The 2017 NHL Entry Draft is a week away. For the Chicago Blackhawks’ contingent, it should be an exciting couple of days. Despite being an Original Six franchise, Chicago will host the draft for the first time.
To add to the excitement, the team also has plenty of draft capital (10 picks) to move up for a player they want or make a host of selections that should deepen the organization’s talent pool. A full draft preview, including who the Blackhawks may target in the first two rounds (barring movement), will launch in the coming days.
But, before we look too far ahead, let’s have a little fun and look back on the Blackhawks’ past draft successes.
Craig Anderson – 2001 Draft (3rd Round, #73 Overall)
Let’s start with the best off-ice story of the 2016-17 season. Perseverance, like his wife exhibited during her battle with cancer, may perfectly describe his hockey career. Anderson eventually found stability with the Ottawa Senators after being traded to them during the 2010-11 season. But, his journey to get there was anything but easy.
Sure, Anderson spent the majority of his time competing in 552 NHL games (including 46 playoff games). But, along the way he also played in 169 AHL games (23), 128 OHL contests (10) and 71 additional games split among three other leagues (MEHL, NAHL and WC-A).
Statistically, Anderson’s best NHL stop was his 53-game stint with the Florida Panthers during 2006-07 to 2008-09. He averaged a .928 save percentage, 2.52 goals against average (GAA) and posted a 24-14-7 record. He established his longevity, though, with the Senators. Over his regular season career with Ottawa, Anderson owns a .920 save percentage, 2.59 GAA and 151-99-34 record.
Anderson has played his best when the lights have been brightest. Over 46 career NHL playoff games (all but six with Ottawa), he’s delivered a .929 save percentage, 2.35 GAA and 23-22 record. The veteran netminder has proven to be an excellent choice by then general manager Mike Smith.
Duncan Keith – 2002 Draft (2nd Round, #54 Overall)
Mike Smith’s best pick was future Hall-of-Fame and top-100 NHL player Duncan Keith. After being selected in 2002, Keith played three years with a combination of Michigan State University, the Kelowna Rockets and Norfolk Admirals. He was promoted to the Blackhawks roster to start the 2005-06 season and has been a mainstay ever since.
Keith has been at the core of Chicago’s three modern-day Stanley Cup championships and is cementing his legacy. In regular season play, he is 58th all-time among NHL defensemen with 511 points (90 goals, 421 assists) and will very likely crack the top-50 next season. His career plus-minus is good for T-39th all-time for his position. Among all active defensemen, he has the fourth most points and third best plus-minus.
In the playoffs, Keith’s success is even more pronounced. For defensemen, his 81 points are T-21st all-time and make him the active leader if you exclude Chris Pronger (who is technically but not practically active). Along with Brent Seabrook, he is the longest-tenured member of the Blackhawks roster.
This was Mike Smith’s best and final draft in his short time as the Blackhawks GM. There are three noteworthy picks from Chicago’s 2003 draft, all of which have been a significant part of the team’s last decade of success.
Brent Seabrook (1st Round, #14 Overall)
Seabrook joined the Blackhawks roster, along with Duncan Keith, during the 2005-06 season following the lockout. For a player drafted by Chicago, Seabrook has played the most regular season games in a Blackhawks uniform (923) since Doug Wilson’s 938. Wilson was drafted by the Blackhawks in 1977.
Also a three-time Stanley Cup champion, Seabrook’s career numbers are solid: 406 regular season points (88 goals, 318 assists) and another 59 in the playoffs. History likely won’t hold Seabrook in the same regard as Keith, but he’s been every bit as important to Chicago’s resurgence.
Corey Crawford (2nd Round, #52 overall)
While he eventually earned his way permanently onto the Blackhawks’ roster and became a two-time Stanley Cup champion, Crawford spent most of the first five years of his professional career in the AHL. Prior to joining the Blackhawks full time in 2010-11, he played in 255 AHL games while only appearing in eight NHL contests.
Crawford’s AHL numbers were never all that impressive, perhaps contributing to the lengthy amount of time it took for him to earn the role of Chicago’s number one goaltender. He finished his AHL career with a .908 save percentage and 2.78 GAA.
