Let’s make no mistake about this: The Chicago Blackhawks were undeniably lucky with the ping pong balls.
They know this, the league knows this and just about every fan of the NHL knows this. Moving from 12th to 3rd overall in the upcoming draft is a godsend for Stan Bowman and company. And it’s the reason that he is going to have the Blackhawks opening up that contention window again.
It’s easy to slam Bowman, and sometimes well-deserved, for some of the trades that he’s made, as well as the contracts that he’s given out. Even his most recent trade, sending Dominik Kahun and a 5th round pick to Pittsburgh for Olli Maatta has raised some eyebrows. But, it’s nearly impossible to claim that Bowman has wrecked the Blackhawks with the trades and contracts that regularly put them in salary cap hell and expel most of their young talent. Most of that comes from his shrewdness in the draft.
Since Bowman became the general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks, he and Mark Kelley, the director of scouting, have had a unique ability to identify talent where others routinely fail. Often selecting in the later half of the first round, they have consistently discovered players who have become more than productive professionals, some even stars, while other scouting teams just pass them up.
It doesn’t seem to matter where Chicago drafts: late first, early second, late second, the middle of the fifth or even the final round of the draft. The Blackhawks seem to always find a way to unearth a gem that has other scouting directors cursing themselves. If they do so well in the late rounds of the draft, just imagine this duo with a top-three pick.
The facts speak for themselves: Going back to the 2010 draft, there has only been one draft year that has yielded absolutely no NHL prospects, and that was 2015. This is excluding the 2018 draft, because none of those prospects have made the NHL yet. Making this more impressive is the fact that Chicago has an average position of 32.25, which would be one of the first picks in the second round, where the talent level is supposed to drop off.
Yet, these are some of the players that they have managed to select: Phil Danault, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Alex DeBrincat, Ryan Hartman, Henri Jokiharju, Teuvo Teravainen, Vinne Hinostroza, Kevin Hayes, Stephen Johns, Joakim Nordstrom, Nick Schmaltz and Dylan Sikura.
That’s one hell of an impressive resume for both Bowman and Kelley. It’s perhaps the sole reason that I’m not panicking about whom the Blackhawks are going to take. Further supporting this theory is an Athletic article that shows the Blackhawks have done the second best in the NHL draft since 2003. Yes, that is slightly skewed considering they drafted both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane back-to-back, but other teams have drafted super stars and can’t say the same.
The results speak for themselves. Stan Bowman and his staff’s ability to find players that are going to produce is nearly unparalleled. Whether they select Alex Turcotte, Trever Zegras, Bowen Byram or even Dylan Cozens, the Blackhawks are going to find an absolutely dominant player, maybe even another face of the franchise, for years to come, and they may even find a steal or two in the later rounds. Even if Bowman pulls off one of his mind-boggling trades, his success in the draft has me confident that this team is ready to contend again. Friday can’t get here soon enough.