With the 1st round of the NHL draft coming up tomorrow it is time to take a look back at some of the recent drafts by the Blackhawks. The first round, as in any draft, gets all the attention because that is where you are supposed to draft your franchise players. The Hawks have hit their fair share of home runs in the 1st round. They drafted the faces of the franchise Jonathan Toews (2006) and Patrick Kane (2007) in the 1st round of back to back years. Brent Seabrook was a 1st round pick in 2003. The jury is still out on 2008 1st round pick Kyle Beach. Beach was looking like he was finally understanding what it takes to get to NHL when he suffered a severe shoulder injury in October. 2009 1st round pick Dylan Olsen played in 29 games for the Hawks this past year, including one game in the playoffs. 2010 #1 pick Kevin Hayes just finished his sophomore season at Boston College where he helped the Eagles to their 5th national title in 2012. Last year’s #1 pick, Mark McNeill has put up 176 points in 3 seasons with the Price Albert Raiders of the WHL.
There have been quite a few first round busts over the years, even one from the “greatest GM of all time” Dale Tallon. In 2005, Tallon passed over Anze Kopitar and Marc Stahl to select Jack Skille with the 7th overall pick. Skille never produced offensively in Chicago and was traded back to Tallon in Florida at the deadline last year. Skille has been a huge bust putting up only 37 points in 138 career NHL games.
In 2003 the Blackhawks took Cam Barker with the 3rd overall pick, yuck! The first three picks that year went Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Barker, quite the drop off there folks! Barker had a few very small flashes in the NHL but never proved to be worthy of such a high pick. Barker was traded to the Minnesota Wild for the “milk carton man” Kim Johnson and Nick Leddy, so at least he did some good for the Blackhawks.
In 2000 the Blackhawks used the 10th overall pick to select Mikhail Yakubov. Yeah I don’t remember him either. The Hawks passed on players like Brooks Oprik, Brad Boyes and Steve Ott to draft Yakubov. He put up just 11 points in 51 games before being waived and claimed by the Pathners. He registered 1 assist in 13 games for the Panthers in 2006 and has not been heard from since. In 1993 the Hawks took something called Eric Lecompte a left winger who never skated a second in the NHL. Guys like Steve McCarthy, Mark Bell, Anton Babchuk and Ethan Moreau had decent NHL careers but never lived up to the expectation of a #1 draft pick.
For as many 1st round busts the Hawks have had a fair amount of success in the later rounds of the draft. The most recent example of this is Andrew Shaw who was taken in the 5th round this past June and had an immediate impact this year. Marcus Kruger was also a 5th round pick back in 2010 and he too was a major contributor to the Hawks in 2011-12. The “living legend” Ben Smith was taken in the 6th round in 2008 before making Roberto Luongo wet himself in Game 6 of the 2011 playoffs. Some other late round gems include Niklas Hjalmarsson in the 4th round in 2004 and Dustin Byfuglien in the 8th round back in 2003. Even Duncan Keith wasn’t a 1st round pick, he was selected in the 2nd round (54th overall) in 2002. The Hawks also took James Wisniewski in the 5th round and Adam Burish in 9th round that same year.
The 1990′s did not give the Hawks too many late round gems but that isn’t surprising considering the boobs that were running the franchise at the time. The Hawks did strike gold in the 4th round of the 1994 draft when they drafted Eric Daze. Daze went on to score 226 goals in over 600 career games for the Blackhawks. If you look at the 1980′s, the Hawks drafted some Hall of Fame players very late in the draft. They selected Dominik Hasek in the 10th round of the draft back 1983. Though he didn’t have a long career in Chicago, Hasek went on to be one of the best goaltenders of his generation. The 1980 entry draft proved to be one of the most successful drafts in Hawks history. Not only did they select Denis Savard with the 3rd overall pick but they picked Steve Larmer in the 6th round of the same draft. Troy Murray was sandwiched in between those two cornerstones when he was picked in the 3rd round of the 80 draft.
The first round picks get all the attention and all the pressure to perform. History has shown that not all of them live up to the hype and the expectations that come along with being a #1 pick. So when you are watching the draft this weekend, pay attention to those late round picks as well. You never know where the next Andrew Shaw or Steve Larmer may come from.