Over 381 regular season NHL games, Crawford has posted a .918 save percentage and 2.37 GAA. His playoff performance hasn’t deviated from his regular season resume. In 87 postseason games, Crawford has a .919 save percentage and 2.29 GAA.
Dustin Byfuglien (8th Round, #245 Overall)
Dustin Byfuglien has to be the biggest steal among all the names mentioned in this column. He was a fan favorite and key cog in the Blackhawks’ ability to bring the Stanley Cup back to Chicago for the first time in 49 years.
Unfortunately, after three years with the Blackhawks, he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers (now the second reincarnation of the Winnipeg Jets) in a multi-faceted trade that was driven by salary cap constraints. Although he hasn’t been on a more successful team than the 2009-10 Blackhawks, he continues to be a solid, 50 point-per-season defenseman.
While three noteworthy players were taken by the Blackhawks in 2004, the draft was significant for multiple reasons. In his fourth separate tenure as the Blackhawks’ GM, this would be the legendary Bob Pulford’s last draft for the franchise. He ended on a high note, drafting three eventual Stanley Cup champions. This draft also cultivated two of the key cogs in the best 17 seconds in Blackhawks history.
Dave Bolland (2nd Round, #32 Overall)
Bolland was a formidable player with Chicago during 2008-09 through 2012-13, a time period reflective of the Blackhawks’ ascension to the League’s elite. He was a nuisance for the opposition, played in the difficult areas of the ice and was a player that brought a lot of character to those teams. Bolland is a two-time Stanley Cup champion.
His statistics won’t overwhelm you. In 433 NHL regular season games, he’s scored 85 goals and recorded 123 helpers. Basically, a one-half point-per-game guy. In the playoffs though, he elevated his game. The statistics bear that out. Bolland recorded 17 goals and 26 assists in 67 playoff games. He was particularly strong during the 2010 playoffs, tallying 16 points.
He was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013 and has also since played for both the Florida Panthers and his current team, the Arizona Coyotes. He has not been able to play a complete season since leaving Chicago, mostly due to injury. He is trying to battle back from a potentially career-ending injury that kept him from playing the entire 2016-17 season.
Bryan Bickell (2nd Round, #41 Overall)
By now, the hockey world is well aware of Bickell’s inspiring personal story and battle with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). While the then-undiagnosed symptoms were affecting his play and availability, it was primarily his contract and cap hit that led to Chicago trading him to the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2015-16 season. Prior to that, he was a mainstay in the Blackhawks’ lineup from 2010-11 to 2014-15.
Bickell is commonly recognized as a two-time Stanley Cup champion (2013 and 2015). He was a regular contributor to both of those teams. It is not as well-known that Bickell also received a third championship ring for his limited contributions to the 2010 team, for which he played in 16 regular season games and four playoff games. However, his name was not engraved on the Cup with the rest of the 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks.
After ending the 2016-17 season and his NHL career in Hollywood-like fashion, he and his wife Amanda continue their terrific charitable work focused on MS, animal and pit bull rescue and care and other causes (bickellfoundation.org)
Troy Brouwer (7th Round, #214 Overall)
From a statistical and longevity standpoint, Brouwer has pieced together the best career among Chicago’s 2004 draft selections. Brouwer’s time with Chicago was relatively brief, providing three solid years to the franchise and winning one Stanley Cup before being traded to the Washington Capitals in 2011. Brouwer spent four years in Washington, another in St. Louis and is now in the second year of a four-year contract with the Calgary Flames.
Brouwer has played in 687 regular season NHL games and another 102 playoff games. In those contests, he’s generated 319 and 34 points respectively. Brouwer has played in eight of the nine postseasons dating back to 2008-09 with Chicago. His only absence was in 2014 when the Capitals finished ninth in the Eastern Conference.
While we’ve covered some terrific draft picks, we’re not done yet. In the coming days, I’ll publish the second half of the Blackhawks’ recent draft successes, which will include arguably the two most important players in Blackhawks history. I’ll also consider some honorable mentions as well.