Hawks 2001 Draft analysis

By Bill Placzek

This was Mike Smith’s maiden voyage as General Manager, though he has worked for months prior for the Blackhawks organization in the capacity as advisor in the draft.
Assessing prior draft results showed there was much needed, and Smith started by holding on to his two first rounders and then moving down in the second to add additional picks as the draft went on.

Chicago’s 1st round pick, 10th overall, was center and power forward Mikhail Yakubov, 6’3″ 185-pounder from Barnaul, Russia. He is a creative playmaker who works every shift and whose size/skill ratio projects to any forward position. This big hard driving horse plays a power game and will take the hit to make the play. He has jump in his stride along with puck skills, and nose for the net. He is a good faceoff man with a strong work ethic, always defensively responsible and doing the little things that make good three zone players.

Going into the 2000 entry draft, the Hawks felt he was one of the players that would most likely be taken before pick #10. There were a couple questionable reaches made by teams ahead of the Hawks, so when he was still available, they could not afford to pass him up. Their original plan was to make Pavel Vorobiev their “safe” pick and try and trade the other #11 overall pick for more higher picks. They never even interviewed Yabukov. The unlikely happened, and when he dropped into the Hawk lap, General Manager Mike Smith called timeout and said he was going use both picks for Russian team forwards, no less.

So as pick #11 was to be announced the Hawks pulled out the jersey with Vorobiev’s name on it they had originally planned to hand him at pick #10. The native of Karaganda, Kazakhstan, the six foot 180 lb. Vorobiev plays off handed right wing bigger than his size indicates. He possesses good hockey sense, puck skills, creativity and is extremely strong and well balanced. This enables him to force plays, control the boards down low, win 1 on 1 battles for loose pucks, hold off a checker when cycling. He is aggressive, and downright nasty and disruptive if he doesn’t have the puck. Does the dirty work and digs pucks out and his quick stick gets it to his linemates. He lifts people from their seats in the one on one situations. He goes to the net well, and is an excellent penalty killer and causes many a turnover with his forechecking abilities. Some say he plays dirty but everyone is sure he knows what it takes to win games. He is the closest thing to A Russian Sutter the Hawks are going to get.

Going into the second round, the Hawks saw the player they were most interested in, Brad Winchester, gone before they picked. So they found a hungry to move up San Jose club who traded Chicago a fourth round pick, 74th overall, for an eight slot switch of picks #49 to 41 with San Jose using the pick to claim Finnish defenseman Teero Maata. while they Hawks took Jonas Nordqvist, a 6’2″ 190 lb centermen, who plays all phases of the game exceptionally well, and was ranked a first rounder by many scouting staffs. Nordqvist never will be a speedster, but is absolutely outstanding playmaker with very soft hands, feathery passes, tremendous vision and creativity. Uses world class passing skill on power play and in penalty killing. Hangs on to the puck that extra second and makes the play to his breaking wingers. Great faceoff man, who when back in his zone, is defensively responsible, takes the hit to make the play, and seldom gives the puck away. Understands every aspect of the game and has that great vision of great centermen to see the entire ice, always finding the open man at the last second. Knows where to be every second he is out there. His overall skill, creativity, desire, and hustle minimizes the skating questions that exist at this point.

The added pick in round four was used to secure from Yekaterinburg region of Russia, 5’11” 177 winger Igor Radulov. He is an effortless skater with good balance who can outright fly and still handle the puck while in flight. He is able to not only control the puck while carrying, he is hard to knock off the puck. He is know as a excellent passer with soft hands to maneuver through traffic, pass and shoot.

The fifth round was were the Hawks felt they could now hunt for defense prospects who might not have displayed full potential yet, and with time would do so.

