Does anyone remember the 2016 draft for the Blackhawks? If you don’t, no problem, but it’s memorable because Chicago had no first-round pick that year. Under normal circumstances, a team with no pick in the first round is usually looking at a significant handicap for bringing new talent into the organization. At least this is the conventional wisdom, but it didn’t matter for Chicago that year.
That was the year the Chicago Blackhawks drafted Alex DeBrincat at #39, in the second round. Now, this isn’t to say that the experts are to be ignored entirely. There’s a reason some people have been able to make a career out of assessing up-and-coming players.
As the draft approaches, it’s worth remembering that a lot of what people have to say about young players is an opinion. No one really knows how players are going to develop. Young, elite players will often stay that way, but sometimes they don’t. Nail Yakupov was drafted 1st overall by Edmonton and he never really became the dominant player everyone expected him to evolve into.
Sometimes players are passed over only to be superstars. Pavel Datsyuk is perhaps the ultimate cautionary tale for people who take draft rankings too seriously. Drafted in the 6th round at 171st overall, the former Red Wing forward was an absolute wizard when he was on the ice. Any team in the league could have drafted him, but it was Detroit that took the chance.
"“I think a lot of teams were worried if I could still do it at the next level,” DeBrincat said about dropping to the second round.“In my mind I can and hopefully I will for a long time.”"
He certainly has done it, not only offensively, but he’s also developing into a solid two-way player. For a guy a lot of people dismissed because of his size, he’s produced at the top level. He’s not the only player that was drafted beyond the first round that has been a real asset for Chicago.
The potentially soon-to-be-traded Duncan Keith was drafted 54th overall. He could have been on any team in the league. Dominik Kubalik was drafted 191st overall, by the Kings, but they sent him to Chicago.
The scouts, the analysts, the talking heads, they all do their homework. When they write up an opinion on a player, they’re not just making stuff up. However, it’s also worthwhile to take these write-ups on tomorrow’s would-be talent with a grain of salt.
Anyone honest will say that it’s all a bit like gambling. You only have to be right 51% of the time to make it look like you’re a winner. The same logic holds for scouts, that the assessments are correct more often than they aren’t. There’s a lot of margin for error, and the Blackhawks have a history of finding passed-over talent.