Revisiting the Blackhawks’ 1983 Draft

We started our series looking back at significant Chicago Blackhawks draft classes with 1980, the best in franchise history. Before we get to more modern drafts, we will take one more trip back to the 1980s and look at the 1983 NHL Entry Draft.

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While the 1983 draft class didn’t produce the long-term contributors we saw with Denis Savard, Troy Murray, and Steve Larmer in 1980, it is still an interesting one to revisit. General manager Bob Pulford was once again at the helm and among his picks were a current successful head coach and general manager to go along with one of the greatest goaltenders the game has ever seen.

1st Round (18th overall), Bruce Cassidy, Defenseman

The opening round of the 1983 NHL Entry Draft produced quite a few stars, including future Hall of Famers Pat LaFontaine, Steve Yzerman, and Cam Neely. The Blackhawks selected Bruce Cassidy, a blueliner coming off a huge junior season with the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) that ended with a Memorial Cup win. He scored 25 goals and 111 points in 70 games during the 1982-83 season. He made his NHL debut at the tail end of the 1983-84 season while playing two more years in Ottawa, scoring 40 goals and 135 points in his final 95 junior games.

Cassidy turned pro for the start of the 1984-85 season but was limited to just five total games; one with the Blackhawks and four in the American Hockey League (AHL). Knee injuries plagued him and caused him to miss a lot of time during the first few seasons of his career. His best season came in 1988-89 when he had three goals and 13 points in 21 NHL games. In 72 IHL games for the Saginaw Hawks, he scored 16 goals and 80 points.

Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy
Cassidy’s NHL journey started with the Blackhawks. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

In total, Cassidy played 36 NHL games over six seasons, scoring four goals and 17 points while posting a minus-10 rating. He headed to Europe in 1990, where he played three seasons in Italy and one in Germany. He re-signed with the Blackhawks organization in 1994 and spent parts of the next three seasons with their International Hockey League (IHL) affiliate, the Indianapolis Ice.

Cassidy retired early in the 1996-97 season and started his long coaching career by becoming the head coach of the Jacksonville Lizard Kings in the ECHL. He was the Ice’s head coach for the 1998-99 season. Eventually, he was hired by the Washington Capitals as their head coach in 2002 but was fired just 25 games into his second season. He was added to the Blackhawks staff as an assistant for Trent Yawney during the 2005-06 season. He was not brought back after the team went 26-43-13, earning the lottery pick that was used to select Jonathan Toews.

After spending two seasons as the head coach of the Kingston Fronteacs in the OHL, he hooked up with the Boston Bruins. He spent the next eight seasons with their AHL team in Providence, the first three as an assistant and the last five as the head coach. He returned to the NHL as an assistant in Boston for the 2016-17 season and took over as head coach for the last 27 games after Claude Julien was let go. He had a 245-108-46 record behind the Bruins bench. He led them to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final and won the Jack Adams Award for being voted the NHL’s top coach for the 2019-20 season. The Bruins fired him after the 2021-22 season and he has since joined the Vegas Golden Knights.

2nd Round (39th overall), Wayne Presley, Right Wing

Pulford went right back to the OHL to select Presley after he had an impressive rookie season with the Kitchener Rangers. He scored 39 goals and 87 points in 70 games during the 1982-83 season. He followed that up the next season with 63 goals and 139 points. After splitting the 1984-85 season between Kitchener and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, he turned pro with three games for the Blackhawks.

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Presley spent time in both the AHL and NHL during the 1985-86 season before becoming a staple in the Blackhawks lineup in 1986-87. His first full season in the NHL was his best, with 32 goals and 61 points in 80 games. He played 355 games for the Blackhawks, scoring 93 goals and 186 points. He was traded to the San Jose Sharks in 1991 for a third-round pick in 1993. That pick was used to take right wing Bogdan Savenko, who never made it to the NHL.

Presley retired from professional hockey in 1997. He scored 155 goals and 302 points in 684 NHL games for the Blackhawks, Sharks, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs.

