Blackhawks’ Recent 1st Round Draft History is a Mixed Bag

The Chicago Blackhawks have evolved from perennial cellar-dwellers into one of the NHL’s best teams. A management shift just prior to the 2007-08 season is partly responsible for this return to relevance, but significant on-ice changes (that is to say, the players) have played the largest role of all. The NHL draft is a reliable way for a struggling team to gain roster talent, and the Blackhawks have certainly used it to their advantage… but they have also made a number of mistakes along the way. Below, we’ll take a look at and grade how their 1st round picks from the past decade have panned out.

2004 Blackhawks First Round (GM Bob Pulford)

2004 was one of the most top-heavy drafts in league history – take a look for yourself. The Blackhawks finished with the second-worst record in the NHL (behind only Pittsburgh) and were thus in position to draft one of Evgeni Malkin or Alexander Ovechkin. However, Washington – the leagues’s third-worst team – won the draft lottery, and leapfrogged both the Blackhawks and Penguins. Thus, we saw Ovechkin go to Washington, Malkin go to Pittsburgh, and to Chicago went…

Blackhawks' Cam Barker

Cam Barker (Wikipedia)

Cam Barker.
Needless to say, we’re not starting off our list on a high note. Barker – a defenseman who had dominated junior hockey – turned out to be a rather horrific bust in the NHL, never developing what had been projected to be an elite offensive game or any semblance of reliable play in his own zone.
Barker did manage one productive season for the Blackhawks in 2008-09, notching 40 points. Unfortuntaely, he regressed badly the next year and was ultimately traded. He was recently no longer able to find an NHL team willing to sign him, so he left for Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. It seems doubtful he’ll play another game for an NHL organization.
When people are titling articles “Why You Should Not Want Your Team to Sign Cam Barker,” well… enough said.
Final Verdict: D. At least Barker had 08-09, right?

2005 Blackhawks First Round (GM Dale Tallon)

Tallon’s first ever pick as general manager of the Blackhawks didn’t go too well.
Jack Skille at #7 overall.
This was a bit of a surprise pick. For as bad as he ended up being, Barker was still the consensus third-best player in his draft class at the time of the pick itself. Skille, though? The flaws in his game were apparent to anyone with the time to watch just one of his games at Wisconsin.
To be more direct, if you watched Skille before the draft, you would have noticed that his only remarkable trait was his speed.
Good hands? No. Good shot? No, although it wasn’t terrible. Good defensive awareness? Not particularly. Good passer? No. Great hitter? Meh.
Unsurprisingly, this entirely unexceptional player is on most lists like this one.
Skille is the most bizarre draft pick on this list. Clearly Tallon and the Blackhawks’ scouting staff were trying to hit a home run based on player potential here. The problem is that there never really was any.
Final Verdict: F.
Oh. I promised a friend of mine (a Skille fan – they do exist!) that I’d have a highlight of the guy in here (Skille highlights – they do exist!). So here you are:


2006 Blackhawks First Round (GM Dale Tallon)

Finally, something positive to talk about.

The Blackhawks picked Toews at #3 overall – fantastic value when you consider that if the 2006 draft was held again today, Toews would almost surely be taken first.
Since the 2004 lockout, Toews has had the most productive single playoff run of any NHL player not named Crosby or Malkin (09-10). With a Conn Smythe, two Cups, and captaincy of the Blackhawks on his resumé, we all know what grade this pick gets.
Final Verdict: A+.

2007 Blackhawks First Round (GM Dale Tallon)

Thankfully, Tallon didn’t listen to people blabbering about how Kyle Turris was undoubtedly the best player in this draft.
With the #1 overall selection, the Blackhawks took this guy.
Just Kane being Kane.
Incidentally, he’s also one of the best wingers in the game today – if not the best.
Like Toews, he has a Conn Smythe and two Stanley Cups to his name and has already cemented himself as a Blackhawks legend. He is on track for more than 100 points this season, a true rarity in today’s NHL.
Final Verdict: A+.
If you’re bored, watch some Kane highlights.

2008 Blackhawks First Round (GM Dale Tallon)

If you were starting to feel warm and fuzzy, stop. We have another colossal failure to talk about.
At #11 in the 2008 draft, the Blackhawks selected Kyle Beach.
He had a reputation for being a hothead with a penchant for stupid penalties, and he hasn’t done much to shake that label since draft day.
At least Barker and Skille played some with the Blackhawks. Beach has yet to skate in an NHL game, and if he ever does, it won’t be for Chicago.
Final Verdict: Does the scale go any lower than “F?”

2009 Blackhawks First Round (GM Dale Tallon)

Dylan Olsen (Credit = Dylan Olsen)

Dylan Olsen (Credit = Dylan Olsen)

With the 28th pick, the Blackhawks selected Dylan Olsen, a physical defenseman with moderate puck skills.
Having made the conference finals in the 08-09 season, this was the latest Chicago 1st round draft pick since 2001 (when they had picks #9 and 29).
Olsen was traded a month and a half ago. He didn’t look to have a spot anytime soon with the Blackhawks apparently (and correctly) content to ice Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, Oduya, and Leddy for the next few seasons.
As a player, Olsen has made some major strides and looks comfortable in Florida. He’ll likely top out as a physical, stay-at-home #4 defenseman.
Final Verdict: C+.

2010 Blackhawks First Round (GM Stan Bowman)

In Stan Bowman’s first draft as general manager, the Blackhawks grabbed Kevin Hayes – a winger with some size – with the 24th pick in the 2010 draft.
Hayes was essentially forced to stay at Boston College this year for his senior season after suffering an unfortunate injury last February.
He’s been scoring quite well in 2013-14, currently averaging 1.5 points per game and already having set a career high in goals (10) in just 16 games.
It will be difficult for him to make the Blackhawks’ lineup anytime soon in light of the team’s depth on the wing, but he looks promising.
Final Verdict: Incomplete.

2011 Blackhawks First Round (GM Stan Bowman)

With the 18th and 26th choices, the Blackhawks drafted Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault. Both are centers and presently play for Chicago’s AHL affiliate in Rockford. Neither projects to be a particularly notable scorer, and both seem best-suited for two-way roles. Hockey’s Future judges McNeill and Danault to be comparable in talent as well as likelihood of success at the NHL level.
Final Verdict: Incomplete.
Here’s a nice Danault assist (my apologies for the brutal announcer):

2012 Blackhawks First Round (GM Stan Bowman)

The Blackhawks drafted forward Teuvo Teravainen at #18. Teravainen slipped in the draft for no genuine reason after many projected him to be taken in the top 10. His incredible skill and playing style have drawn comparisons to Patrick Kane.
Need I say more? Blackhawks fans – and Bowman, no doubt – were ecstatic when a top-10 talent was available with the 18th pick. We can’t fairly grade the selection yet, but optimism is rife.
Final Verdict: Incomplete.
Random note: Somebody I know once called Teravainen “Toyota Terrarium.” That’ll be his name from now on.

2013 Blackhawks First Round (GM Stan Bowman)

With the 30th pick in the 2013 draft, the Blackhawks took Ryan Hartman, a forward out of the Ontario Hockey League. He’s a bit of an agitator, isn’t afraid to throw some hits, and has average (by NHL standards) offensive potential. He could be a nice third line player with some development, perhaps in the mold of an Andrew Shaw.
Final Verdict: Incomplete.

Follow Sean Sarcu on Twitter: @seansarcu


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