The Chicago Blackhawks selected Swedish defenseman Adam Boqvist to the chagrin of some fans. Here’s why you should not be so quick to judge the draft pick.
Working our Blackhawk Up Twitter last night, it was easy to see that the Chicago Blackhawks‘ first pick in the first round was not met with overwhelming enthusiasm. Personally, I was hoping the Blackhawks were going to select dynamic goal-scorer Oliver Wahlstrom with the eighth overall selection.
But the team went in another direction, deciding to continue to build up its youth at defense and select Swedish defenseman Adam Boqvist. The second defenseman taken in the draft, it seems the general gripes about Boqvist are two things: his size and the length of time it will take for him to reach the NHL.
It is understandable to be frustrated in seeing a pick being made and knowing it will not immediately impact the team you watched struggle all last season. But the fact is, after the first three or four picks of almost every single NHL draft, you enter the prospect pool of players that at the very least will not see the NHL right away the following year. Boqvist is a defenseman and, typically, that learning curve is a little bigger as well.
When Duncan Keith was selected in the second round of the 2002 draft, there was plenty of conversation of how far away he was from playing in the NHL and how undersized of a player he was. It’s true, Keith’s size has never been a strong suit for him, and it did end up taking him three full seasons with the Kelowna Rockets and Norfolk Admirals until he started playing with the big club in 2005-06.
But since making it to Chicago, Keith is arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, has won the Stanley Cup three times and has two gold medals with Canada, two Norris trophies and the Conn Smythe award for playoff MVP.
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Furthermore, let’s look at another player Boqvist is actually being compared to going into his career: Erik Karlsson.
The two-time Norris trophy winner is incredibly similar to Boqvist coming into the draft with similar flaws and strengths. Scouts and experts praised his great puck moving skills and vision on the ice, but worried about his size and knew it would take him some time to reach the NHL. If you can stand the low quality, watch the TV coverage from the night Ottawa selected Karlsson in 2008:
Ottawa made one of the best picks of the last 10 years in their selection of Karlsson at 15 overall. Is this to say that, yes, Boqvist is the next Karlsson or that the ‘Hawks just made the exact same steal? No. What I am saying is the comparables are there, Boqvist clearly has potential and that the draft itself is a bit of a crapshoot overall.
Did anyone know for sure in 2008 the Blackhawks had essentially wasted their first-round pick four picks before Ottawa took Karlsson when they selected Kyle Beach at 11 overall? Could anyone have possibly known at the time that in the 2011 draft, the Blackhawks had actually made a worse pick at 18 on Mark McNeill than they did at 26 on Phillip Danault or 43 on Brandon Saad? Don’t you think St. Louis Blues fans look back on selecting Erik Johnson first overall in 2006 and think how much nicer a pick of Jonathan Toews, Niklas Backstrom or Phil Kessel would have been?
The draft is something no one can predict in any league, and the future of your prospects are not 100 percent clear no matter who you take. You can be frustrated that the Blackhawks took defensemen with both their first-round picks because you believe they need more scoring or goaltending, but ultimately the draft is one small piece of a much bigger series of moves and plans that have to go right for any hockey team.
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All of this is not to say that I personally believe that Boqvist will have a successful NHL career. It is not to say that Wahlstrom or even Rasmus Dahlin will either. I am not an expert scout. I have seen none of these kids play in person or talked to them one on one in an interview. But I would bet if you are reading this that you haven’t either. We don’t know the Blackhawks got anything great in either pick, but we also don’t know that these picks were a total waste.
Here’s what we do know: The Blackhawks’ blue line has been atrocious over the last few seasons. The Blackhawks have basically not had any impact defensemen drafted to the franchise since Keith, Brent Seabrook,l and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Stan Bowman talked last night about how hard it is to trade and acquire quality defensemen once they are already established in the NHL:
If anyone knows how hard it is to trade for defensemen, I would say it is Bowman, who has likely been trying to do so for the better part of five years. Bowman knows the Blackhawks need blue line help, and putting as many bullets in the chamber as you can is a strong tactic.
Look at the Blackhawks’ defensive prospects now. After Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin (who was taken 27th overall last night), the ‘Hawks still have Henri Jokiharju, Ian Mitchell, Gustav Forsling, Chad Krys, Lucas Carlsson, Blake Hillman and several others in the system. That’s eight potential defensemen to grow that you hope you can develop into strong NHL contributors.
Will they all make it to the NHL? Of course not. But if even three made it up as top-six caliber defensemen, you would have a major leg up in the future of your franchise.
So if you want to be upset with the pick of Boqvist, you have every right to your opinion. But just remember: You aren’t getting the full scouting reports, you aren’t sitting in the meetings with the rest of the front office determining the direction for the future and you don’t have any idea what the future holds. The NHL draft is some of the biggest guess work a GM and front office does. Instead of being upset they didn’t go a different direction, I am just going to hope beyond hope that the Blackhawks guessed right.