The first of these was Western Leaguer Scott Balan, from Red Deer, Alberta. He is a 6’2″ reliable stay at home defensemen who improved as the junior season progressed. He plays well in the limited space within the defensive zone where clears out the front, makes the first pass, laying the body, and moving the opposition from where ever they are positioned. He is a deceptively good skater with a good strong and balanced wide stride. Solid defender on the rush, his strong suit is clearing the front,and punishing the opposition with checks, which he does well because of his strength and balance. Can knock opponents off the puck down low and make them pay in the corners. Clearly far from prime time but has all the necessary tools and desire to get there.

The second of these was Olli Malmivaara, from Kajaani, Finland, a huge Finn with a mean streak that could end up developing as a big defender at the pro level. Presently he is working hard to make his game catch up to his size, but he displays good straight line skater with a strong stride, who likes to rush the puck. He is always on the ice in crucial situations and facesoffs in his defensive zone. He plays all phases back there well, and is phyiscal when need be. A very hard worker, team leader with tremendous upside if he grows into his body as a player. This was the pick the Blackhawks received (117th overall) in a trade with Los Angeles for Steve Passmore.

The 5th round, a pick acquired along with pick #193 by trading Washington the #121 overall which Chicago received in a trade with Anaheim for Marty McInnis, was used to select Alexander Barkunov, a 6’1″ right handed defensemen from the Yaroslav program in Russia, which the Hawks havbe tapped into prior. He is a good straight line skater with a strong stride, mobile puck carrier, but also good one on one defensively. He can skate well enough to win position on the attackers and goes to the boards determined to win the battles there too. He is the workhorse type who will propser by his experiences in the World Junior tourneys on the Russian club.

The 6th round saw the Hawk scouting staff now go in a different direction, the United States, for players who played in solid programs but where now moving on to college programs.
The first of these was Michael Ayers, a goaltender from Weymouth, Massachusetts. Ayers has enrolled in the University of New Hampshire, after playing in the USHL with a weak Dubuque team that he kept in games all season long.

The second was Fridley, Minnesota native defensemen Joey Martin of the Omaha Jr. team of the USHL. He is going to the University of Minnesota to develop his game. He already is a well balanced skater with a an excellent size/speed ratio and puck handling abilities.

The 7th round added tough Cliff Loya, a tough college defender who is going into his sophmore year at the University of Maine. While a student at Shattuck-St. Mary’s High School, played for Los Angeles Kings head coach Andy Murray. He was named MVP at the 1999 Hockey Night in Boston all-scholastic tournament. Though he hasn’t developed a power stride, he is a solid body checker and front clearer. He has puck handling skills and a strong point shot. He is a good all around skater who can go on the rush or go into his own corners looking to punish people. He uses his long arms to poke check pucks away from on rushing attackers.

The Hawks received an additional 7th rounder in the trade down with Washington as went back to Russia to grab centre Vladislav Luchkin, a 6’1″ 185 lb. left hander, who played at Cherepovec. He uses his quick acceleration and skating balance to get the puck to his wings. Very good hockey sense. Is able to see plays as they develop. Uses his wingers well as a playmaker, and his long reach and strong passing skills provide the give and go. He hasn’t yet faced the tougher competton in the super league, but is a solid three zone player in his present situation.

In the 8th round the Hawks went back to the draft Minnesota native goaltender Adam Berkoel. He was also a USHL player and has commited to the University of Denver to further develop his skills.

To bolster up the 9th and last round of the draft, the Hawks traded the rights of Shaker Heights, Ohio native Ben Simon to the Atlanta Thrashers (who feel he is closer to development than many of their long term prospects) for yet another pick, Peter Flache, from Guelph of the OHL. He ia 6’5″ 200 pounder, whose twin Paul went higher in the draft to the Thrashers. He skates well for lanky man. He is good at the faceoff circle and an improving passer. The Hawks are hoping he learns to use his size to his advantage. General Manager Mike Smith said that Edmonton mad an offer of two ninth round picks for our number first #9 pick but the Hawks declined, since both teams wanted Peter Flache, and the Hawks wanted to draft him for themselves.

