Blackhawks Failed the 2008 NHL Draft

Looking at the list of players selected in the 2008 draft, the amount of longtime NHLers is appalling. While the Blackhawks clearly did something right in the few years leading up to the 2010-2015 run, that run may have been extended had they made a few different draft selections in 2008, especially in the first round.

While it’s easy to look back 10 years later, it’s also interesting to think about what could have been. So, how should the draft have gone by the Blackhawks?

First Round – Karlsson

With the 11th pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks drafted Kyle Beach. Who?

Kyle Beach did not play one NHL game in his career, ever. He is one of only four players selected in the first round of the 2008 Draft to never reach the NHL. In fact, 13 of the 30 players selected have played over 500 career games in the NHL.

The closest Beach ever got to the NHL was AHL games with the Rockford Ice Hogs and the Hartford Wolf Pack. This draft selection will forever be known as one of the biggest draft busts ever.

But what is potentially even sadder than this draft selection, is who the Blackhawks could have selected instead. With the 12th pick in the draft, the Buffalo Sabres selected Tyler Myers. The 6-foot-8 d-man has 227 points in 531 career games so far.

With the 15th pick in the draft, the Ottawa Senators selected Erik Karlsson. Sound familiar? He’s only one of the best defenseman in the NHL. Through 607 games to date, he has 495 points.

Karlsson is a true number one defenseman and will be for years to come. During the Senators playoff run last year, he basically single-handedly willed the team to the Eastern Conference Final. Oh, and he’s got pretty great hair, too.

With the 16th pick in the draft, the Boston Bruins selected Joe Colborne. He has played a total of 295 career NHL games between the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, and Colorado Avalanche.

Colorado Avalanche center Joe Colborne
Colorado Avalanche center Joe Colborne (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

While Colborne isn’t exactly the most flashy name, he has 114 points in 295 career games. When you compare that to a player who never even played a game in the NHL, that looks pretty darn good.

With the 17th pick, the Anaheim Ducks selected Jake Gardiner. Through 466 career NHL games with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 6-foot-2 defenseman has 198 points.

With the 19th pick, the Philadelphia Flyers selected defenseman Luca Sbisa. Again, not the most flashy name, but definitely a player with a solid NHL career. Through 10 seasons in the NHL, Sbisa has played 489 games good for 98 points.

With the 20th pick, the New York Rangers selected reliable defenseman Michael Del Zotto. He has played 542 NHL games and counting, and has scored a total of 207 points. He has played for the Rangers, Predators, Flyers, and Canucks in his 10-year career, and he has never played a full 82 game season.

With the 22nd pick, the Edmonton Oilers selected forward Jordan Eberle, who had one of the nicest first career goals ever. While some say he has never lived up to his potential, he has scored 425 points in 567 career games and would have looked really nice on some of those Blackhawks Stanley Cup teams.

With the 26th pick, the Buffalo Sabres selected forward Tyler Ennis. Through 474 career NHL games, Ennis has tallied 251 points, and has two 20 goal seasons under his belt.

Lastly, with the 27th pick, the Washington Capitals selected defenseman John Carlson. The 6-foot-3 defenseman could have been a longterm reliable option for the Blackhawks. He has 310 points through 583 games in the NHL, giving him a .53 points-per-game average as a defenseman.

If the Blackhawks could re-do the first round of the 2008 NHL Draft, I’m sure they would select Erik Karlsson.

Second Round – Havlat Trade

The Blackhawks traded away their second-round pick in this year’s draft, which would have been the 42nd. The pick was part of a package that allowed them to acquire now ex-NHLer Martin Havlat, who had 594 points through 790 games in his NHL career. He announced his retirement in 2017.

Martin Havlat.

A picture like that should really bring back memories for any Blackhawks fan. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say this trade didn’t happen. Who would have been available for them to select?

Justin Schultz, who was selected by the Anaheim Ducks with the 43rd pick in the draft. The defenseman has played 386 games so far, between the Oilers and Penguins, and totaled 177 points.

With the 51st pick in the draft, the New York Rangers selected Derek Stepan, who they recently traded to Arizona over this past offseason. The centerman has put up very respectable numbers over his career, totaling 397 points in 573 career games. The Blackhawks had some very good center depth in all three of their Stanley Cup runs, but having Stepan as their 2C or 3C might have made them even better.

If the Blackhawks could re-do the second round of the 2008 NHL Draft, I don’t think they would do anything different. Havlat was a crucial part of the resurgence of the Blackhawks, and acquiring him was a big part of their resurgence early on.

Third Round – Henrique

The Blackhawks selected defenseman Shawn Lalonde with the 68th pick in the 2008 draft. If you’re wondering why that name doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because it shouldn’t. Lalonde played a total of one NHL game in his career.

Defenseman Michael Stone was picked right after Lalonde, with the 69th pick, by the then-Phoenix Coyotes. Through 401 career NHL games, Stone has 106 points. While he isn’t a franchise player or star by any means, he would have been an effective bottom pair defenseman in Chicago.

Lance Bouma was the 78th pick that year, selected by the Calgary Flames. Through 355 NHL games, Bouma has recorded just 76 points but has excelled in his role as an agitator who delivers the big hits.

