The Chicago Blackhawks made seven picks in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The team’s first-round selection raised some eyebrows, while five of the remaining six picks were defensemen. Chicago seemed content in building its blueline prospect pool and taking a chance on what many consider to be a high-risk/high-reward player.
Kyle Beach, C – Everett, WHL
1st Round, 11th Overall
6’3, 203 lbs.
Despite Beach’s two concussions with Everett last season and his over-the-top antics on and off the ice, it was not enough to deter Chicago from taking him with the 11th overall pick. According to General Manager Dale Tallon, Beach was one of three players the Blackhawks were targeting at the No. 11 slot. When two of the players were no longer on the board and Beach was still available, Chicago went ahead and took him.
Beach brings a combination of size, skill and edgy play. He is capable of playing both center and left wing, which is a bonus given the organization’s lack of depth on the left side. Beach is already being talked about as a possible compliment to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and will be given every opportunity to make the team this year.
Shawn Lalonde, D – Belleville, OHL
3rd Round, 68th Overall
6’1, 175 lbs.
According to Chicago scout Mark Kelley, Lalonde was ranked in the team’s top 30 heading into the draft. Because Chicago did not have a second-round pick, the team traded up to get Lalonde early in the third round when he surprisingly slipped through.
Though Lalonde’s numbers were not spectacular last season, playing on Belleville’s second power-play unit likely held him back. Lalonde should see time on the team’s top power-play unit next season, thus providing a better gauge of his potential.
Chicago hopes that Lalonde will be the quality puck-moving defenseman the team desperately needs in its pipeline. Considered to be one of the top 10 skaters in the draft, this is Lalonde’s greatest asset. However, he needs to improve his defensive play, as well as his decision-making skills in all facets of the game.
Teigan Zahn, D – Saskatoon, WHL
5th Round, 132nd Overall
6’1, 217 lbs.
Zahn is a defensive-minded player who also shows the ability to contribute on the power play, albeit a limited role. Even though Zahn had a minus-28 rating last season with Saskatoon, all but two players on the team finished with minus ratings. A combination of Zahn’s significant ice time and the team’s poor overall play led to this inflated figure. In any event, Zahn’s brawny frame and physical style of play should add depth to Chicago’s stable of stay-at-home defensemen.
“Teigan plays his one-on-one situations extremely well,” Saskatoon head coach Lorne Molleken said. “He makes good decisions with the puck, because of his vision, and has an excellent first pass.”
Jonathan Carlsson, D – Brynas, Sweden
6th Round, 162nd Overall
6’1, 198 lbs.
Carlsson offers a good balance of offensive skill and defensive play. It is unlikely that he will ever put up big numbers but his solid two-way game and hockey smarts make him a reliable player. Though Carlsson is not known for his physical play, he showed more of a willingness to hit with Brynas this past season.
6th Round, 169th Overall
5’11, 195 lbs.
The soon-to-be 20-year-old was passed over in the 2006 and 2007 drafts. This came as a surprise in 2007, as Smith went from being a fourth-line player at Boston College to a top-line center during the 2006-07 season. However, Smith’s 2007-08 season could not be ignored. He compiled 50 points in 44 regular season games for the Eagles, which was third best on the team. In addition to Smith’s presence around the net, Chicago also likes his gritty play. He could prove to be one of those late-round gems a few years from now.
Braden Birch, D – Oakville, OPJHL
6th Round, 179th Overall
6’3, 185 lbs.
According to Oakville President, GM and Head Coach Carlo Coccimiglio, Birch draws comparisons to Jay Bouwmeester of the Florida Panthers.
“He is a fluent skater who handles the puck well,” Coccimiglio said. “Watching him play, you think you are watching Bouwmeester. They are very similar players.”
Birch came to Oakville last year via a mid-season trade, as his leadership qualities and passion for the game were highly sought after.
“He cares about his teammates and pays the price for them on and off the ice,” Coccimiglio said.
According to Coccimiglio, Birch will need to get stronger if he is going to succeed at the next level. He will also need another year of Junior “A” to further develop his game. However, the potential is there. Birch is not yet committed to a college.
Joe Gleason, D – Edina High School, Minnesota
7th Round, 192nd Overall
5’9, 178 lbs.
Gleason is an energetic player who possesses all of the skills that NHL teams are looking for in an offensive defenseman. He owns speedy wheels, displays patience with the puck and enjoys a solid distribution game, all of which make him an effective power play quarterback. He led Edina High School defensemen in scoring last year and also ranked seventh in the state (Minnesota) in this department. Though Gleason has proven to be a fierce competitor, his small frame is the one thing that could hold him back in the long run. At 5’9, Gleason will have to demonstrate his ability to defend against larger players at the college level. His future success is contingent upon this.