3rd Round (59th overall), Marc Bergevin, Defenseman

Defense was back on the menu for the third round when the Blackhawks took Bergevin out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). He picked up three goals and 30 points during his rookie season with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. He had another 10 goals and 45 points the following season before turning pro in 1984. He played 60 games for the Blackhawks during the 1984-85 season and racked up six assists.

Marc Bergevin Montreal Canadiens
Bergevin’s long NHL career began in Chicago. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Bergevin played the first 266 games of his long NHL career in Chicago, scoring 12 goals and 41 points. On Oct. 30, 1990, He was traded with Gary Nylund to the New York Islanders for Bob Bassen and Steve Konroyd. He had one of the longest careers of the entire draft class. In fact, only Yzerman, Claude Lemieux, and John MacLean played more games than Bergevin out of all the players taken in 1983. He retired in 2004 after 1,191 NHL games with the Blackhawks, Islanders, Hartford Whalers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Vancouver Canucks. He finished his playing career with 36 goals, 181 points, and 1,090 penalty minutes.

Soon after hanging up his skates, Bergevin returned to the Blackhawks as a professional scout. He served as an assistant coach after three seasons as a scout. In 2009, he was named the director of player personnel. He was promoted to assistant general manager in 2011 when Kevin Cheveldayoff became the new general manager of the Winnipeg Jets. On May 2, 2012, he left to become the Montreal Canadiens’ new general manager, a position he held until the 2021-22 season. 

4th Round (79th overall), Tarek Howard, Defenseman

The Blackhawks went back to the blue line in the fourth round with the selection of Howard. He had 18 goals and 52 points in 54 games in his draft season for the Olds Grizzlys of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL). After being drafted, he started a four-season college career at the University of North Dakota. He had four goals and 28 points in that span and helped North Dakota to the 1987 NCAA championship.

Howard ventured into coaching after his college career, spending two seasons in the United States Hockey League (USHL_. Upon retirement, he became a lawyer in Grand Forks, ND, practicing bankruptcy, contracts, and labor law while also coaching local high school hockey. He was named the North Dakota High School Hockey Coach of the Year for the 2002-03 season for his success at Grand Forks Central.

5th Round (99th overall), Kevin Robinson, Left Wing

After going undrafted in 1982, the Blackhawks took a chance on Robinson. He had 35 goals and 75 points during the 1982-83 season for the Toronto Marlboros of the OHL. He returned to juniors, where he put up another 40 goals and 85 points in 65 games. He played the next two seasons in the IHL with the Milwaukee Admirals and Saginaw Generals but never made it to the NHL. He became a lacrosse coach after he retired from hockey.

6th Round (115th overall), Jari Torkki, Left Wing

With the first of two sixth-round picks, the Blackhawks selected the young forward out of Finland. Torkki played four more seasons in SM-liiga before eventually coming to North America in 1988.

He played his only four NHL games for the Blackhawks during the 1988-89 season, scoring one goal. He spent the next season in the IHL, where he scored 25 goals and 54 points in the regular season and helped the Ice win the Turner Cup. After this, he returned to Europe and played professionally through the 2001-02 season in Finland, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

6th Round (119th overall), Mark LaVarre, Right Wing

Four picks later, Pulford drafted LaVarre, who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, IL. Just 18 at the time, he had yet to play major junior hockey. He spent the next two seasons in the OHL with the North Bay Centennials and Windsor Spitfires. He scored 34 goals and 86 points in 87 games over those two seasons.

LaVarre turned pro in 1985 and spent the next four seasons bouncing between the NHL, AHL, and IHL. His best effort came in 1986-87 when he spent 58 games with the Blackhawks, scoring eight goals and 23 points. He played a total of 78 games for Chicago, scoring nine goals and 25 points. The Blackhawks traded him to the Whalers for future considerations before the 1988-89 season, which he spent in the AHL. After one final season in Switzerland, he retired in 1990.

