Photo: Michael Paliotta was taken in the third round by the Chicago Blackhawks. The American-born defender is headed to the University of Vermont in the fall. (Photo courtesy of DJ Powers/HF)
The Blackhawks further bolstered their prospect depth with 11 picks at the 2011 draft, including four selections among the first 43 picks. The organization added character and work ethic with their first round forwards, a pair of high upside offensive performers in the second round, and even more depth at the two most important positions, center and defense, in later rounds.
The team's Director of Amateur Scouting, Mark Kelley, thought the draft went better than he expected. "When you're picking 18th, you kind of tease yourself you're going to get one of those top players," Kelley said, "So we went in thinking there was a top two tiers, then we thought there was a group that was all together. The first two players we got were in our top two tiers, so probably the last six picks before we were able to make the McNeill pick and then waiting for the Danault pick, we were sweating them out pretty good." Read more»
Two weeks ago, Chicago Blackhawks ownership relieved GM Mike Smith from his duties, named Bob Pulford acting GM, and ordained long time employee Dale Tallon as the soon to be GM. Bill Wirtz followed this move by dismissing assistant general manager Nick Beverley, director of player evaluation Marshall Johnston, director of amateur scouting Bill Lesuk and amateur scout Joe Yannetti. These firings save the Blackhawks money and give them three fewer people they will have to pay during the possible lockout next year.
Beverley's assistant GM post was directly tied to Smith's, but the others, all Smith hires, were not managerial, but an integral part of locating the prospects drafted over the last three drafts. The Blackhawks say there will be no replacements for Johnston, Lesuk and Yanetti except for the fact Michal Dumas has been asked to move back up to his former job as chief scout.
Dumas headed the Hawk scouting department prior to Smith's arrival. Dumas was a Hawk draftee whose career was cut short by an eye injury. His scouting department produced few potential players and was archaic in terms of size and organization. This latest axing puts back to the good old boy network (Wirtz, Pulford, Tallon, and Dumas) which in the past produced few NHL players. It is also one person is replacing three.
Acting GM Pulford was a solid all-around player for Toronto in the 1960's and early 70’s and was brought in as a Hawk coach, then GM, and put out to pasture as a vice president in the organization until being reactivated as the temporary GM two weeks ago.
Six rookies remain on the Blackhawks roster heading into the start of the 2003-04 season.
Goaler Mike Leighton (1999, 6th rd.), drafted by former GM Bob Murray, starts the season as Jocelyn Thibault’s back-up. GM Smith pick Craig Anderson (2001, 3rd rd.) will be waiting for the call to flip-flop after each 20 games with Leighton, as Smith hinted would happen if Leighton falters.
Lasse Kukkonen, the Hawks fifth round pick this past year, has earned a spot on defense, based on his veteran-like play in camp. At 22, he captained the Finnish Karpat team the last two seasons. He adds a third Finn to a team that had none on its roster last season.
Mike Smith said the organization didn’t expect six rookies on the roster, but their play warranted spots on the club. Center Tuomo Ruutu (2001, 1st rd.), right winger Pavel Vorobiev (2000, 1st rd.), right wingerIgor Radulov (2000, 1st rd.) and left winger Travis Moen (2000, 5th rd.) are the other four rookies who made the team out of camp.
Moen is the biggest surprise. He was originally drafted by the Calgary Flames him out of the Western Junior Hockey league based on his 399 minutes of three regular seasons with the Kelowna Rockets. The 6’2” 208-pounder was chosen to be the next generation Hawk enforcer. The Hawks signed him to play in Norfolk last season on coach Brian Sutter’s recommendation when he saw him in the Flames evaluation camps. Moen’s presence may be temporary until WHLer Dustin Byfuglien (2003, 8th rd.) is ready for Read more»