The Chicago Blackhawks entered the 2013 NHL Draft with five draft picks. After trading Dave Bolland to Toronto and Michael Frolik to Winnipeg in exchange for draft picks, the club added eight new prospects to the pipeline in 2013 and a couple extra picks in 2014. Although none of the Blackhawks 2013 selections project to be high-end NHL players, there is versatility among the group and potential to fill complimentary roles in the NHL lineup in a few years.
Five of the team's picks were forwards and three were defensemen, continuing to bolster the team's depth across the board. Each of the five forward picks can line up at center, but many, including first round pick Ryan Hartman, may end up on the wing at the pro level. While there is not a lot of size among the forwards, particularly the late round picks, it is a competitive group of forwards with both some offensive skill and defensive acumen to be found amongst the group.
The Blackhawks contributed to a record 32 selections from the USHL at the draft. Four of Chicago's eight picks at the draft skated in the USHL last season with three of them playing for the U.S. National Team Development Program. A key to the team's familiarity with those picks was the team's pre-draft combine in Chicago, which featured five of the eight players they would go onto select in the draft.
Three of Chicago's picks were blueliners and all three of those defensemen hail from Sweden. Sweden has become a consistent pipeline for the Blackhawks in recent years, with draft picks Niklas Hjalmarsson and Marcus Kruger contributing to a Stanley Cup this season and more recent selections Klas Dahlbeck and Joakim Nordstrom poised for steady ice time in the AHL with Rockford in 2013-14.
West Dundee, Illinois native Ryan Hartman was considered a safe bet to be drafted in round one due to his tenacious style of play and his excellent showing against older competition at the 2013 U20 World Junior Championships. Although he went unselected through 29 picks, the Blackhawks snapped up the hometown prospect with the final pick in the first round.
Hartman does not break 6'0, but he plays the game like a power forward. He is assertive at both ends of the rink, relishing the role of pest and getting under the skin of his opponents. In addition to his temperament, he is among the finest skaters in the draft class. He anticipates the play well offensively and possesses a quick release with the hands to make plays around the net.
He skates in all situations for Plymouth, and after moving to center for the Whalers, he has experience at all three forward positions. Hartman credited Plymouth Head Coach Mike Vellucci with helping develop such his versatile game.
"It was a great experience, a new adjustment and a new league and everything," Hartman told Hockey's Future after his selection. "I didn't really have any expectations going into it, but [Coach Vellucci] did a great job. He changed me to the center position and I think it really developed my game, to play multiple positions, and I think he deserves a lot of credit for what I've done."
Hartman also excelled on Team USA's top checking line at the 2013 U20 WJC, where the Americans won the gold medal. There were only two draft-eligible players on the team in Seth Jones (NAS) and Hartman, who in addition to a plus-4 rating against top competition, managed two goals and an assist in seven games at the tournament. His three point total was higher than both of Chicago's 2011 first round picks, Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault, who combined for one point skating for fourth place Canada.
Team USA does not always call on many players from the CHL ranks when it comes time to construct the U20 roster, but there was familiarity there with Hartman having spent his two seasons prior to going to the OHL in the U.S. Development Program.
Hartman said the USNTDP had, "an amazing impact. They way they develop players in the weight room and on the ice, you're always working hard and they build your character. I think its a big part of the person I am today and the player I am today."
That work ethic and Hartman's ability to adapt to any role asked make him a safe bet to make the NHL, but the Blackhawks can afford to be patient as he returns to the junior ranks next season.
Carl Dahlstrom, D, Linkoping J20 (Sweden SuperElit)
2nd round, 51st overall
Height: 6'3 Weight: 191
The Blackhawks entered the draft without a second round pick, but the 51st overall pick was part of the return on the Bolland trade. The team selected Swedish defenseman Carl Dahlstrom, a reliable rearguard coming off five goals and eight assists in 37 games for Linkoping J20 team in Sweden's top junior league.
Dahlstrom's long reach and agile skating ability help him cover a lot of ice in the defensive end. He is not the type of player to repeatedly engage in the physical game, instead preferring to maintain his positioning. He does not project to score a lot of points in the NHL, but makes smart plays with the puck and has shown some skill at lower levels of competition.
Dahlstrom will return to Sweden with the chance to break into the Swedish Hockey League at some point during the 2013-14 season. Linkoping may not have much turnover on the blue line, so more ice time at the junior level could also be in store. A concussion kept Dahlstrom from skating for his country at the U18 World Junior Championships in April, but he could have a chance to skate with the U20 team during the upcoming season.
John Hayden, C, USA U-18 (USHL)
3rd round, 74th overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 220
Chicago's third round pick was already with Winnipeg from the Oduya trade, the Blackhawks acquired Winnipeg's third round pick as part of the Michael Frolik trade. The 74th overall pick John Hayden adds size and strength to the team's center pipeline. Although the big, aggressive pivot was easy to spot on the ice skating for the U.S. team last season, it was his rise from 59 in the midterm to 29 in the final ranking of North American skaters from Central Scouting that caused him to receive even more attention leading up to the draft.
In the team's USHL action, Hayden ranked in the top-five overall on the team in goals (11), points (20), and plus/minus (plus-13) over the course of only 24 games. He also suited up for Team USA at the U18 Worlds, where he registered a goal and an assist for the silver medal squad.
Born in Chicago, the big center grew up in Connecticut and skated with Brunswick School before joining the USNTDP. He will attend Yale University in the fall, joining the Bulldogs as they prepare to defend their National Championship. Hayden is among the more physically mature prospects to come out of the draft class, but will still be looking to improve his skating and rounding out his overall game as he transitions to the NCAA.
