As we approach the 2011 NHL Draft in Minneapolis, there isn’t a better time to look at some of the names Blackhawks fans might hear when Stan Bowman approaches the podium.
But to do that, we need to look at the Hawks’ organizational depth, and evaluate not only the Blackhawks areas of need, but recent drafts as well.
As a reference for this discussion, please refer to our list of recent drafts here.
Under Dale Tallon, the Blackhawks had some relative success with their high picks. Jack Skille didn’t work out, but selecting Jonathan Toews over Phil Kessel and Patrick Kane instead of James Van Riemsdyk have both been crucial decisions in the franchise’s history.
The Hawks have also had strong success in later rounds. A number of key players from the championship roster, including Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien and Niklas Hjalmarsson, were picked after the third round ended.
Overall, the Blackhawks have done very well in recent drafts.
However, after reviewing a number of mock drafts, there appears to be a disconnect between the Blackhawks’ player movement and what some analysts are predicting.
With all due respect to NHL.com’s Mike Morreale, he’s completely right about the Blackhawks approach to their organization but not the 2011 Draft. When he says “it’s time to load up on centers,” he’s absolutely in-tune with Stan Bowman’s thought process; the Blackhawks selected four centers in the 2009 Draft – Brandon Pirri, Byron Froese, Marcus Kruger and David Gilbert - and at least three of the four will be in Rockford this year (assuming Kruger is in Chicago).
The Blackhawks also have a clogged situation on the blue line. With Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Brian Campbell under contract for the next five years, Niklas Hjalmarsson under contract for a couple more and a stockpile of youngsters – Nick Leddy, Dylan Olsen, Shawn Lalonde, Ryan Stanton and Joe Lavin – fighting for the bottom pair minutes on the roster, adding defensemen doesn’t make a lot of sense.
That strong list of defensemen doesn’t even include Stephen Johns or Justin Holl, two of the Hawks’ picks from last year’s draft that both project as potential top-four players.
As we discussed a couple weeks ago, the Blackhawks have a stockpile of picks in this year’s draft to work with.
The center that Morreale presented for consideration was Zack Phillips, who was with St. John’s this season.
He’ll be 19 on Oct. 28, and had a phenomenal season, racking up 95 points (including 38 goals) in 67 games. He only won 45 percent of his faceoffs, though, and adding another center might not be in the cards for Chicago in this year’s first round (especially when Bowman just signed centers Froese and Gilbert to entry level deals).
So what do the Blackhawks need in this draft? The same thing a fat guy wants when he parks in front of Hooters – wings.
This year’s draft is top-heavy with centers, so the top few wings sliding to the Hawks might be too hopeful for even Chicago fans. There’s no chance the Hawks can get their hands on Gabriel Landeskog without a fairly major trade, and even hoping that Sven Baertschi slides to Bowman at 18 might be too much.
One name that has been linked to the Hawks as a potential first round selection is Tomas Jurco.
A 6’2, 190 pound right wing, Jurco won’t be 19 until Dec. 28 but was one of the leading scorers as a teammate of Phillips’ with St. Johns of the QMHL this year (31 goals in 60 regular season games, 18 points in 19 postseason games). His scouting report reads like a description of other players picked by the Hawks in recent years: smooth skater, great hands, good vision.
Another winger to consider in the first round might be Brandon Saad, who is a bigger physical specimen than Jurco or Phillips andhad a strong season in the WHL. He’s one day older than Phillips (born Oct. 27, 1992), but is already over 210 pounds at 6’2 and posted 55 points (27 goals, 28 assists) in 58 games with Saginaw. For three straight years, Saad’s been a point-per-game player, and he might be more physically ready for the AHL than Phillips or Jurco.
One player that’s very intriguing is Tyler Biggs. His stat sheet might remind some of another volatile Blackhawks prospect, Kyle Beach, but his profile is far from it.
In his first season with the USA Under-18 Team, Biggs had 31 points (19 goals, 12 assists) and a team-high 161 penalty minutes in only 55 games. He’s committed to Miami (OH), and was ranked as high as fifth among all North American skaters when the mid-term grades were released by Central Scouting. But since then, his stock has plummeted all the way to 22, and he might be too talented – and big (listed at 6’2 and over 210 pounds) – for the Blackhawks to pass… especially if Beach has lost favor with the organization and is considered a movable asset.
“He has that leadership quality … that desire, that passion, that competitiveness,” NHL Central Scouting’s Jack Barzee told NHL.com. “He just never quits. He’s a young player who has taken the role as leader of his team. He does most of their fighting when they have to fight. He’s kind of the guy that when someone starts picking on somebody, he’s standing up for them.”
That sounds like the kind of player the Blackhawks like – and need.
These are just a few potential players that might be on Bowman’s radar in a few weeks. While certainly a trade might be in play, the Blackhawks could certainly use more depth in the organization.