The 2015 NHL Entry Draft is now in the books, and while the Chicago Blackhawks weren’t able to obtain one of Friday night’s prized first round selections, they ended up adding seven prospects to their pool on Saturday in rounds two through seven. Here’s a quick rundown on each of the new additions to the defending Stanley Cup champions’ organizational pipeline.
1. Second round, 54th Overall: Graham Knott (LW, Niagara – OHL)
Knott is a left winger with good size, coming in at 6’3″ and 192 lbs. His rankings for the most part suggest that he may have been a slight reach at 54th overall. Hockeyprospect.com ranked him 56th, while ISS Hockey and Future Considerations placed him 73rd and 79th, respectively. Bob McKenzie’s list for TSN, on the other hand, actually had him ranked 49th. McKenzie was the only notable ranking to have him higher than the 54th position he was eventually selected at.
In 2013-2014, Knott’s rookie season with the Niagara Ice Dogs was solid but unspectacular. He put up 22 points in 64 games. This season, Knott progressed nicely, upping his total to 43 points in 59 games. Knott will almost undoubtedly return to Niagara next season, where the Blackhawks will be hoping he takes the next logical step in his development and becomes an above a point per game producer in his draft plus one season.
According to Curtis Joe of EliteProspects.com, Knott is a “prototypical power winger” who possesses “the skill and determination to make an impact each shift”. If Knott can develop into an NHL player in the future for Chicago, he seems like the type of winger who would fit in well with coach Joel Quenneville’s system.
2. Third round, 91st Overall: Dennis Gilbert (LD, Chicago – USHL)
After going with a forward with their first selection, the Blackhawks shifted their attention to the back end. They were fortunate enough to find that Gilbert was available when their pick came around. Ranked 74th by Bob McKenzie, it seemed entirely possible that the left-handed defenseman would already be gone by the time the Blackhawks were on the clock.
Playing for the Chicago Steel of the USHL, Gilbert produced solid offensive numbers in what will be his only year in the developmental league. His 27 points in 59 games are highly respectable for a rearguard. For his efforts, he was rewarded with a selection to the 2014-2015 USHL All-Rookie Team. He’s committed to the University of Notre Dame for the 2015-2016 season, where the Blackhawks will keep tabs on the American blue-liner’s continued development.
3. Fourth round, 121st Overall: Ryan Shea (LD, Boston College HS, USHS)
The fourth round brought about another opportunity to add to Chicago’s pipeline of young defensemen. This pick seemed to be a little bit off the board, as NHL Central Scouting had Shea ranked 155th among all North American Skaters, while HockeyProspect.com ranked Shea 190th among all draft eligible prospects.
Much of his relatively low draft stock could be attributed to the unknown nature of American high school prospects. Shea was dominant as the captain of his team at Boston College High School. He put up 35 points in 22 games from the back end. At 6’0″ and 165 lbs, Shea will need to fill out his frame if he’s ever going to make an impact at the NHL level. Fortunately for the 18-year-old Shea, he has plenty of time to do so.
He’s committed to Northeastern University beginning in the 2016-2017 season.
Congrats to BCH Defenseman Ryan Shea, drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 4th round, 121st overall
— BC High Athletics (@BChighathletics) June 27, 2015
4. Fifth Round, 151st Overall: Radovan Bondra (RW, Kosice – Slovakia)
This selection is probably the most intriguing of the seven picks the Blackhawks made on Saturday. Bondra should never have made it to the 151st overall slot, but the Blackhawks’ gain may be the rest of the league’s loss.
Bondra is massive. He’s a winger measuring in at 6’5″ and weighing in at 218 lbs. He was ranked 97th by ISS Hockey, while being placed at 129th by HockeyProspect.com. Playing against men in Slovakia’s top professional league, Bondra put up 4 points in 15 games. In 17 games with Slovakia’s U18 team this year, Bondra produced 12 points. He also was one of the youngest players to represent Slovakia at the U20 World Junior Championships, even though he went pointless in 7 games.
Curtis Joe of eliteprospects.com has nothing but good things to say about the Slovakian forward. He calls him “a shifty skater” and “a talented scorer” who “protects the puck exceptionally well with his size”. Needless to say, there’s a lot to like about this pick should Bondra pan out. It seems to be a great value selection for the last pick in the fifth round.
5. Sixth round, 164th Overall: Roy Radke (RW, Barrie – OHL)
Radke was the third winger picked by the Blackhawks to this point, and he continued the trend of already having NHL size as a young kid being something the Stanley Cup champions place high importance on.
Radke, an Illinois native, was surely thrilled when Chicago called his name. The 6’2″, 203 pound winger spent a year playing for the highly prestigious Shattock St. Mary’s Midget Prep High School team. He put up 40 points in 49 games there in 2013-2014. In his draft year, Radke moved on to the OHL where he put up 18 points in 64 games in a checking role for the Barrie Colts.
Radke will return to Barrie for 2015-2016 where he will hopefully be placed in a more significant offensive role. Scouting reports describe Radke as a player who is very well-rounded in all three zones, though he may not excel in any particular facet of the game. If he breaks out offensively as expected next season, this may wind up as another good value pick in the late rounds for the Blackhawks.
6. Sixth Round, 181st Overall: Joni Tuulola (LD, HPK – Liiga)
The selection of Tuulola marked Chicago’s third defender taken in this year’s draft. Like the prior two, Tuulola is a left-handed shot of at least 6’0″ in height. Tuulola was a faller who the Blackhawks probably felt fortunate to be able to scoop up with their second sixth round selection. Hockeyprospect.com ranked him at 128th while ISS Hockey had him at 129th.
Tuulola had a solid season playing against men in Finland’s top professional league, as he put up 10 points in 32 games while recording only 8 PIM. He will continue his development in Finland for now and is yet another example of one of Chicago’s late picks who could prove to be an impressive value pick three to four years from now.
7. Seventh Round, 211th Overall: John Dahlstrom (RW, Frolunda Jr. – SuperElit)
With the very last pick in this year’s draft, the Blackhawks surely made Dahlstrom’s day. At 5’11”, he’s the only one of Chicago’s seven selections to not come in at at least six feet tall. With Frolunda’s U20 junior team in the SuperElit league, Dahlstrom put up an impressive 35 points in 28 games. He got two games with Frolunda’s big club in the SHL, but didn’t record a point.
Obviously he’s a long shot to ever make it to the NHL, but Dahlstrom seems to possess desirable offensive ability. His development will be an interesting one to follow as he moves through the ranks in Sweden.
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So there you have Chicago’s seven prospects added to the pipeline in this past weekend’s 2015 NHL Entry Draft. As with any other team’s results, any grading or prediction of a team’s later picks will surely prove to be a fruitless exercise until we are three or four years removed from draft day.
But at a glance, it seems as though the Blackhawks did their due diligence in attempting to make the most of their picks. When a team doesn’t have a first round pick, it’s important not to try to get too fancy with the rest of their selections, and the Blackhawks managed to avoid this. They stuck with players who have projectable future roles at the NHL level if they reach their potential, which is certainly a wise strategy. We’ll see in a few years how this works out.