For the first time since 2006, the Chicago Blackhawks have the third overall pick at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. After missing the playoffs for the second year in a row, the timing could not be better for the Blackhawks to draft an all-star player for the future. Luckily, the organization has a history of doing well with third overall draft picks.
Here are three of the best third overall draft picks in Blackhawks history and some of their career highlights.
Eddie Olczyk, a Chicago native, was drafted to his hometown team in 1984. He made a splash in his NHL debut by scoring his first goal against the Detroit Red Wings, one of the Blackhawks’ top rivals. He spent the first three years of his career in Chicago, tallying a total of 65 goals and 115 assists in 228 games.
He spent the next eleven seasons of his career playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, New York Rangers (where he won his first and only Stanley Cup in 1994), Los Angeles Kings, and Pittsburgh Penguins. He returned to the Blackhawks for the last two seasons of his NHL career, tallying 12 goals and 17 assists in 94 games. He retired in 2000 with a total of 342 goals and 452 assists in his 1,031-game career. He was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Famein 2012.
Though Olczyk spent most of his career playing for other teams, he is mainly remembered as a Blackhawk and is often cited as one of the greatest American-born and Chicago-born players in the history of the NHL. He currently serves as a color commentator for Blackhawks games alongside Pat Foley.
The most recent pick and only active player on this list, Toews currently serves as captain of the Blackhawks and is often cited as the face of the franchise. Drafted in 2006, he’s made a splash in the NHL since his debut in the 2007-08 season. In only 12 seasons, he has scored a total of 327 goals and 428 assists in 873 games. He shows no signs of stopping soon, recently completing his strongest season at 30 years old after tallying 35 goals and 46 assists in 82 games.
Toews is more than just numbers, having several significant pieces of hardware on his resume. He has a total of three Stanley Cups, two Olympic Gold Medals, one Conn Smythe trophy, one Frank J. Selke Award, and one Mark Messier Leadership Award. In 2017, he was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players alongside teammates Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith.
Toews is also the perfect example for younger players, as Alex DeBrincat told the Chicago Sun-Times, “He’s a really smart player. He’s conducting everything out there. He’s putting the puck in on nice plays. He’s been great for us obviously this season so far. He’s really gone to the net and gotten a few dirty goals. Obviously, that helps us as a line. We can move it on the outside and get the puck to the net when we’re in trouble,” (from ‘Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat off to fast start playing with Jonathan Toews’, Chicago Sun-Times– 10/10/18).
At only 31, Toews has already cemented his status as not only the greatest Blackhawks of all time but possibly one of the greatest hockey players of all time. NHL legend Steve Yzerman agrees, claiming Toews is an even better player than him, as he told CBS Sports back in 2015, “The reality is Jonathan is bigger, stronger, better. He just is,”
With an endorsement from one of the best to ever play as well as one of the most impressive resumes in the NHL, it’s safe to say that Toews is a shoo-in the Hockey Hall of Fame after retirement.
Often considered to be the face of the franchise for the decade, Savard was drafted in 1980. He tallied 377 goals and 719 assists in his 881 games as a Blackhawk and a total of 473 goals and 865 assists in 1,196 games in his NHL career.
Savard previously served as head coach and is currently a Blackhawks ambassador, but his first days as a Blackhawk weren’t so bright. Disappointed that he was passed up by the Montreal Canadiens, his hometown team, Savard recalls a somber departure to Chicago, as he told NHL.com, “It was pretty emotional. There I was at the airport in Montreal, crying along with my parents, going to a strange city, not able to speak any English. But I told them, ‘I’m going to make that team in Chicago. The next time I return to Montreal, I will be with the Blackhawks.”
Despite the language and cultural barrier, it didn’t take long for Savard to adjust to life as a Blackhawk. He quickly used his speed and small stature to his advantage and quickly became an offensive powerhouse.
Although he never won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks, Savard is often credited for the popularity of the Blackhawks in the 1980s. When Savard first put on a Blackhawks sweater, morale was low after nearly two decades without a championship, as well as the retirement of Stan Mikita only weeks before the start of the season.
Savard couldn’t have come in at a better time.
The Blackhawks traded Savard to the Canadiens in 1990 in exchange for Chris Chelios, and Savard won his first and only Stanley Cup in 1993. After playing for the Canadiens for three seasons and the Tampa Bay Lightning for two seasons, Savard spent his last two NHL seasons in a Blackhawks sweater and retired in 1997. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000 and was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players in 2017.
Based on history, the player selected as third overall at the 2019 NHL Draft for the Blackhawks has a lot to live up to. If they want a repeat of their past luck, it is best for them to go with a reliable forward. Only time will tell if the next third overall pick will be the face of the franchise for the next generation.
All stats obtained from NHL.com
Illinois State University graduate and lifelong Chicago Blackhawks fan. I also write for The Odyssey at Illinois State and Fans Talk Sports. Other than hockey, I love to write historical fiction and nonfiction.