Blackhawks 2007 draft preview

By John Jaeckel

Blackhawks Top 10 prospects

1.   Jonathan Toews, C
2.   Cam Barker, D
3.   Jack Skille, RW
4.   Dave Bolland, C
5.   Corey Crawford, G
6.   Troy Brouwer, RW
7.   Danny Richmond, D
8.   Dustin Byfuglien, D
9.   Nathan Davis, C
10.  Dan Bertram, RW

Team Needs

On the parent club, the Hawks have an elite goaltender in Nikolai Khabibulin, two top-six forwards in Martin Havlat and Tuomo Ruutu and three to four solid young defensemen. Certainly, that’s something to build around, but gaping holes remain.

Playmaking centers are woefully lacking on the Hawk depth chart. While Ruutu can play center, it seems his best position is as more of a second-line, power forward wing. While Patrick Sharp is a terrific utility player, if he is your organization’s best true center, there’s a problem. Jonathan Toews’ arrival in Chicago this summer should go a long way toward filling the center position on one of the top two lines. Based on his recent World Championship play, Toews is clearly ready for prime time.

Scoring wingers are also lacking. Havlat has the potential to score 50 goals, but only playing with a true playmaking center. After that, the Hawks best offensive threats at wing are Ruutu, Jason Williams and Radim Vrbata. Again, this is an area of clear need.

Organizational Strengths

The Blackhawks have both stockpiled and developed a number of very promising young defensemen over the last few years: Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, James Wisniewski, Cam Barker, Dustin Byfuglien, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Danny Richmond truly stand out. It is not inconceivable to project all of them as top-four NHL defensemen. Behind them are other very promising players such as Jordan Hendry, Bruno St. Jacques and Simon Danis-Pepin.

The Hawks also have a plethora of potential NHL players in the power forward mold: Jack Skille, Brouwer, Michael Blunden and Bryan Bickell are all wings with good size, NHL skills and a physical game.

Organizational Needs

Organizational depth is questionable. Dave Bolland has the skill, instinct and OHL pedigree to perhaps matriculate into a scoring role. But his skating and size remain question marks. Nathan Davis is more of a third-line, grinding type of player. Recent signee Petri Kontiola is a gifted set-up man, but has never played a minute in North America.

Finally, the Hawks would be wise to add to their pool of young goalies. While some within the Hawks organization are very high on Corey Crawford’s potential, many observers remain unconvinced. Recent draftees Joe Fallon and Joe Palmer are intriguing long-term prospects. But it certainly would not hurt the Hawks to spend a pick or two this year on the goalie position.

Most of all, the Hawks need first-line offensive talent, more specifically, scoring and playmaking  ability. For an organization that many have described as "cursed" since its last Stanley Cup win in 1961, winning the first overall pick in this year’s draft lottery
seems be a change in fortunes. Then again, this is a down year for talent and there is no clear No. 1 player. The Blackhawks have, however, identified James Van Riemsdyk, Patrick Kane and Kyle Turris as the three players they are considering with the first pick. Van Riemsdyk is a classic power forward — big and fast with good basic raw skills, but an undeveloped offensive game and questionable hands. Turris and Kane are both prolific scorers and passers. Recently both GM Dale Tallon and Head Coach Denis Savard have stated in separate interviews with the team’s official website that each feels there is a player that they lean toward as a true No. 1. One would guess that with the glut of power forwards in the Blackhawk pipeline, the Hawks’ preference is either Kane or Turris. And with either, they would acquire a legitimate top-six scoring and playmaking threat.

Draft Tendencies

Character, character, character. Right or wrong, after the tenure of former GM Mike Smith who drafted a series of undisciplined Russian players with high picks, Tallon has typically drafted North American players with good credentials and, perhaps more importantly, a solid work ethic: Toews, Skille, Bolland, Blunden, Davis, Brouwer, etc. The Blackhawks have drafted particularly heavily from the OHL and U.S. college ranks in recent years.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result:
Patrick Kane, W.

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