In the final portions of the 9th round the Blackhawks went for what could be called “now” players drafting two players a little older with experience in the Swiss pro league.
They were Reto von Arx, who had almost signed with New Jersey the season before after attending training camp there, and Arne Ramholt.

Von Arx is slight in build and not very fast on his skates, but is a soft passer who isn’t afraid along the boards, and has experience as a member of the Swiss National Team at the WHC. Good decision maker who plays the wall and cycles well. Has good balance and is unafraid to go to the net or a traffic area. He may be unacustomed to North American play where there is the two line offside, and red line. He will be judged on his ability to score, because he just doesn’t have the explosive step you expect in the attack zone.

Arne Ramholt will also be given every opportunity to help the Hawks many years before the rest of the draft picks as he has had pro experience in the Swiss league and at St. Lawrence at the college level.

He has a strong stride, big shot from point. His skating enables him to defend in one on one situations, but his lack of experience will probably see him starting at the Norfolk farm affliate.

Hawk Town hall meeting

Tonight was a surreal night at the United Center, the 550 persons of the 6,000 people season ticket base were treated to something refreshing: honesty.

New general manager Mike Smith, Coach Alpo Suhonan, and Owner Peter Wirtz, better know until tonight as the brains of the concessions aspect of the ownership, fielded questions in the first ever Hawk Town Meeting.

The free hot dogs and pops weren’t the only give aways. Mike Smith was forthright on what had to be done and what would be done to make the team one that we all could be proud of again.

Without spending too much time, Smith has revamped scouting with quality people in Nick Beverley as Assistant GM and Joe Yanetti as Director of Pro Scouting, and bostered the Eurpoean scouting staff with the hiring of “the Professor”, Sakari Pietilä. Smith boasted these three and their staff would make the scouting at both Pro and Amateur levels the best in the league.

The fans griped about money issues, signing Amonte to more years, and why the Hawks weren’t spending more cash on free agents.

Smith explained how every penny spent know was going to be spent wisely. If players could be had from other teams in financial difficulties, he would not think twice about adding cash to make up for the deficit in a deals where the players were of unequal value. He said that there was vulture nature to the business of player acquisition. That a GM must wait and listen and be ready with offers for players that might be moving in trades due to the contract squabbles that take place around this time of year. Guys have to fall your way. You have to keep communicating to the other GMs and trying pounce and try to steal players actually worth more than you offer.

In regards to the St. Louis cash signing of 21-year-old prospect Mike Van Ryn, Smith said he didn’t think Van Ryn had the year to be paid the dollar amounts he extracted out of the Blues.

Concerning the 2000 draft, when asked about why the Hawks were acquiring so many Russian players, Smith countered with he doesn’t care where the players come from, as long as they can play hockey. Smith stated if a player can score 35 goals, he can wear cornrows in his hair, an inference to the NBA controversy surrounding Darius Miles’ allegations that the Bull’s Jerry Krause pooh poohed his hair style.

In response to questioning about drafting college players, Smith said he thought that was a wonderful route to the big leagues as the player is a more finished person and product by entry level time. To show the Hawks did look at college players in the draft, even though they selected few going to college, Smith said Brad Winchester was a guy they had targeted for their #2 pick, so when he was gone, they traded the pick and when finally picking later got Jonas Nordqvist who actually was higher on their list than Winchester who they were locked in with. Follow that? They were going to reach on their lists for Winchester and ended up with a guy actually ranked higher.

Smith said that Edmonton offered two ninth round picks for our number first #9 pick but the Hawks declined. Both teams wanted Peter Flache. Edmonton made the offer of two picks but Hawks wanted to draft him for themselves.

He said the AHL Chicago Wolves were allowing Steve Larouche to come to Hawk preseason camp and that Casey Hankinson was signed as a roster player for Hampton Roads.

Alpo Suhonan would continue as coach for the next two years no matter what the teams record would be. Stability there being more important than all other aspects.