Blackhawks 2005 draft review

By Brent Davies

The Chicago Blackhawks had access to both quality and quantity in the 2005 draft, four picks in the top 70 and 12 total picks, the most of any team. Similar to last year, the players selected added size and grit up front. The first three rounds in 2004 and 2005 have concentrated on offense — obviously an area that now GM Dale Tallon has targeted for improvement. By no coincidence, almost all of the draftees have size, strong skating ability and an edge to their game. It appears that a form of old time hockey is just around the corner at the United Center in Chicago.

Below is a description of each player selected by the Blackhawks in the 2005 Entry Draft.

Jack Skille, D – US Nat’l U-18
1st Round, 7th overall

While there was a consensus top six for this draft, the seventh pick was a point of speculation. But with the Hawks focusing on size and skill up front, the selection of Jack Skille was almost a foregone conclusion.

Skille is a great skater who displays good speed and quickness. He is a prototypical power forward who does a tremendous job on the forecheck. Even though he has the ability to bury the puck with skill, he isn’t the flashiest of players out there. He is a high-octane type of player who finds ways to get things done and is not afraid to get dirty. He is a very responsible player at both ends of the ice and is a good positional player. Overall, his commitment and work ethic is second to none, both on and off the ice.

Skille is headed to college this fall where he will attend the University of Wisconsin. He should make a sizable contribution as a freshman. He’s a few years away from contributing with Chicago.

Mike Blunden, C – Erie (OHL)
2nd Round, 43rd overall

The Hawks focused on skating and size with the pick of Erie Otters Michael Blunden.

At 6’3, 213 lbs, Blunden isn’t shy about using his frame to bang and crash in the corners. He hasn’t shown the hands to be a big scorer yet, but he may be a late bloomer in that regard and as long as he is willing to go hard to the net and play in the trenches, he will get his share of points.

Blunden already has the size and skating ability to play at the next level, whether that is as a power forward or a bump and grinder remains to be seen, but he will likely play another season at Erie. He will be looking to pad his offensive stats as last year’s production did not show “growth” due to coming off back surgery to repair a stress fracture.

Dan Bertram, RW – Boston College (H-East)
2nd Round, 54th overall

Bertram was the youngest collegiate player this year, not turning 18 until January. The speed merchant played right wing for Boston College and by most accounts, he had an inconsistent season, but had a strong WJC-18 performance including a hat trick.

Bertram may be on the small side at 5’11, but his game is anything but that. Bertram is an exceptionally gifted goal scorer who plays with an edge. He is a superb skater whose explosive acceleration is really something to marvel at. Bertram can often be found frustrating the opposition, whether it is with his quickness or his grittiness. He drives to the net hard, at times with reckless abandon. He has great hockey instincts and sees the ice very well. One thing that makes him so dangers is the fact that he can score from just about anywhere on the ice. He works hard and is also ultra-competitive, particularly in his pursuit of the puck.

Bertram will return to BC as a sophomore in 2005-06.

Evan Brophey, F – Belleville (OHL)
3rd round, 68th overall

The late 1986 prospect had previously spent two years with the Barrie Colts but was dealt to Belleville in late October after just ten games this past year. The Kitchener born center recorded three points in his first game with the Bulls and had scored eight in his first week with his new team. It was a pace he couldn’t keep up though, and Brophey’s second half to the season saw a considerable dropoff in his point production compared to the first three months.

Brophey had a successful season in Belleville, enough so that he was named as the team’s outstanding centerman. His 71 points were second highest on the team during the regular season.

Brophey is of average size at 6’1, 194, but could use his body more and add some grit to his game. He will also need to work on consistency and will likely continue in junior for another year.

Niklas Hjalmarsson, D – HV 71 Jr (Swe Jr)
4th Round, 108th overall

Considered by some to be the most talented Swedish defenseman born in 1987, Hjalmarsson had a very good season including a SEL debut, convincing play in the juniors and strong performances with Team Sweden internationally.

Hjalmarsson is the offensively gifted defensemen who likes to join the rush and shoot the puck. He also controls the physical aspect of the game and does not hesitate to play the body when given the opportunity. At times Hjalmarsson overworks the puck and gets lost in his defensive coverage.

Defensively Hjalmarsson stands out with his physical game. Playing the body is something he enjoys quite a bit which bodes well for his chances in North America.

Hjalmarsson will likely stay in Sweden this coming season.

Nathan Davis, F – Miami University (CCHA)
4th Round, 113th overall

Nathan Davis had a superb freshman season that was capped off with being named Miami-Ohio’s top freshman. Davis led the team and co-led the nation with four short-handed goals. He also led the RedHawks in shots with 125.

