Heading into the 2009 draft, Chicago was coming off its first postseason appearance since 2002. Series wins against Calgary and Vancouver put the young Blackhawks into the Conference Finals against the veteran Detroit Red Wings, who took the series in five games. The Blackhawks exceeded preseason prognostication, but the playoff run and the 28th overall pick that accompanied it, were each early signs of the increasing expectations in Chicago.
While Dale Tallon held the title of General Manager during the draft, he was less than a month away from being replaced by Stan Bowman amidst the qualifying offer fiasco and general sea change in Chicago that followed in July, 2009.
Dylan Olsen, D, Camrose Kodiaks (AJHL) – 1st round, 28th overall
Status: Prospect (FLA)
NHL Games Played: 48
A big defenseman with a heavy shot, Dylan Olsen was a raw yet talented selection near the end of the first round at the 2009 draft. Two successful seasons for the Camrose Kodiaks and a strong showing for Canada at the 2009 U18 World Junior Championships led up to his selection at 28th overall on draft day. He matriculated at the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2009-10 and went on to score 24 points in 52 games over his year and a half for the Bulldogs.
Olsen was ruled academically ineligible for the spring semester of his sophomore season (the same year Minnesota-Duluth went on to win the National Championship), and Chicago promptly signed the blueliner and assigned him to Rockford. His career within the Chicago organization included a 28-game stint at the end of 2011-12 season, but he was never able to nail down a spot on the veteran Blackhawks blue line.
A trade to the Florida Panthers during 2013-14 season drastically changed Dylan Olsen's career. He scored three goals and six assists in 17 games for the Panthers before he suffered an injury on New Year’s Eve, missing most of January.
Brandon Pirri, C, Georgetown Raiders (OJHL) – 2nd round, 59th overall
NHL Games Played: 34
Chicago's second pick in 2009 went again to a CJHL standout with NCAA plans. Brandon Pirri's college career lasted only one season, but it was a productive 43-point campaign in 39 games for RPI. Following the 2009-10 season at RPI, Pirri opted to sign his entry-level contract and transition to the pro level in 2010.
A skilled playmaker of slight build, Pirri's effectiveness in the AHL has often been inconsistent, particularly during his first two seasons. However, his contributions on the score sheet for the Rockford IceHogs steadily increased each season before culminating in an AHL-leading 75 points in 76 games in 2012-13.
The center played 24 NHL games, his longest stint in the league, to begin the 2013-14 season, including a productive run centering the Blackhawks second line. Although he spent some time in Rockford and time on injury list, Pirri was recently recalled to Chicago. The playmaker has yet to catch fire in the NHL, but he will have opportunities yet this season to prove he can produce with the big club.
Dan DeLisle, C, Totino Grace (MN HS) – 3rd round, 89th overall
NHL Games Played: 0
DeLisle was a top scorer for Totino Grace High School in Minnesota prior to his selection in the draft, but he never fully translated that game to the NCAA level. He played four years for the University of Minnesota-Duluth, including a National Championship in 2011, and totaled nine goals and seven assists in 102 career games. Unsigned by the Blackhawks following graduation in 2013, DeLisle signed on with the ECHL Idaho Steelheads in December, 2013.
Chicago's first of two CHL selections at the 2009 draft, Byron Froese came to the organization billed as a disciplined, well-rounded center. Like Olsen, he had a good showing for Canada's U18 team in his draft year. Although it would be his only international experience, Froese capped off his WHL career with a 61-point season for Everett in 2009-10 and then 81 points in 70 games for the Red Deer Rebels in 2010-11.
As a pro, Froese has oscillated between a checking role in AHL Rockford and the Toledo Walleye in the ECHL. A defensively reliable center, he has so far stuck in Rockford in 2013-14, even if he has not been in the lineup every game. He has been a reliable depth option for the minor league affiliates, but with his entry-level contract expiring after this season, it will be interesting to see if Chicago submits a qualifying offer to keep him around in that role again next season.
Marcus Kruger, C, Djurgarden Jr (Sweden Jr) – 5th round, 149th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 182
The Blackhawks first four picks in 2009 today range from busts to promising NHL prospects, but fifth-round pick Marcus Kruger has had the biggest impact in a Blackhawks uniform. At 19 years old on draft day, Kruger was a relative unknown coming out of Sweden despite a season starring at the junior level and earning ice time with Djurgarden's top level team in 2008-09.
Kruger helped lead Djurgarden to a second-place finish in the Elitserien in 2009-10 and earned a bronze with Team Sweden at the WJC. He played one final season for Djurgarden in 2010-11 before transitioning to the Blackhawks lineup at the end of the 2010-11 season. After stints at the U19 and U20 level for Sweden, 2011 also marked Kruger's transition to the men's national team at the World Championships.
A depth player throughout his career in Chicago, Kruger has been given opportunities with a variety of linemates over the course of his two-plus seasons. He was a key penalty killer on the 2013 Stanley Cup team, and this year, he has been Joel Quenneville’s first choice against the opponent’s top lines. News that he would represent Sweden at the Olympics in Sochi has been a boon to his confidence, and the pivot has earned some more opportunity in the lineup as a result. With one Stanley Cup already under his belt, Kruger is poised to be a key role player on another cup contender in Chicago this season.
David Pacan, C, Cumberland Grads (CJHL) – 6th round, 177th overall
NHL Games Played: 0
A 6'3 center that displayed offensive skill at the midget and Junior A levels leading up to the 2009 draft, David Pacan was a prototypical late-round pick with a couple strong tools but an overall raw package. He spent the season after the draft at the University of Vermont, but left the Catamounts after one year to play with the team holding his OHL rights, the Niagara IceDogs. In February of his rookie OHL season, Pacan was part of the trade that sent Jack Skille and Hugh Jessiman to Florida in exchange for Michael Frolik, a key contributor and Kruger’s partner on the penalty kill for Chicago's 2013 Stanley Cup team, and Alexander Salak. He skated an overage season with Niagara before turning pro, where he has skated mostly in the ECHL with only 11 AHL games through his first year and a half at the pro level.
A small rearguard with a good hockey sense, Paul Phillips went on to a four-year career at the University of Denver following his selection by Chicago. A native of Darien, Illinois, Phillips was never a huge point-producer on the Pioneers' blue line, but he was reliable in his own end, willing to play any style to help his team, and a vocal leader on the ice. He capped off his career as Denver's captain but went unsigned by the Blackhawks after graduation. Phillips signed in the ECHL with the Colorado Eagles, a team that features a handful of DU alumni, but the blueliner has been limited by injury to 13 games so far this season.
Chicago's final selection, David Gilbert, came out of the QMJHL. More of a support player during his time with the Remparts, Gilbert became a near point-per-game player after he was traded to Acadie-Bathurst halfway through the 2009-10 season. Since turning pro full time in 2011-12, the majority of his games have come with Toledo in the ECHL and the Bloomington Blaze of the Central Hockey League. Although Gilbert appeared in at least on AHL game over four consecutive seasons coming into 2013-14, he has only skated in Toledo so far this season. He has fared well offensively in the ECHL and CHL, but it would not be a surprise to see the organization part ways in the offseason.