2010: Stephen Johns, 2nd round, 60th overall
This is an interesting pick, as Johns suited up for absolutely no games with the Blackhawks before being traded to Dallas in the most-recent offseason. Based solely on stats with Chicago, Joakim Nordstrom should be the pick here.
But here’s the thing: Nordstrom isn’t that good. That’s part of the reason he’s in Carolina now despite the fact he would’ve been a cheap forward to keep around the bottom six during the ongoing “restructuring” (my word) phase. Johns projects as a much better NHLer than Nordstrom — and I know comparing a defenseman to a forward is kind of unfair, but I don’t think I’m reaching here.
In a season-plus with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, Johns netted 8 goals and 25 assists in 67 games. He was used through the Stars’ playoff run, throwing his weight around on Dallas’ third pairing. I think he’ll make a fine piece on their blue line for years to come, unfortunately.
2011: Brandon Saad, 2nd round, 43rd overall
This draft class is filled with guys who have been moved to enhance the Blackhawks’ Cup window. Phillip Danault, Adam Clendening, Michael Paliotta and Klas Dahlbeck were all selected by Chicago in the first three rounds of this draft, and they’re all gone. Saad is gone, too, due to his contract demands in the most-recent offseason. And Mark McNeill … I don’t know, at this point.
Saad is a bit of a mix between Kane and Marian Hossa, and it made him a really difficult player to defend once he finally started getting regular shifts at the NHL level (we’ll forget it took a Daniel Carcillo injury to achieve that). The Man Child was a force alongside Hossa and Toews in the 2015 postseason, putting on a show that Blackhawks fans enjoyed while simultaneously realizing Saad was setting himself up for a problematic payday.
Saad has flash and skill to his game, but he can also use his 6-foot-1, 202-pound frame to protect the puck and just bull his way to the net, either to score or set up a scoring chance. It all led to success with the Blackhawks (when he wasn’t being jerked around the lineup), as he played in 275 games and tallied 67 goals and 93 assists in that time with Chicago.
Oh, Andrew Shaw was also in this draft class. While I wouldn’t say he’s the best pick of the group, he might be the most important at this point.
Next: 2012 And 2013