Drafting A Winner

Stephen Johns

With Kevin Hayes moving on, some have said the Blackhawks draft in 2010 is a bust – even before Stephen Johns (above) plays his first full season as a professional.

Some look back at the Hawks’ drafts of the last few years and wonder where all the NHL talent is hiding. Since 2009, only three players drafted by the Hawks – Marcus Kruger, Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw – have played more than 100 regular season games in the NHL.

But looking back through history, we find that rarely does any franchise have a complete draft class make an impact.

The model for excellence over the last 30 years has been the Detroit Red Wings, the franchise that dominated the 1990s like few franchises in professional sports.

Between 1994-95 and the 2003-04 (with the 2004-05 lost to lockout), the Red Wings had seven 100-point seasons and finished with a point total in the top-two in the Western Conference in eight of 10 seasons (they finished third in the other two).

At the draft, the Red Wings found a number of late-round gems between 1994 and 2004. Tomas Holmstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson have all played in at least 325 regular season NHL games and were drafted after the fifth round in their respective classes.

However, looking back at that decade of drafts shows that not every class needs to be a home run for sustained success.

Between 1994-2004, the Red Wings drafted 98 players. Of those selected, only 13 have played at least 300 regular season NHL games; Jimmy Howard has played 285 to date, coming up just short of the 300 benchmark.

Digging deeper, we find that the Red Wings prove that each class needs to provide only one or two NHL regulars to keep a franchise on top – and Detroit did that well. Of the 98 players drafted by the Red Wings, 78 (79.6 percent) played less than 41 games in the NHL – half of one regular season. Indeed, 71 Wings picks (72.5 percent) didn’t play in a single NHL game.

Even the mighty Red Wings completely whiffed on 72.5 percent of their draft picks during a decade in which they were, without question, the class of the NHL.

Now, consider how the Blackhawks drafted while building the franchise back into a prominent, contending team.

Between 2001 and 2008, the Blackhawks were bad. In the six NHL seasons over that span, the Hawks played in one playoff series; they failed to make the postseason five consecutive years with a high point of 88 points during the 2007-08 campaign.

However, the front office was doing work to rebuild the franchise.

In the seven NHL Drafts between 2001-08, Chicago selected 84 players. From that group, more than 40 percent have appeared in at least one NHL game; 50 of the 84 (59.5 percent) haven’t seen an NHL game to date. If we use the same half-season number we did for Detroit, we find that 61 of the 84 (71.6 percent) Chicago picks haven’t played 41 regular season games.

Keith Draft

However, 16 players of those 84 players selected have played at least 300 regular season games in the NHL. And, as was the case with the Wings, the Hawks’ current starting goaltender – Corey Crawford – doesn’t make that benchmark; Crawford has played 211 through the 2013-14 season.

Over a seven year period, 19 percent of the players the Blackhawks drafted have played at least 300 NHL regular season games; during the ten-year span we used for the Red Wings, only 13 percent reached that benchmark.

The Hawks, like the Red Wings, found productive players as well.

Five Red Wings picks during the window we compared have registered at least 300 points in the NHL (Holmstrom, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen). Four Blackhawks selection from the seven-year period we used have already reached the 300-point plateau (Tuomo Ruutu, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane) and two more – Dustin Byfuglien (299) and Brent Seabrook (287) – will get there in the coming season.

So as Kevin Hayes moves on to the free agent market on Saturday, keep in mind that teams have built through the draft with varying degrees of success. Teams don’t hit on every draft pick, but winning franchises are able to supplement their NHL rosters from within by selecting one or two quality players each year.

7 thoughts on “Drafting A Winner

  • August 16, 2014 at 10:59 am

    It would be interesting to compare the number of Hawks home grown players in the starting lineup to other teams. My guess is the Hawks would be near the top of the list.

    With Toews, Kane, Saad, Shaw, Bickell, Kruger, Smith, Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, Crawford and Raanta – that’s 12 out of 20 for 60%.

    AND … those 12 home grown players have won a Cup, some of them have won twice.