Davis is highly skilled and makes great use of his 6’1 frame, particularly when driving to the net. He is strong on the puck and intensely persistent in his pursuit for possession. Davis is an outstanding skater with powerful strides and good speed. He is defensively sound and transitions very well. Davis possesses a good, quick release and plays well around the net. He is very good on draws and has good vision.

As Davis continues to acclimate himself to the collegiate game, his overall confidence level and decisions on the ice should improve.

Denis Istomin, RW – Chelyabinsk (Rus- 2)
4th Round, 117th overall

Istomin spent the 2004-05 season with the High League’s (Russia 2) Traktor Chelyabinsk. He is a promising forward with great, raw, offensive talent, but needs to continue to improve his skating. While Istomin does possess above average speed, he is not technically sound. On the offensive side, he has a very precise wrist shot and very soft hands for passing, but his lack of vision, while improving, often results in him trying to do too much with the puck.

The budding young forward possesses a ton of potential. The Hawks should like his size, drive toward the net, and his array of shots. However, they may be concerned with his struggles on the national team—specifically on the defensive end. Like many Euros, Istomin will have to improve the overall physical side of his game.

Istomin will continue to skate with Traktor during the 2005-06 season.

Brennan Turner, D – Notre Dame (SJHL)
5th Round, 134th overall

Eighteen-year-old defenseman Brennan Turner of Notre Dame Hounds was the first of two Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League draftees this year. Turner is a big, physical defenseman who had 17 points and 207 PIM’s last season. He will need to improve his skating to make the jump to the NHL, but is very willing to do the hard work necessary to become a better player.

Turner will attend Yale University this fall. He projects to be a long-term project — probably requiring time in the minors after finishing college. However, with his size, he could become a punishing NHL defenseman in the distant future.

Joseph Fallon, G – University of Vermont (ECAC)
6th Round, 167th overall

After a dismal 2003-04 season, the Vermont Catamounts finished fourth in the conference in 2004-05, and the biggest reason behind the turnaround was freshman goaltending sensation Joseph Fallon. He was widely considered the top current NCAA goaltender eligible for the draft.

The first attribute that jumps out about Fallon is his sheer size. He is a big goaltender at 6’3 who covers a lot of net. He has a stand up style with extremely good lateral movement. Fallon displays great confidence, focus and is very consistent. He controls rebounds, squares to and challenges shooters, strong on angles and covers the lower part of the net. At this early stage in his career, however, his puckhandling needs much improvement.

Fallon will likely return to the University of Vermont.

Joe Charlebois, D – Sioux City (USHL)
6th Round, 188th overall

This 6’1, 210 lb defenseman skated for the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL — scoring 25 points in 59 regular season contests leading the Musketeers to the Clark Cup finals. Prior to last season, he skated for the U.S. National Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. Charlebois has a right-handed shot and plays a physical style as his 146 PIM’s indicate.

Charlebois will attend the University of New Hampshire, typically a strong hockey program that does well in the postseason tournament.

David Kuchejda, RW – Budejovice Jr (Czech Jr)
7th Round, 202nd overall

Kuchejda made the jump to the junior Extra-league as an underager in 2003-04 and didn’t look out of place. He is a slick skater who utilizes his speed and agility to create offense. He has solid balance and despite possessing a small frame, he is strong on the puck. Kuchejda is an intense forward who fights for pucks, sticks his nose in the corners and has a never-give-up attitude.

He is a smart passer with good vision and hockey sense and seems to excel around the net. Both his slap shot and wrister are decent. On the downside, he lacks defensive awareness in his game as he tends to sacrifice his own end to concentrate on offense. As well, he’ll need to toughen up to compete at the NHL level.

Kuchejda may play for Sault Ste. Marie, but his departure is not definite since Ceske Budejovice made him an offer to play for their senior team.

Adam Hobson, C – Spokane (WHL)
7th Round, 203rd overall

In his second full season with the Spokane Chiefs, center Adam Hobson made considerable strides towards developing his offensive game. After recording just 9 points in 63 games the previous season, Hobson skated in all 72 contests this year, recording a career-high 37 points.

Hobson is a 6’0, 200 lb center who is a good skater with decent speed. He has good hands and can be very tenacious to get at the puck. He has a great overall work ethic, is very coachable and is a strong team player.

Hobson appears to be a long shot who, if he makes it to the NHL, will do so on desire and tenacity.

Jeff Dahlia, Jason Ahrens, DJ Powers, Johan Nilsson, Evgeni Belashchenko, Jesse Gill, Ivana Paulova, and Aaron Vickers contributed to this report. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.