With the 91st overall pick in the third round of the 2021 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks have selected defenseman Taige Harding. The team acquired the pick by trading a 2022 third-round selection to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Harding is a 6-foot-7, 236-pound defenseman from the Fort McMurray Oil Barons of the AJHL. His size is the first thing that jumps off the page, so the Blackhawks were clearly looking to bolster their back end with this selection.
During the 2021 season, Harding registered 13 points (five goals, eight assists) across 16 games for the Oil Barons. In 2019-20, he logged six points (one goal, five assists) and 82 penalty minutes in 46 games. Here are Harding's stats to date:
Harding becomes the second defenseman selected by the Blackhawks in 2021 after the team picked stay-at-home blue-liner Nolan Allan with the final pick of the first round. The Blackhawks have been searching for answers on the back end ever since the core group of defensemen that helped bring three Stanley Cups to Chicago dispersed or declined. Given the selections of Allan and Harding, Stan Bowman is looking to beef up the system with bigger defensemen after selecting a plethora of smaller puck-moving blue-liners in previous drafts.
At 19 years of age, Harding will take some time to develop, just as almost all defensemen do. But as the old saying goes, "you can't teach size". Harding certainly has plenty of that, which could make him a force to be reckoned with on the Blackhawks blue line if he develops the finer points of his game.