  • August 16, 2014 at 11:18 am

    If you go back a few years, everybody disliked Stan and had a hard on for Tallon. Tallon was named GM a month before the 2005 draft. In his years as GM with the Hawks, Tallon’s success rate wasn’t stellar. He had 1 NHL caliber player per draft. Hjalmarsson ,Toews, Kane, Smith, Kruger.

    Stan, Hasn’t received enough credit(at least nationally) IMO for the job he has done drafting, and by direct extension the scouting staff of Mark Kelley and all the scouts.

    Hayes will be an NHL player, as will Johns and Nordstrom has already seen some time. We’ve seen Saad and Shaw from 2011, and probably will see Danault and Dahlbeck down the line. We know about Teuvo, but the 2012 guys are still prospects and who knows how they’ll turn out. But, from the small sample size we have, I think Stan has done a better job at drafting and getting NHL caliber players than his predecessor. To the point where I think his predecessor may be over rated just because he hit grand slams with 2 top 3 picks

  • August 16, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Holl, Simpson and Carruth are all under contract in the AHL…Nordstrom has already skated in the playoffs and with a little more muscle is going to make a good NHL’er, Johns looks to be a very solid NHL DMan and is physical and has a right handed shot.

    There was NOTHING that Bowman could do with Hayes, he was a good pick at the time, and circumstances beyond our control made him go elsewhere, plus we get the #54 pick next season…so to me, on the surface, it looks like a decent to good draft…especially if Johns and Nordstrom become as good as I think they will be.

  • August 16, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Great read and research Tab. As someone who has worked in broadcasting for 24 years, you have to read through something like this and determine what does it mean. A couple of interesting takeaways. Roughly 72 percent of draftees don’t make it, period.

    But at the same time draft picks are hugely important. In the Detroit example above days yuk , zetterberg and franzen were mid round picks much like Kruger and shaw and hjalmarsson.

    Tab is correct, maybe Hayes makes it or maybe johns turns into a stud defensemen for a decade, Nordstrom becomes a reliable third line center and somebody such as Justin holl or nick matsson turns into a third pairing defensemen. To me, that’s why the drafting and development part of the game are truly fascinating from year to year.

  • August 17, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Excellent work as always Tab. The key to this draft will be Johns. Many on here think Johns will develop into a strong defenseman. I do not share that belief. Johns has the NHL body but I am not sure he has the NHL IQ or speed. The good thing is those skills can be learned so its possible he develops. Johns did not impress me at the rookie camp live when I saw him.

    Kruger is a decent NHL player but will never be more then a bottom 6 special ist. If Johns turns into a productive player this becomes a passing draft. If Johns is a bust this draft becomes a waste. Id be shocked if Nordstrom ever develops into a everyday NHL player and I hope I never need to see Caruth in a Hawks sweater.

  • August 17, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    2010 was not a special draft for the Hawks. Average at the best. But 2011 could be one of the best in franchise history. Saad and Shaw are in the firts team already and there are at liest five another player (McNeill, Danenault, Clendening, Paliotta, Dahlbeck) with NHL potencial. Most of them are bottom line players, but that´s exactly what will Hawks needed in next years.

  • August 17, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Dahlbeck and Clendening both have top pairing type potential in my opinion (not that they will necessarily play there). Dahlbeck should take Oduya’s spot on the shutdown pairing with Hammer which will make the team better in the long run, and Clendening is a dynamic playmaker who will lead the Blackhawks Powerplay at QB and be a solid d-man as well. Also Johns alone could make that 2010 draft a success when he brings the kind of size, attitude, and physicality that you can’t teach to the ice, and he is very close (if not ready) now.

    ESPN can make all the lists they want but I am confident that the Hawks have three quality dmen who are NHL-ready. Having three good young players (and their cheap salaries) to replace guys who will be leaving in this Cap Controlled era, will be more important to the team big picture wise than Teuvo becoming a star (although both would be nice!) as far as the Hawks staying a perrenial contender goes.

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