The Chicago Blackhawks could select a defenseman in the first round for the first time since 2018 on Friday.
The Blackhawks selected forwards each of the past two years, with Kirby Dach of WHL Saskatoon in 2019 and Lukas Reichel of DEL Berlin in 2020. Prior to 2019, the Blackhawks picked three defensemen – Henri Jokiharju in 2017, and Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin each in 2018 – in the first round.
Here are three defensemen candidates that Blackhawks president of hockey operations and general manager Stan Bowman could select in the first round.
Corson Ceulemans (RD, AJHL-Brooks)
Age: 18 (May 5, 2003)
Size: 6-2, 201 pounds
NHL Central Scouting (NHL): No. 14 North American skater
Elite Prospects: No. 55
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): No. 22
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): No. 13
Cam Robinson (Dobber Prospects): No. 34
Craig Button (TSN): No. 20
Related reading: Elite Prospects
Ceulemans scored 35 points (five goals, 30 assists) in 44 games during his first AJHL season then had 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in eight games this past season. He had a strong performance at the U18 World Championship, with eight points (one goal, seven assists) in six games for Canada. Ceulemans is a smooth skating defenseman with a hard point shot who uses his size to play a heavy game. He maintains good gap control in his own zone, but can sometimes lack awareness and get caught not closing in on his man quick enough. He’ll be a freshman next season at Wisconsin.
Brandt Clarke (RD, Slovakia-Nové Zámky/OHL-Barrie)
Age: 18 (Feb. 9, 2003)
Size: 6-2, 190 pounds
NHL Central Scouting (NHL): No. 7 North American skater
Elite Prospects: No. 4
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): No. 3
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): No. 8
Cam Robinson (Dobber Prospects): No. 5
Craig Button (TSN): No. 2
Brandt Clarke is easily in the second tier of defenseman in this year’s draft class along with Luke Hughes and Simon Edvinsson. With Owen Power being the bonafide top defenseman, Clarke is somewhat forgotten about by fans around the league. However, Clarke has a chance to become an incredible defenseman in this league. After being loaned to Slovakia amid the lack of OHL hockey, Clarke tallied five goals and 15 points in 26 games with Nové Zámky. Clarke’s best asset is his skating. He is an unreal skater and shows little fear joining the rush offensively. Defensively, Clarke will need to improve his game to become a well-rounded defenseman, but as of his draft day he’s an elite skater with a lot of offensive upside.
Clarke is the younger brother of Graeme Clarke, who was selected in the third round in 2019 by the New Jersey Devils.
Carson Lambos (LD, Liiga-JYP/WHL-Winnipeg)
Age: 18 (Jan. 14, 2003)
Size: 6-1, 201 pounds
NHL Central Scouting (NHL): No. 11 North American skater
Elite Prospects: No. 33
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): No. 15
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): No. 17
Cam Robinson (Dobber Prospects): No. 31
Craig Button (TSN): No. 21
Related reading: Elite Prospects
Lambos didn’t play much this past season because of an injury and the delayed start to the WHL season. He had 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 15 games in Finland’s junior leagues, and only played two games each in Liiga and the WHL. He confidently joins the rush, excels in transition, and has a nice shot and shot-pass from the point which he uses to manipulate defenders.
The Blackhawks are very familiar with Lambos because he was teammates with Blackhawks prospect Michal Teply during the 2019-20 season in Winnipeg. Lambos also played for JYP in Jyväskylä, Finland, which is the hometown of Blackhawks head Finnish scout Mikko Luoma.