The Chicago Blackhawks have seen an unprecedented level of success in the NHL over the last half a decade or so; no team has been able to match their consistency in qualifying for the postseason and succeeding while there.
This is in no small part due to their elite abilities when it comes to drafting and developing players. In recent history, the Blackhawks have been one of the league’s best teams in getting the highest possible value out of their draft picks when they elect to keep and utilize them.
With the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft set for this evening, the Blackhawks are unlikely to make a selection tonight. That could change should they secure a first round pick in return for Patrick Sharp at some point over the course of the day, but even if that does happen, that won’t change the premise of this argument. While it’s true that franchises fundamentally change on First Round Friday (Edmonton and Buffalo most notably this evening), it’s useless to hit on first round picks if you don’t have the same level of success in the second through seventh rounds on Saturday. That’s where Stanley Cups are won and franchises are built to stay successful for the long haul.
Second Day Support
While the Blackhawks may be built around top five picks like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, it’s highly likely that this team never wins a Stanley Cup without their ridiculous level of success outside the first round.
Brandon Saad was more crucial to Chicago’s success this season than any on the roster outside of the aforementioned Toews/Kane duo and arguably Marian Hossa. He was also a second round pick of the Blackhawks. In 2011, the Blackhawks were falling over themselves to announce their pick when the American winger fell to them at 43rd overall. Looking back on that round, it was one that was packed with high end talent.
Going immediately before Saad were Victor Rask, Dmitri Jaskin, Alex Khoklachev, John Gibson, Magnus Hellberg, and Boone Jenner. All of them have either already established themselves as NHL players or appear to have a great likelihood of doing so in the future, but so far the clear winner of that second round appears to be the team who picked up a huge core piece of a Stanley Cup champion with what was their fourth pick of that draft. Also selected by Chicago outside the first round of that draft? Andrew Shaw, in the fifth round. He’s another case of great value outside the first round almost immediately contributing to Chicago’s second and third Stanley Cup championships.
There are others too. Some other notables who the Blackhawks drafted and developed without using first round picks to do so under different managerial regimes include Dustin Byfuglien (8th round), Corey Crawford (2nd round), Marcus Kruger (5th round), James Wisniewski (5th round), Dave Bolland (2nd round), Bryan Bickell (2nd round), Troy Brouwer (7th round), and Niklas Hjalmarsson (4th round) just to name a few.
Oh, and there was someone else too. Someone whose name currently escapes me, but I think he just did something pretty significant with his career.
Oh, yes! Duncan Keith! Keith was also a second round draft choice of the Blackhawks, all the way back in 2002. It’s pretty crazy to think that a second round pick in 2002 could be such a significant piece in winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013, and 2015. But that’s the value of good drafting.
So while the Blackhawks’ success with first rounders like Toews, Kane, and Brent Seabrook was monumental for building a championship team, it likely would have meant nothing without the successes of grabbing Keith, Saad, Hjalmarsson, and Crawford outside the first round.
So Blackhawks fans, if the team fails to move Sharp at some point today for one of tonight’s prized 30 first round draft picks, fret not. Recent history suggests that the team does just fine when making picks in the second, third, fourth, and even fifth rounds. Barring trades, the Blackhawks will make picks tomorrow at 54th overall, 91st overall, 121st overall, 151st overall, 164th overall, 181st overall, and 211th overall.
Be sure to pay close attention to the names that those picks are used to add to the team’s pipeline. Because while it’s not likely, you never know when the Blackhawks may pull another Brandon Saad or Duncan Keith out of thin air.