Who will be there at #9 for the Chicago Blackhawks?

By Bill Placzek

Atlanta’s winning of the draft lottery solidified the draft slotting for the 2001 draft in Sunrise, Florida on June 23 and 24th.

I would like to be the first to attempt to project the players to teams presently in the spots #1-8 leading up to the possible Hawk pick at #9. There is always the possibility that GM Mike Smith trades out of the #9 slot (though a questionable move in a draft with third tier up to pick #12) or out of the #29 pick which the Hawks obtained from the Detroit Red Wings in the Chris Chelios deal.

The Hawks will be picking around or lower than the slots listed below depending upon any additional draft picks added as supplementals to teams for loss of their free agents signed by other clubs:

1 – Hawks – 9th

1 – from Detroit – 29th

2 – from Stars – 61st

3 – Hawks – 75th

3 – from Flyers – 90th

4 – Hawks – 105th

4 – from Leafs – 113th

5 – Hawks – 141st

6 – Hawks – 176th

7 – Hawks – 206th

9 – Hawks – 270th

We can make a pretty good prediction based on that if we try and predict the players who will go first.

Atlanta, by way of their lottery win, move up two slots and have to decide between three top players in LW Ilya Kovalchuk,C Jason Spezza,and C/W Stanislav Tchistov. All have their strengths, but Kovalchuk destined to be the first Russian chosen #1 overall.

Kovalchuk is considered the home run hitter, the great individual goal scorer, with powerful top end speed, stride, maneuverability, size, and a hard shot to boot. The only way Atlanta could possible look towards one of the others is if they felt Spezza, who they were able to scout frequently, had attributes which they felt overweighed picking Kovalchuk.

New York Islanders have to feel lucky to have to take Jason Spezza with the second overall pick. Spezza is an inch taller than Kovalchuk and has been one of the highly touted Canadian Juniors in years.

A creative playmaker who scouts predict will make his linemates better, Spezza does needs to pick up his skating speed, acceleration and awareness defensively. He is a close as a second #1 overall as any player could be and the Islanders have to feel blessed with him being there at #2, when he has been a first overall prediction for years.

Tampa Bay, picking #3 overall will be in a position to take the last of the first tier players in Lil’ Stanislav Tchistov if they can fight the prejudices under 5’10” guys bring on draft day. The “Russian Denis Savard” has shown he belongs in the company of the first two players by way of his hockey smarts, puck control, creativity, and their use at top end speed.

Granted he may drop (Picking #1, Montreal passed on Savard, who went 3rd overall.), but I wouldn’t want to be the G.M. who passed on him!

At pick #4, Anaheim starts gets to chose from a two player second tier of centre Stephen Weiss and this year’s top goaltender prospect, Pascal Leclaire.

Though Weiss is 6 foot 170 pounder, he has continually shown play-making skills, great vision, and scoring prowess. He has first stride quickness and improving leg strength to balance good face-off abilities.

He may look like he skates a funny stride, but so did Mike Gartner, and all he did was score 700 goals in his career. Think the Ducks could use his offense instead of creating a log-jam in net for 2004 season?

Jean-Sebastian Giguere might have solidified himself there, but if the Ducks don’t feel that for sure, would they pass on offense over a netminder?

Nevertheless this raises a good issue as the Florida Panthers pick next with the draft in their arena.
At #5 they have to be hoping that that Weiss is there, and they do not have to make a decision on Leclaire, already having Roberto Luongo as the heir apparent.

Would they actually have to trade out to avoid making the decision, or having to drop to the third tier players and not getting full value on their pick?

A dilemma we will be watching develop on draft day.

With pick #6 begins the third tier of the draft that is arguably 6 players deep, helping everybody up to the Nashville Predators, very adequately.

The Minnesota Wild pick #6. No matter whom they select, they will be getting a quality player here. It just really depends what their organization feels they need. If they desire a goalie, Dan Blackburn could be picked here even more easily than Calgary’s choice of Brent Kahn was at #9 last draft.

If defenseman is where they want to go, the case could be made for Dan Hamhuis of Prince George in the Western League.

If I am making the pick though, I am inclined to take the huge Russian centre, Alexander Svitov with the pick.

He is 6’3″, demonstrated top end skill as early as last year in international competitions. Due to some injuries and how he is being used, he looks less dominant than in past showings. No matter a team would be hard pressed to take him in this area.

Montreal Canadians pick at #7 will have to choose between the guys left after the Wild pick.

Will Dan Hamhuis be the first defenseman selected here? Certainly no matter where he gets picked he will be heralded as a “safe” pick based on they way he plays the game, controlled and safe. He skates and passes well enough to quarterback the power play. Need needs to gain physical strength if he is to play in the major league where some forwards will be giants. He is good in the transition game at the OHA level, and hits at that level. I am just not sure if a team goes Dee here with so many intriguing prospects still left at the forward position. If Svitov is there, he replaces Zubrus as the Habs new young Russian.

At pick #8, Columbus will have to decide on the player left over from the Wild and the Canadians.

Or maybe there are also intrigued in Saku Koivu’s “little brother,” Mikko Koivu.

Koivu might take the next five years to bring along slowly, but he might end up a NHL first line centre.
He is 6’3″,gangly but feisty. He has great vision and is an excellent passer in traffic, and is unafraid of the tough going. He still lacks a first step and he doesn’t shoot as much as you would like but that could come as he matures. Bursting with potential for the team willing to wait.v
That leaves us with the Chicago Blackhawks finally approaching the microphone.

I have already talked about one more player than picks taken, so could the Hawks be picking from one of the above?
Maybe they see their future tied to C/RW Tuomo Ruutu, a 6’1″ 200lber who already displays maturity, and a physique that looks closer to NHL level than most. Third brother of Mikko and Jarkko Ruutu family, he plays an abrasive style with hard-hitting board work combined with excellent hockey sense and natural on ice finesse. A tireless worker and winner whose high energy makes up for his lack of finishing plays. He is a possible two way NHLer presently playing with JokeritSr.but his draft status may drop significantly as he injured his knee with a medial collateral ligament tear and a torn capsule on the back of the knee. This might effect his draft status significantly.

Another guy who has skyrocket up the charts is Sweden’s Fredrik Sjostrom. Playing Right wing on the most effective line on Sweden’s WJC entry, the 6 foot 190lber plays the team concept as so many Swedish players do. He is an aggressive cornerman who is an outstanding skater with good hands, stickwork and passing abilities. He has good vision, is creative and draws penalties due to his style. He may be the type of player the Hawks need to weave the styles of old time hockey and the new wave style that Alpo Suhonen brought to town. He also had a medical problem in he was diagnosed with over exertion after collapsing on the the locker room floor during an intermission. This condition will be well scrutinized, prior to draft day I am sure.

The last of the Hawk possibles might be defenseman Tim Gleason. Another 6 foot 185 lb. defenseman who needs more size and strength to make it in the NHL. He also plays entire games of mistake free hockey. He is an explosive puck carrier and another power play quarterback. When he plays under control, he passes and shoots like a NHLer. He also needs to make strides to improve his defensive game to play in the NHL.v
There you have it. Unless Mr. Smith and Mr.Wirtz have a player who will play for popcorn hidden in the Northwest Territory, the Chicago Blackhawk’s pick has to come from the names mentioned.
Let us all hope the chosen player brings us the excitement we miss each time we take in a game.

I am planning on attending the draft, and will be looking for conversation in the midst of the picks. I am the guy with the black Blackhawk jersey with the “Wizard 3” on the back. (Just like my e-mail.)
Let’s talk if you are there!