NHL draft: Homegrown talents fueled Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org June 29, 2013 1:18AM
Updated: August 2, 2013 7:04AM
Dave Bolland scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Blackhawks, but the team’s second championship in four years can trace its origins back well beyond the 17 seconds of Game 6 that forever will live in franchise lore.
Think back to 2002, when the Hawks drafted a little-known defenseman out of Michigan State named Duncan Keith. Or 2003, when they used their first two picks on Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford. Bolland and Bryan Bickell were taken in 2004, and Niklas Hjalmarsson came in 2005.
Then came the two picks that changed the franchise — Jonathan Toews with the third overall pick in 2006, and Patrick Kane with the first overall pick in 2007.
Throw in 2011 picks Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw, and 2008 sixth-rounder Ben Smith, and 11 of the 21 Hawks who saw action in the Stanley Cup Final were home-grown talents.
“We’ve built this team for the most part from the ground up, adding a few pieces from the outside,” Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said. “Really, the core from this group came from drafting. We’d like to continue this process.”
Most picks never make it to the NHL. For every Kane and Toews, there’s a Jack Skille and Kyle Beach. For every late-round gem such as Shaw and Hjalmarsson, there are countless players who have never and will never sniff the NHL. So at this year’s draft on Sunday in Newark, N.J., the Hawks will have to be particularly efficient. Thanks to the trade for Johnny Oduya trade, the Hawks don’t have a second- or third-round pick. And they dealt one of their two fourth-rounders to the San Jose Sharks in the Michal Handzus trade.
Not that anyone’s complaining, given the payoff of those deals. But the Hawks will pick last in the first round — 30th — and then not again until the 121st pick. In all, they only have five selections.
The lack of picks plus a surplus of salary could yield some draft-day deals. With the Hawks trying to re-sign Bickell — who said Thursday that he’d be willing to give the Hawks a hometown discount to stay with the team that drafted him — there have been rumblings that Bolland and his $3.375 million salary could be on the trading block. The Hawks are taking about $6 million off the books by buying out the contracts of defenseman Steve Montador and forward Rostislav Olesz, but they still need to free up some cash to sign everyone they want to sign.
Plus, Bowman would like to add a few picks so he and director of amateur scouting Mark Kelley can try to pluck the next big piece of the puzzle out of obscurity.
“The draft’s an important part,” Bowman said. “So if you can acquire picks, that’s good.”
The draft tends to be a hotbed of wheeling and dealing, if for no other reason than all the GMs are in the same place. Bowman expected plenty of action. During the Hawks’ salary purge in the summer of 2010, they traded Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel to the Atlanta Thrashers the day before the draft. In 2011, the Hawks dealt Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers (for Olesz) and Troy Brouwer to the Washington Capitals for a first-round draft pick that became Phillip Danualt, now a highly regarded prospect in the Hawks system.
“It’s just the way it’s always happened,” Bowman said. “There’s an event, the draft, and once that passes, the urgency to do a deal isn’t really there. There’s nothing that tends to bring people together. … There’s always a lot of talk around then, and if it makes sense, we’ll look into it.”
NOTE: Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie team Saturday based on voting by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. Saad, who had 10 goals and 17 assists in 46 games, was a finalist for the Calder Trophy, which goes to the league’s top rookie.