Robin Norell, D, Djurgarden Jr. (Sweden Jr.)
4th round, 111th overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 189
Chicago traded up to 111th by sending the 117th and 151st picks to San Jose, a deal which also yielded a fifth round pick in 2014. The pick was used on Robin Norell, another Swedish defenseman but one who stands in stark contrast to Dahlstrom. Norell stands several inches shorter, for one, and also depends more on his mobility than his size. Norell is also known as a hard-working defenseman that will do all of the dirty work like blocking shots and digging the puck away from the boards to help his team win.
Even though who does not possess the prototypical size of an NHL defenseman, Norell's hard-nosed play and high level of character will give him a chance to develop into a player in North America. The 18-year-old blueliner spent a majority of his draft season with the Djurgarden J20 team, scoring one goal, four assists in 35 games while skating to a minus-five rating. He also suited up for Sweden at the U18 WJC and was voted one of the top three players on that team by the coaches.
Gaining experience against higher levels of competition will be a key part of Norell's development. He will have a chance to skate in Sweden's second tier pro league, the Allsvenskan, for Djurgardens next year and could also be in the mix for a spot on Sweden's U20 team.
Tyler Motte, C, USA U-18 (USHL)
4th round, 121st overall
Height: 5'9 Weight: 190
Ten picks later, Chicago returned to the USNTDP to select centerman Tyler Motte. A Michigan native, Motte is an undersized forward who nonetheless plays an up-tempo and hard-working style of game. He has been among the USNTDP's top scorers each of the past two seasons, but that production was not enough to help him overcome his size deficiencies at the draft table until the final pick in the fourth round.
Motte plays with energy each shift and has the versatility to skate on a scoring line or on a checking line. He killed penalties in addition to contributing offensively for the U.S. team, and like Hartman, credits the program with playing a key role in his development to this point.
The program offered plenty of opportunity for improvement according to Motte, who told Hockey's Future, "They keep you busy 24/7 really, and always keep you on your toes. But as far as development goes, it's really second to none. You're over there working everyday, probably five-six days a week, and on-ice everything, and it's really helped me develop as a player over the last two years."
The leading scorer with five goals and seven points for Team USA at the U18 World Junior Championships during their silver medal run in April, he described being drafted by the defending Stanley Cup champs as, "unbelievable."
"I was in Chicago a couple weeks ago for their combine, love the city, love the people and obviously they're in a great position as a franchise moving forward."
Motte will remain in his home state of Michigan next season to play for Red Berenson and the University of Michigan Wolverines.
Luke Johnson, C, Lincoln Stars (USHL)
5th round, 134th overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 179
Like Motte, Luke Johnson is a player whose stock has fallen somewhat over the past year. With a birth date less than a week away from making the cut for the 2012 draft, Johnson could have easily been a much higher pick after a successful USHL rookie season in 2011-12 skating alongside the league's top scorer, Kevin Roy (ANH).
With Roy moving onto the NCAA, Johnson was able to keep his production fairly steady but not really take the next step offensively. He scored 19 goals and 46 points in 57 games for Lincoln during his draft year, a drop of nine points from the prior season but still good for fourth overall on the team.
A stout center who is strong on the puck, Johnson may not have the slick skills of some of the other forwards in the class. That said, he has a quick shot and knows where to go to score goals. He is strong on the dot and can play the 200-foot game required of a centerman.
Johnson will follow in both his father's and his uncle's footsteps when he begins his college career in the fall at the University of North Dakota in his hometown of Grand Forks.
Anthony Louis, C, USA U-18 (USHL)
6th round, 181st overall
Height: 5'6 Weight: 145
In the sixth round, Chicago made its third selection from the USNTDP and another hometown prospect in Wheaton, Illinois native Anthony Louis. A skilled playmaker with great vision, Louis' size kept his draft stock from moving far up the draft board. At just 5'6 and less than 150 pounds, the forward has a long hill to climb towards the pro game.
"Throughout my entire career getting up to the point I am now, they always questioned it," Louis said of his size, "but I've seemed to prove them wrong and am looking to keep doing that in future."
His fearlessness in driving the net and playing through traffic will benefit his development, which will continue next season at Miami University. Louis credited the USNTDP schedule, which includes exhibition games against college teams in addition to the USHL schedule, for preparing him for the transition to college hockey.
"The training is really strict," Louis said, "the practice schedule and game schedule, you're playing colleges a year before you're eligible to be in college. Training every single day and every week pretty much, it gets really tiring and makes you want to give up, but you keep pushing forward. It pays off in the end."
While it could take a year or two for Louis to work his way up the depth chart for the RedHawks, he has been a productive scorer at every level he has played and has the skills to eventually make an impact in the offensive end for Miami.
Robin Press, D, Sodertalje (Allsvenskan)
7th round, 211th overall
Height: 6'2 Weight: 187
With the final pick of the NHL Draft, the Blackhawks drafted a third Swedish defenseman in Robin Press. He put up two goals and two assists in Sweden's second-tier pro league, the Allsvenskan, in his first year on the blue line. The 18-year-old Press has more experience at the pro level already than Dahlstrom or Norell, having held his own at minus-2 in his 41 games as a rookie pro.
A converted forward, Press has the potential to chip in more offensively than he did during the 2012-13 season in the Allsvenskan. He also has room to add strength to his 6'2 frame, but after making the change to defense at such a late point, he has plenty of catching up to do in the defensive end as he continues to develop in Sweden.