Finally the day has arrived! The 2014 NHL Draft is upon us, and fans across the NHL have hope that their team won’t blow it with one (all) of their picks.
Unfortunately, the Blackhawks have a distinguished history of passing on some pretty good players. Let’s take a look back at some of the all-time swing-and-miss first round draft picks in Chicago history.
For this list, we (obviously) only considered players selected in the first round of the NHL Draft.
However, in considering the negative value of that selection, we’ll only look at players picked within a reasonable distance behind that selection; if the Hawks had a late round pick (see number six), we will look into the second round for potential replacement selections.
We will not, however, look at all players selected in that draft; if a player slid into the fourth or fifth round, every team but one missed on that player. Likewise, we won’t consider players selected before the Blackhawks pick.
The statistics listed are numbers produced by the players with the Blackhawks.
This list comes with fair warning: it’s painful. In the last 35 years, the Blackhawks have made some terrible errors in judgement at the NHL Draft.
10. Tony Tanti, F – 1981 – 12th overall (3 games played, 1 goal)
- Missed Pick: Al MacInnis (15th overall – 1,274 points in 1,416 career NHL games).
- Tanti was traded in the middle of the 1982-83 season for Kurt Fraser, and went on to post multiple 70-point seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. He did not, however, compare with what could have been if Chicago had taken MacInnis.
9. Tim Higgins, F – 1978 – 10th overall (358 games, 184 points)
- Missed Picks: Al Secord (16th), Joel Quenneville (21st)
- If I need to point out the quality of player that Secord was at the NHL level to a Blackhawks fan, then truly history has failed. And Quenneville makes the missed picks simply because many Hawks fans don’t realize that the team’s current head coach was picked as highly as he was in the 1978 Draft.
8. Mark Bell, C – 1998 – 8th overall (339 games, 151 points)
- Missed Picks: Alex Tanguay (12th), Robyn Regehr (19th), Simon Gagne (22nd), Scott Gomez (27th)
- Bell was never anything more than mediocre for the Hawks, while each of the four listed players they could have had have been productive NHL players.
7. Mikhail Yakubov, C & Pavel Vorobiev, RW – 2000 – 10th & 11th overall (97 games and 36 points combined)
- Missed Picks: Brooks Orpik (18th), Anton Volchenkov (21st), Brad Boyes (24th), Steve Ott (25th), Niklas Kronwall (29th)
- Considering the talented players taken after the Blackhawks had consecutive selections early in the 2000 Draft, any GM would be happy to be unemployed after this showing. Because of our stipulations of relative proximity to the pick, we didn’t include in this tar-and-feather job Tomas Kopecky (38th) and Ilya Bryzgalov (44th), both of whom were picked before the Hawks’ second selection.
6. Cam Barker, D – 2004 – 3rd overall (200 games played, 80 points)
- Missed Picks: Andrew Ladd (4th), Blake Wheeler (5th), Drew Stafford (13th), Travis Zajac (20th), Mike Green (29th)
- Yes, the Blackhawks eventually added Ladd to the mix and he was part of the championship team, while Barker was not. This story is not yet complete, however, as Nick Leddy can still make the long-term impact of the Barker selection a relatively positive decision for the franchise. And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that the Hawks saved face in 2004 by drafting Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell in the second round.
5. Kyle Beach, F – 2008 – 11th overall (0 NHL appearances)
- Missed Picks: Tyler Myers (12), Erik Karlsson (15), Jordan Eberle (22), Tyler Ennis (26), John Carlson (27), Derek Stepan (51)
- Beach was prolific in junior, but clearly his alpha male attitude never translated to the professional game where he has been an overwhelming failure. Myers won the Calder, Karlsson has a Norris at home, and Stepan just played in the Stanley Cup Final. Meanwhile, Beach was shipped to Europe to get him away from the IceHogs before the Hawks (somehow) unloaded him last season. We’re going to consider Beach a bigger bust than Barker because of Bolland and Bickell coming in the second round in 2004.
- Missed Picks: Ray Bourque (15th), Michel Goulet (20th)
- It’s hard to consider Brown, who was a mainstay on the Blackhawks blue line for a decade, to be a draft bust. After all, he ranks 12th in the franchise’s history in games played in the Indian head. But when you put his 330 points up against Bourque’s 1,579 as a fellow defenseman, or Goulet’s 548 career goals, and the Blackhawks clearly missed the boat with Brown.
3. Jimmy Waite, G – 1987 – 8th overall (58 games, 14-23-7 record, .860 save percentage)
- Missed Pick: Joe Sakic (15th)
- What Sakic did in the NHL should be common knowledge, but I’ll leave you with one thought: what if the Hawks had selected Sakic in 1987 and Jeremy Roenick in 1988…
2. Karl Dykuis, D – 1990 – 16th overall (18 games, 9 points)
- Missed Picks: Keith Tkachuk (19th), Martin Brodeur (20th)
- The 1990 Draft was one of the best of the last three decades for the NHL: Owen Nolan, Jaromir Jagr, Keith Primeau and Derrian Hatcher were just a few names that came off the board before the Hawks’ selection. But when the Hawks passed on Tkachuk (1,065 career points) and one of the best goaltenders to ever live in Brodeur, they left two franchise-defining players on the board for nothing.
- Missed Picks: Anze Kopitar (11th), Marc Staal (12th), Tuukka Rask (21st), TJ Oshie (24th), Matt Niskanen (28), James Neal (33), Marc-Edouad Vlasic (35), Paul Stastny (44)
- The one that hurts most on this list is Kopitar, who has two Cup rings now with the Kings. Rask, Oshie and Neal would have been a lot of fun to watch in the Indian head as well. Additional salt in the would today is the reminder that the Hawks picked Mike Blunden one pick ahead of Stastny, meaning they passed on the center twice. Kris Letang and Jonathan Quick were third round picks in 2005 as well. However, it’s worth noting that the Blackhawks felt “comfortable” with Skille as a wing heading into the 2006 draft, which led them to address the center ice position with the third overall pick – Jonathan Toews.