7th Round (139th overall), Scott Birnie, Right Wing

Birnie was drafted after 15 goals and 28 points for Cornwall Royals in the OHL. He played for three different teams over the next two junior seasons before turning pro in 1984. He bounced around the IHL before one season at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. He retired after one AHL game in 1989. His best pro season came in 1985-86, when he scored 11 goals and 30 points in 45 games for the Toledo Goaldiggers.

8th Round (159th overall), Kent Paynter, Defenseman

Paynter was a teammate of Presley’s in Kitchener. He had 20 goals and 86 points during his three-season OHL career before heading to the AHL in 1985. He made his NHL debut for the Blackhawks with two games during the 1987-88 season and dressed in one more contest in 1988-89. He signed as a free agent with the Capitals in 1990. Paynter also spent time with the Winnipeg Jets and was part of the Ottawa Senators inaugural team in 1992. He retired in 1998 after five more seasons in the IHL. He appeared in 37 NHL games, scoring one goal and four assists.

9th Round (179th overall), Brian Noonan, Right Wing

The Blackhawks got tremendous value out of this pick. After starring at Archbishop Williams High School in Boston, Noonan headed to the Western Hockey League (WHL). He scored 50 goals and 116 points in 72 games during his lone season with the New Westminster Bruins. He turned pro in 1985 and finally made it to the NHL at the start of the 1987-88 season.

His first NHL season turned out to be one of his best, with 10 goals and 30 points in 77 games. He played 329 games for the Blackhawks and scored 63 goals and 148 points. At the 1994 NHL trade deadline, Noonan and Stephane Matteau were traded to the Rangers for Matt Oates and Tony Amonte. Noonan and Matteau won the Stanley Cup that spring, while Amonte became a star for the Blackhawks, scoring 268 goals and 541 points in 627 games.

Noonan played 629 NHL games for the Blackhawks, Rangers, Blues, Canucks, and Phoenix Coyotes. He scored 116 goals and 276 during his 12 NHL seasons. He returned to the Windy City in 1999 when he signed with the Chicago Wolves in the IHL. He played two more seasons before retiring in 2001. He still lives in the area and was the head coach at Naperville North High School for a time.

10th Round (199th overall), Dominik Hasek, Goaltender

Getting a future Hall of Famer in the 10th round is pretty good. Unfortunately, as we all know, Chicago was just a blip on Dominik Hasek’s road map to hockey greatness. The Czech-born netminder didn’t make his way to North America until 1990.

Hasek spent the majority of his first season in the IHL but made five appearances for the Blackhawks. He played 20 NHL games during the 1991-92 season, going 10-4-1 with a .893 save percentage, 2.60 goals-against average, and one shutout. He even started Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, which saw the Penguins win their second straight championship with a 6-5 victory.

The Blackhawks had an embarrassment of riches in goal, as they also had Ed Belfour playing at an elite level. Because of this, on Aug. 7, 1992, they traded Hasek to the Sabres for a fourth-round pick and Stephane Beauregard. That pick was used to select Eric Daze, so the trade wasn’t a total bust for the Blackhawks.

Goaltender Dominik Hasek
Hasek became an all-time great after leaving Chicago. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

After leaving Chicago, Hasek blossomed into one of the greatest goaltenders in league history. He won six Vezina Trophies, two Hart Trophies, and won a pair of Stanley Cup with the Red Wings. In 2017, the six-time All-Star was named one of the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players to celebrate the league’s centennial.

11th round (219th overall) Steve Pepin, Center

Pepin was the final member of the 1983 draft class. He scored 51 goals and 112 points for the St. Jean Castors of the QMJHL. He remained in the QMJHL through the 1985-86 season. He never played for the Blackhawks organization. In fact, he never played professionally in North America. Following his junior career, he headed to Germany, where he played until 2001.

Overall, this draft class doesn’t pack a powerful punch, but it did do some good for the Blackhawks. Presley and Noonan were solid role players over multiple seasons. The trades of Noonan and Hasek got the Blackhawks two players that were big-time contributors during the 1990s. It is always fun to look back at the playing careers of current coaches and executives, and this class had two of them. Our next installment will feature the draft class that started to build the Stanley Cup era by a general manager who doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

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