Ironically enough, Bouma ended up in Chicago anyway, signing on as a free agent over this past offseason. Bouma has done everything the Blackhawks have asked of him and more, and his play has earned him a bigger role.

Lance Bouma Blackhawks
Lance Bouma, Chicago Blackhawks, Nov. 9, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The downfall of the Blackhawks has given Bouma the chance to play with top players, playing with Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane of late. Bouma even recorded a power play assist on Feb. 13 in Vegas.

Right after Bouma, the Ottawa Senators selected center Zack Smith with the 79th pick. Through 516 games played, Smith has scored 160 points. Smith has a 51.3% faceoff percentage through his 10 seasons in the league, and we all know how weak the Blackhawks are in the dot.

Adam Henrique is the only other notable NHL player taken in the third round of this draft. He was taken with the 82nd pick by the New Jersey Devils, who recently traded him to the Anaheim Ducks. Through 489 career games, the center currently has 279 points.

If the Blackhawks could re-do the third round of the 2008 NHL Draft, I think the Blackhawks would select Adam Henrique, who would add some very necessary center depth.

Fourth Round – Nyquist

The Blackhawks did not have a selection in the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Draft. They originally were slated to select in the fourth round with the 102nd pick, but they lost it via a trade. The New York Islanders acquired picks 72 (third round) and 102 (fourth round), and the Blackhawks acquired pick 68 (third round).

With the 68th pick, the Blackhawks ended up selecting Shawn Lalonde, and we already discussed how that ended up. With the 72nd pick, the Islanders selected Jyri Niemi, who never reached the NHL. With the 102nd pick, the Islanders selected David Ullstrom, who played in 49 NHL games between 2011-2013.

I think its safe to say that this trade was a total wash, but if the Blackhawks had a chance to re-do it, they definitely wouldn’t. With that 102nd pick, they could have selected three notable names.

Dale Weise is the first name, who was selected with the 111th pick by the New York Rangers. He ended up making his way to Chicago anyways in a 2016 deadline deal that failed miserably. Weise ended up calling his time in Chicago a “disaster.” In 432 games, Weise has 108 points.

Another notable called in the fourth round was T.J. Brodie, who was drafted with the 114th pick by the Calgary Flames. Brodie is a reliable defenseman who through 476 games has amassed 207 points.

Gustav Nyquist was the third player the Blackhawks could have selected with that pick, but instead he was selected with the 121st pick by the Detroit Red Wings.

Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings, NHL
Gustav Nyquist (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Nyquist is a right wing who through 393 career games has 231 points. He has a 28-goal season on his resume as well as a 27-goal season, and in the 2016-17 season, he had 36 assists.

He would never have been a star in Chicago, but Nyquist would have been one of those key players who surrounded the core. If the Blackhawks could re-do the fourth round of the 2008 NHL Draft, I think the Blackhawks would most definitely pick Gustav Nyquist.

Fifth Round – Martin

Are you sensing a pattern here yet? In the fifth round of the 2008 Draft, the Blackhawks selected a player who played zero games in the NHL. Teigan Zahn was selected by Chicago with the 132nd pick.

Not only has he never played an NHL game, but he has only eight career AHL games under his belt. Most of his career has been spent in the ECHL and WHL. Fun fact, an ECHL team he was a part of once went on a 17-game winning streak.

I know these later rounds can be a hit or miss, but it’s always fun to think “what if?”

There’s really only one notable player the Blackhawks could have selected in this round, and it is Matt Martin. Martin was selected with the 148th pick by the New York Islanders, and is a veteran of 567 NHL games, posting 108 points in that time. His 6-foot-3 frame would have given the Blackhawks some much-needed size, as they are consistently one of the smaller teams in the league.

Sixth Round – Wingels

It’s almost getting redundant at this point. Of the three picks the Blackhawks had in this round, they selected two players who played zero NHL games: Jonathan Carlsson (162nd) and Braden Birch (179th). But, they also had the 169th pick, which they used to select Ben Smith.

Blackhawks fans likely only remember Smith for this one goal. But what a big goal it was. Enjoy, ‘Hawks fans:

YouTube player

The Blackhawks only really missed out on one player who was selected in this round, and he ended up becoming a Blackhawk anyway. With the 177th pick, the San Jose Sharks selected Tommy Wingels. Wingels, a Chicago area native, signed a one year contract with the Blackhawks over the past offseason.

Seventh Round – Lindback

As if you didn’t see this coming, in the eighth round of the 2008 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks selected yet another player who never ended up playing an NHL game. They selected defenseman Joe Gleason with the 192nd pick. In their defense, the only player who was selected after Gleason and ended up becoming an NHL player is goaltender Anders Lindback.

Recap….

So, the Blackhawks had the chance to make the following selections, round by round, in 2008.

  1. Erik Karlsson
  2. None (Havlat via trade)
  3. Adam Henrique
  4. Gustav Nyquist
  5. Matt Martin
  6. Tommy Wingels
  7. Anders Lindback

But, of the seven picks they had, only two ever stepped onto NHL ice. Shawn Lalonde with one career game, and Ben Smith with 237 career games.