d know that having talented big forwards isn’t a guarantee for success, but they certainly don’t hurt. The 18-year-old, born in the same town that produced Peter Forsberg, Markus Näslund and the Sedin Twins, played at four different levels of Swedish hockey this past season. In 53 total games, he had 14 goals and 42 points. He also had two goals and five points in seven games for Sweden at the IIHF U18 World Junior Championship.
In addition to his large frame, Strömgren is a fast and powerful skater with great puck handling skills. He has a shoot-first mentality whose shot has a quick and accurate release. He has soft hands, which allow him to be an excellent pass receiver. He was available at this spot in the THW 2021 Mock NHL Draft, so I was quick to grab him. The Blackhawks are in no position to pass up on a big, fast winger with a deadly shot.
Tyler Boucher – LW, United States National Team Development Program (6-foot-1, 201 pounds)
Bowman has a history of taking players out of the USNTDP, including Drew Commesso, Landon Slaggert, Alex Vlasic, and Jake Wise over the past three drafts. Boucher would be a nice addition to add to this group if he is available. He produced at every level during the 2020-21 season. He had three goals in two games for the U17 team. In 12 games at the U18 level, he scored six goals and 11 points. He capped off his season with three goals and five points in five USHL games.
Boucher will become an instant fan favorite if he winds up in Chicago one day. He might be the most physical player of the entire 2021 draft class. He can deliver a huge hit while also making smart plays to separate opponents from the puck. Of course, he enjoys giving out an extra shove or cross-check to be a nuisance on the ice. He also brings a talented offensive game to the fold. He is a crafty shooter that is more than capable of setting up scoring chances for his teammates.
Ryan Ufko, RHD – Chicago Steel (5-foot-10, 181 pounds)
The Steel dominated the USHL this past season and they will get numerous players drafted over the weekend. Ufko is one of two highly touted defensemen from the program in this draft class, with Jack Bar being the other. He had a breakout offensive season in 2020-21 with 10 goals and 39 points in 53 regular-season games. He had another goal and seven points during their postseason run that ended with a championship.
Don’t let Ufko’s size fool you, he can still play a physical game and wins his fair share of board battles. He is a very effective checker and anticipates the play well. He uses an active stick to break up passing and shooting lanes. His offensive game has developed nicely to go along with the sure defensive play. He is committed to playing at UMass this fall, so he will be part of one of the top college programs in the nation.
Alexandr Kisakov – LW/RW, Dynamo Moscow (5-foot-10, 141 pounds)
Kisakov might have a lot of work to do in the size department, but he packs a ton of talent into his small frame. NHL Central Scouting ranks him as the seventh-best European skater, but his lack of size will likely have him fall into the second round. He spent the 2020-21 season in the MHL, Russia’s top junior league. In 61 regular-season games, he had 36 goals and 73 points. He added another five goals and 10 points in 14 playoff games.
As you can tell by his point totals, Kisakov can score goals and set up his teammates. His game comes with a lot of pace and creativity. His feet are always moving, and he rarely skates in a straight line through the neutral zone. He can make defenders miss with ease with his shiftiness and quick feet. His first step is made in the blink of an eye, and his speed is dangerous. If he was a couple of inches taller and a few pounds heavier, he might be a lottery pick.
Second Pick, 62nd Overall
Ville Koivunen – LW/RW, Kärpät 6-foot, 165 pounds)
The Blackhawks’ European scouting department has been doing a great job of late, and Koivunen should be on their radar. He has spent the last four seasons playing up the junior ranks for Kärpät in his native Finland. He starred for their U20 team in 2020-21. In 38 games, he scored 23 goals and 49 points. He also played at the IIHF U18 World Championships, where he scored four goals and 10 points in seven games.
Koivunen is a highly-skilled winger who is always in attack mode. He wants the puck on his stick at all times and wants to be the who makes the big play. You have to love a kid that plays with that mindset and is not afraid of the big moment. He is versatile and can excel on either the left or right side. He is aggressive when attacking the open spaces of the ice. He is also a very accurate passer, making him dangerous whether he is looking to shoot or distribute the puck.
Cole Huckins – C, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (6-foot-3, 201 pounds)
If the Blackhawks take Huckins at No. 62, like I had them doing in the THW Mock Draft, they will be adding some size to the organization. He has the frame to be a power forward at the NHL level, and his scoring ability makes him more than just a big body. He had a solid second season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with 14 goals and 32 points in 33 games. This was one more goal and six fewer points he had 64 games for the Titan in 2019-20.
While he has the edge and physical play you want out of your big forwards, Huckins is a terrific playmaker. He was happy to dish the puck to his wingers and is one of the better passers of this draft class. He played center in his rookie season but also played on the wing in 2020-21, showing off his versatility. You can’t coach size, and if the Blackhawks want to add some to their lineup Huckins fits the bill.
Dmitri Kuzmin, LHD, Dinamo-Molodechno (5-foot-10, 176 pounds)
If you go by the pre-draft rankings, taking Kuzmin here might be a reach the overall package says otherwise. Belarus is not exactly an international hockey hotbed as it has produced just three NHL players. However, Kuzmin performed well in his homeland’s top professional league as an 18-year-old after not being able to play in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). He has three goals and 12 points in 46 regular-season games and another three goals and four points in six playoff games. He had a goal and five points in five games for Belarus at the U18 World Championships. His goal was a memorable one.
Kuzmin plays a sound game when he’s in the offensive zone. He does a good job with quick passes from the point. He is active, fills in open spaces and looks to contribute to the play as much as possible. His skating and stick handling are his most noticeable attributes. He will have no problem with the pace of today’s North American game. He needs to work on his defensive game, but so do most blueliners at this stage of their career. Heading across the pond to play in the OHL this fall would be great for his development.
Colton Dach, C/LW – Saskatoon Blades (6-foot-4, 205)
The Blackhawks shouldn’t draft Dach because he is Kirby’s younger brother. They should draft him because he is a heck of a hockey player. He used the shortened Western Hockey League (WHL) season to shoot up the rankings. He scored 11 goals and 20 points in 20 games for the Blades. He had 11 goals and 29 points in the 62 games of his rookie season.
Colton and Kirby share more than just near-identical frames and builds. They both play a very sound 200-foot game, have high hockey IQs and are not afraid of getting physical when the situation calls for it. The difference is that Colton is a natural goal scorer, where Kirby likes to be a playmaker. Mechanically, Dach has one of the best shots in the draft. Adding the younger Dach to the mix would be a great story for the writers in town, but the Blackhawks would also have a promising young player in the system.
Ryder Korczak, C – Moose Jaw Warriors (5-foot-10, 159 pounds)
Ryder hopes to be the second family member to be drafted in the NHL after his older brother Kaeden was a second-round pick of the Golden Knights in 2019. Korczak has spent the last three seasons in the WHL, the first with the Calgary Hitmen before two with Moose Jaw. He had 18 goals and 67 points in 62 games before the 2019-20 season was cut short. In his 17 games this past season, he had three games and 16 points.
Korczak’s puck-handling skills are what scouts are highest on. He uses a combination of deception and speed to beat opponents with the puck. He has been outstanding on the power play by keeping defenders guessing whether he will shoot or pass. While his assist totals tell you he usually likes to pass first, his shot is very dangerous and should probably be used more. He has the right mix of speed, awareness and vision to have a real shot at a successful pro career.
The Blackhawks will have plenty of options with their pair of second-round picks. They have three picks in the first two rounds this week, which could really help their prospect pipeline. The biggest part of a successful rebuild is developing your own talent, and this year’s draft could go a long way in that department.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.