The Chicago Blackhawks have a wonderful, colorful history filled with some of the greatest players in NHL history.
They do not, however, have an outstanding track record when it comes to selecting players in the annual NHL Draft. Looking back through the team’s draft history, there have been a lot of misses, but a few big-time steals as well.
In this first part of a series looking back at the history of Blackhawks draft picks, we’ll look back at the 10 best draft day steals (defined as players selected later than the second round) in the team’s history.
Note: For this Top Ten list, we’re looking at picks from before the 2004 Draft. Some of the players selected in a very good 2004 Draft class are still getting comfortable at the NHL level, so those picks cannot be fairly evaluated yet.
10. Michael Leighton, G – 1999 – 6th round (165th overall)
- Leighton makes the list over guys like Tyler Arnason and Craig Anderson because he took a team to the Stanley Cup Finals. Indeed, his career regular numbers at the end of the 2010-11 season are mediocre (30-40-10, 2.95, .902), but his 8-3 record in the 2010 playoffs is enough.
9. Kyle Calder, LW – 1997 - 4th round (130th overall)
- He played in parts of his first six seasons with Chicago before he was dealt to Philadelphia for Michael Handzus in 2006. His career – both in and out of Chicago – peaked in 2005-06, when he scored 26 goals and added 33 assists. Once he left Chicago, Calder became a drifter in the league, spending the next four seasons with four teams (Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles and Anaheim).
8. James Wisniewski, D – 2002 – 5th round (156th overall)
- Despite playing in only 168 games over four seasons with the Blackhawks before being dealt to Anaheim for Sami Pahlsson in 2009, but Wisniewski was a physical defenseman that fans liked a lot while he was with the Hawks. His appreciate in the United Center seats was tarnished by his awful, high hit on Brent Seabrook a year later, but he is emerging as a solid NHL defenseman.
7. Dustin Byfuglien, D – 2003 – 8th round (245th overall)
- Even though he made his biggest impact in Chicago as a forward, he was drafted as a defenseman and received a (ridiculous) contract from the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg TBD last season. His domination of the playoffs during the Stanley Cup run has evolved into some of the most iconic Chicago sports images of the post-Jordan era.
6. Darryl Sutter, C – 1978 – 11th round (179th overall)
- One of six Sutter brothers to play in the NHL, Darryl appeared in 406 career games and had two 60-point seasons (62in 1980-81, 61 in 1982-83). After playing, he moved behind the bench; he coached the Blackhawks for three seasons, Sharks for five and Flames for parts of three. He was also, most recently, the General Manager of the Calgary Flames, but resigned during the 2010-11 season.
5. Eric Daze, RW – 1993 – 4th round (140th overall)
- Daze has become a bit of an urban legend after what appeared to be a promising career disappeared like a fart in an elevator. He was on the All-Rookie team in 1996 and became the first Blackhawks player since Bobby Hull to win an All-Star Game MVP award in 2002. He scored 226 goals in 601 career NHL games, but multiple back surgeries ended his playing days prematurely.
4. Troy Murray, C - 1980 – 3rd round (57th overall)
- While most Blackhawksfans remember the team drafted a center in the first round in 1980 (Denis Savard), Murray was one of the most efficient two-way centers in the NHL during that decade. Drafted out of North Dakota, and wearing number 19 on his Blackhawks sweater (sound familiar?), he won the Frank J. Selke Award in 1986 as the best defensive forward in the league. That was also his finest offensive season, contributing 45 goals.
3. Bob Murray, D – 1974 – 3rd round (52nd overall)
- The second name on this list to eventually become an NHL General Manager, Murray had a much more distinguished playing career than Sutter. He played in 1,008 games and posted 514 points. His point total and132 goals both rank second all-time among Hawks defensemen behind only Doug Wilson. He was the team captain in 1985-86, and is has been the General Manager of the Anaheim Ducks since 2008.
2. Dominik Hašek, G – 1983 – 10th round (199th overall)
- One of the great all-time “what if” players for any NHL team is Hašek, who broke into the league in 1990-91 and served as the team’s number two goalie behind Ed Belfour during the Stanley Cup Finals run of 1991-92. While he only played in 25 games in Chicago, he went on to be arguably the greatest goalie of the 1990s, winning the Hart Memorial Trophy twice and the Vezina Trophy six times. He won two Stanley Cups, both with Detroit.
1. Steve Larmer, RW – 1980 – 6th round (120th overall)
- Larmer takes the top spot over Hašek because he spent the best years of his career in a Chicago sweater, and, like Hašek, should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame some day soon. For a decade, Larmer didn’t miss a game or the postseason while with the Blackhawks. He skated in 891 games for Chicago, and his 923 career points rank fourth in the history of the franchise. He ranks third in team history in goals (406) and fifth in assists (517). His 49 career game-winning goals is the best in team history.