Drafted: RW Kevin Hayes (1st round, 24th overall)
Redraft: C Evgeny Kuznetsov (1st round, 26th overall)
Well, this was unfortunate. Hayes didn’t really want to be in Chicago — maybe not from the outset of being drafted, but at some point afterward — and he declined to sign an entry-level deal with the team. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks could’ve drafted another potential answer to their No. 2 center problem in Kuznetsov.
Hayes is now with the New York Rangers and doing well enough for himself, posting 88 points in two seasons. But even without the signing snafu, the Blackhawks could’ve had much better in Kuznetsov.
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Hayes has the size advantage, no doubt (6-5, 227 versus 6-0, 192), but Kuznetsov has an advantage in almost everything else. The two took about the same amount of time to reach the NHL, and Kuznetsov burst out for 77 points this regular season. He had a rough postseason (2 points in 12 games), but he’s clearly a guy the Blackhawks could’ve used to be even stronger at the center position for a lengthier amount of time.
The Blackhawks are in a decent spot now in this regard, but they might’ve gotten there a little sooner by drafting Kuznetsov. Although, part of me wants to say the Blackhawks should’ve popped for right winger Jason Zucker, who went with the second-to-last pick of the second round to Minnesota. Not that Zucker would’ve risen that much on the draft board, but that’s a good depth guy to have on your roster. (Side trivia: The pick right after Zucker in this draft? Stephen Johns to the Blackhawks.)
Drafted: C Mark McNeill (1st round, 18th overall)
Redraft: C Vladislav Namestnikov (1st round, 27th overall, Tampa Bay Lightning)
This is a weird one for two reasons. One, there isn’t a lot of current greatness, or even projected greatness, around the Blackhawks’ first draft pick in this year. And two, the Blackhawks had a group of four picks bunched relatively close together from the middle of the first round through the early part of the second round.
This second point is weird because they used the fourth of those four choices on Brandon Saad. Not the first, not the second (Phillip Danault) and not the third (Adam Clendening). Nope, Saad wasn’t as high on the Blackhawks’ draft board as those three, yet he’s definitely a better player now and in current future projections than all three. So I don’t think there’s any way we can say Bowman would’ve taken Saad instead of McNeill, because he had a few other targets in Danault and Clendening who he was considering first.
So that leaves us with Namestnikov, who had a mini-breakout season this year in Tampa. It was his first full NHL campaign, and he posted 35 points in 80 regular-season games while averaging just 14:07 of ice time per game. He’s not a big guy (5-11, 180), and could’ve been used in a Marcus Kruger-like role with the Blackhawks.
Namestnikov’s zone splits are pretty strange, as he started north of 52 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone during the last two regular seasons, but began less than 46 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone in his team’s last two playoff runs. So there may be more credence to the idea of using Namestnikov as a Kruger-like individual than we would’ve thought, had the Blackhawks drafted him instead.
Next: 2012 And 2013 Drafts