Although currently missing draft picks in the third and fourth rounds, the Chicago Blackhawks hold 10 (possibly 11) picks in the upcoming 2003 NHL entry draft.
Past history shows General Manager Mike Smith may use high picks #14, 52, and 59 to trade down and acquire picks in the missing rounds.
Every year I make my predictions on who the Blackhawks will pick, using their present draft slots as my guide. Here are the 2003 predictions.
In the first round, the Hawks are scheduled to select in slot #14. There have been sound bites to the press about getting a NHLer in a trade for this pick. But trading out of this slot would be a bad move, because a selection at #14 will provide a strong future prospect in this deep draft as long as the Hawks organization doesn’t lock on to a specific position.
Defense may be the target in the first round, because by the time the Hawks make their second pick, there is a real drop off in the pool.
Dion Phaneuf is the defenseman they may have in their targets. Although he doesn’t at this point in time project as a no. 1 defenseman, he possesses all the qualities the Blackhawk team needs. Former Hawk and present Red Deer Coach Brent Sutter will attest to his toughness, leadership, restraint, and good shot.
This selection would not be a cure-all. At this point Phaneuf may not even be the best defender in the WHL, but he is a solid prospect in an area the Blackhawks need improvement.
Someone may select Phaneuf before the Hawks, however, in which case G.M. Smith could pass on the available forwards and take, say, Mark Stuart as a consolation defenseman, similar to picking Adam Munro after Dallas pick Jason Bacashihua in 2001, the goalie the Hawks hoped to pick. This is not meant to slight Stuart, a safe pick in the mid-first round. But at pick #14, you can still get a quality offensive player. It is crucial to stick to a draft list and take the best player.
If bad-back Andrei Kastsitsyn is there, and Phaneuf is gone, they may have to select him, despite worries about epilepsy and bad back. If Kastsitsyn made the Belarus National team competitive, he might be able to lift the Chicago team with similar misfortunes.
The Hawks also need finishers and Dustin Brown should slip to no. 14. Despite being an average skater, he is the opportunistic pure goal scorer the Hawks need.
Hugh Jessiman, Konstantin Glazachev, Jeff Carter, Anthony Stewart, and Pat O’Sullivan remain good possibilities for G.M. Smith instead of trading the pick for marginal “now” talent.
Late in the second round the Blackhawks have two picks due to losing Tony Amonte to free agency and and the decision not to sign 2001 first round pick Adam Munro. These second round picks are in the 50’s and would allow the Hawks to pick a forward and project defenseman with upside.
An interesting aside to these picks is how scouts and GMs are saying any pick from 1-45 may end up being the best player and the Hawks have two right after 45!
At these picks,#s 52 and 59 respectively,the Hawks may consider Swedish LW Loui Eriksson of Vastra Frolunda and Mark Egener, a 6’3” 187 lb defenseman with Calgary of the WHL.
Eriksson was arguably the best player for Sweden at the Under-18s and Egener skate well and is very tough.
So far the Hawks are without 3rd and 4th round picks unless they trade off any of the earlier picks and drop down to add some.
In the fifth round the Hawks again have two picks.
They might consider big David Liffiton, a defenseman whose skating and passing will have to improve but may develop in those areas to compliment his strong game in his defensive end.
With the other fifth rounder,(#151 & 156), how about LHRW Vladimir Kutny, a big forward still adjusting to North America. In two years he may be a different player when he has made a home for himself.
In the sixth round,(#181 overall) Compuware’s big RW David Rohlfs could be the selection.
In the seventh round (#211 0verall) diminutive Sergei Shtymenko might be the guy. At 5’10” 198, he has good upside and skill and comes from Dynamo of the Russian league.
In the eighth round,(#245 overall),maybe Finnish defenseman Olli Havikari of Jokerit, based on his size and upside.
In the ninth, there are two picks,(#275 & 282), one could be spent on RW Kevin Coughlin of the U.S. National team and Tomas Kollar, a 21 year old Swede playing LW on Hammarby.
List of Chicago Blackhawk Picks
Rd. 1 : 1 14th overall
Rd. 2 : 2 picks Compensatory pick for not signing Adam Munro and (Amonte compensation)
Rd. 3 : 0
Rd. 4 : 0
Rd. 5 : 2 picks, 151 & 156 From Anaheim as part of the Steve Thomas trade
Rd. 6 : 1 181
Rd. 7 : 1 211
Rd. 8 : 1 245 +1 259? (they might use the Odelein option this yr. or a 7th next yr)
Rd. 9 : 2 picks,275 & 282 Toronto for Housley