What should Chicago do with the 10th & 11th pick?

By Bill Placzek

What does the team in need of help at each position do when they draft at #10
and #11 ? Where the Hawks go at these picks seems a minuscule problem in comparison to
the others this soiled Original Six club has to overcome.
When an NHL club doesn’t have an AHL developmental team, or a head coach, or
a true scouting staff at either the amateur or professional level except for
your new General Manager, or a playoff berth for four years, the draft seems
like a drop into a bucket.
Nonetheless it is a place to start to look for talent to turnaround a 39 year
tailspin away from Lord Stanley’s Cup. I speak here as possibly the biggest
wannabe GM who has been around all of those years. So much of my speculating
will involve what neo GM Mike Smith may do, but mostly what pozer GM Wiz
would do. I have not been silent through the other drafts, letting the
entire Blackhawk family, the radio audiences, and every fan in an earshot
from my seat know exactly who I wanted in each draft.. In 1986, I wanted Adam
Graves. They took Everett Sanipass. In ‘94, I wanted Wanye Primeau. They
took Ethan Moreau. In 97’s second round, I wanted Kristian Huselius; they
took Jeremy Reich. In ‘97, we did agree on Dan Cleary, but I think we all see
he is still far from an NHL top two line player. In 1990, we also agreed on Karl Dykhuis
over Keith Tkachuk, but what do we know, eh?

Do we hope for miracles at 10 & 11? Will we be saying …”we can’t believe Rick DePietro
slipped to 10”…or …”we had so & so ranked much higher than #10?”
No matter who is drafted or picked up through the use of these picks, the days of
expecting a star out of the NHL amateur draft are long gone in the minds of
the Hawk loyal. Jeremy Roenick was the last one and that was because he
followed Mike Keenan into the men’s room begging for the Hawk to call his
name. Last star before that, Denis Savard, only arrived because Mr. Wirtz,
then part of the league leadership, extorted a high #1 (third overall) from
the grateful to be included WHA Quebec ownership for the rights to Real
Cloutier. So we don’t let visions of sugar plums dance in our heads.
At worst we are expecting GM Mike Smith to give away both picks to secure
“now” talent before the United Center is left with only one season ticket
holder, me, and can land Jarrett Stoll in the second round. Stoll is
someone they have spent much time evaluating on their frequent visits to
Kootenay to check on the development of last year’s #1, Steve McCarthy.
I guess I can see the possible scenarios.
One of the fledgling expansion teams, eyeing the chance to have a second
early pick, agrees to let the Hawks wade through all the available players on
the expansion lists, and pick that player with one of it’s early picks. Not
a guy with an average salary. No, a guy that was left unprotected
specifically because his salary was one that a new club wouldn’t want to
have, because it would put their structure out of of whack from the get-go.
He might be a defenseman, or the goalie they are presently missing, or a guy
who they feel is better than most guys played on lines 2-4 for the Hawks.
Remember when Bob Boughner went a year back? Man, don’t the Hawks wish
someone like him was on their blue line for next season!
With the onset of the playoffs, the Chicago rumor mill has gone wild with the
names Yashin, Tkachuk, and Khabibulin most mentioned. There are two reasons
why this over optimistic exuberance is flawed.
First is Mr. Wirtz and family. Why would the ownership who sent Eddie Belfour
packing because he wouldn’t sign a contract after a friendly dinner which
didn’t include his agent go after players that are demanding salaries at the
very top of the pay scale? Besides didn’t all three voice their contract
demands to the press? The GM has changed,but ownership is still the same
fellow who ousted Roenick because he spoke his mind and was a “union
troublemaker.” The very same owner who had a verbal deal with Brett Hull and
Mike Barrett but pulled it off the table when Hull procrastinated, and
wouldn’t agree to a press conference date in a window Mr. Wirtz was able to
be attend.
Secondly, if ownership was going to start and throw an added ten million into the
yearly budget, would it be better spent on scouting and development?
So I am gonna approach this 2000 draft as a General Manager who wants to stay
around awhile, and try and keep at least one of the two 1s.
Almost a year ago, I stated that there was a two player top end of this draft
of Gaborik and Hartnell with Martin Samuelssonas the best of the second tier
at #3. Dany Heatly added his name to the top three elite and Samuelsson’s
name dropped to obscurity. Staying consistent to my beliefs, I GM Wiz, take Martin
Samuelsson with the 10th pick in the 2000 draft.
Why? He is not high on all other lists you say?
He has all the components of being a successful NHLer. He is a big 6’ 2”
and skates effortlessly at right wing. He plays three zones commuting to
team play in each. He is an all around forward with high skills and plays
the wall. What hurt him in the months of the season was he was injured and
never was able to get untracked. He clearly displays the same maturity and
gradual improvement the Sedins did. I don’t believe I could not take him at
#10 if he slips through the cracks that far. He is my pick at #10.
If I have the #11 pick, and he is still available, I have to go with Brooks
Oprik. Granted he will never be 6’5” like Libor Ustrnul ,or carry the biscuit
like Rosy Klesla or Lars Jonsson, but he definitely does enough things well
enough to show he has the tools to play in the NHL. His role may not be as a
#1 or 2 defensemen, but he understands and plays the game with toughness and
poise to adjust to the NHL transition game. His knock is just that. He does
everything well but unspectacularly at this point. Bobby Orr he’s not, but
the new NHL requires the abilities he has in his own zone. Although he is not
a giant, he is a battler, who will take it away from the opposing forwards.
As my real life counterpart, I think I too will shy away from under 6 foot
forwards like Raffi Torres simply because the present roster and many of the
previous Hawk picks lack size. Then again they did pick Denis Savard, though
his scoring exploits with “Les trois Denis” were documented for three years
in the QMJL. I also think I have to look for a guy that can project to a #1
centre, not an easy task when nine teams go in front of me. Not taking Henrik
Sedin or even making a pitch to land the twins looks more and more like a
mistake. Bryan McCabe hasn’t single handedly been able to take the Hawks to
the playoffs so how would it have hurt to try and bring Hawk fans back in to
watch the development of the look alikes? A guy I would look at here at #11
is Teemu Laline a C-W, a fiery Finn who besides being 6’1 200 lbs. does it
all through his natural gifts of scoring speed and size. He was one of the
better players on the ice in the Fussen Tourney.
I just think you can’t reach with both picks. There better be a little all
around player in both of them or the Blackhawks end up with a guy similar to
the ones currently earning paychecks who stand out in only one area.
In a relatively weak draft year that is a tall order, so that is why in all
likelyhood the #1 picks or a pick will be moved in favor of getting lucky in
the middle rounds.