Blackhawks 2007 draft review

By John Jaeckel

In the immediate aftermath of the 2007 NHL draft, the overall theme of the Blackhawks selections might be ‘boom or
bust.’ With their first four selections, the Hawks drafted players with good to immense upsides, but also some characteristics that caused some to doubt their potential. That said, in a talent crop characterized as thin by many observers, numerous outlets have declared the Blackhawks the big winners in this year’s draft. But when players are usually several years from playing with the parent club, only time will tell.

Patrick Kane, RW — London Knights, OHL

1st round, 1st overall.
5’10, 162 lbs.

Some have pointed out that if Patrick Kane were 6’2 and 200 pounds, he would have been the clear-cut No. 1 pick in this draft. Yet, in spite of his size limitations, the American was still selected first overall.

It was clear from the time the Hawks won the No. 1 selection in the draft lottery, GM Dale Tallon and the Hawks staff were leaning toward taking Kane. The Hawks hung onto the pick and got their man. Right or wrong, Tallon clearly felt comfortable with the pick, citing Kane’s obvious offensive gifts, his ability to play in traffic, his desire and his projectability as a short but ‘wide’ player who is strong on the puck. As Tallon pointed out, "he’s succeeded at every level he’s played at." Tallon went on to say that "after the (2007) World Juniors, we knew he was the player we wanted."

It was his often breathtaking performance in that tournament that vaulted the Buffalo native from a good junior player to that of an elite prospect for the 2007 NHL Draft. Kane’s rookie season in the OHL, where he led the league in scoring with 62 goals and 83 assists for 145 points, did nothing to change that. Kane’s size does not seem to limit him so much as the doubt associated with it drives him to succeed.

"This is just another chapter in the book. I always have to prove myself at the next level. Prove my size isn’t an issue," Kane told the media on draft night. "I’m going to work hard this summer; I’m going to give myself every opportunity to make that team."

He is an above average skater, with surprising acceleration, has tremendous vision and playmaking skill, as well
as a quick-release, accurate wrist shot. His stickhandling is elite.

In his introduction to the Chicago media on Monday June 25, at 18 years of age and with room to grow, Kane was clearly the same size as his possible new head coach, Denis Savard, whose size never limited his play.

Billy Sweatt, LW, Colorado College, WCHA

2nd round, 38th overall
6′, 180 lbs.

Elburn, Ill. native Bill Sweatt was widely considered the fastest skater in the draft. As a freshman, Sweatt led Colorado College in scoring in the highly competitive WCHA, with nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points in 30 games. Sweatt also helped lead the US team to a gold medal in the World under-18 tournament. Still, while some prognosticators projected Sweatt as a first-round pick, others questioned his ability to fight through checks and score consistently. He’ll continue at CC for the foreseeable future.

Akim Aliu, C/RW — London Knights, OHL

2nd round, 56th overall
6’2, 200 lbs.

On tape, Aliu looks as though he should have been picked in the top 10-15 selections of the draft. A very good skater and puckhandler with size and a mean streak, playing for Sudbury in the OHL last season, Aliu looked like a man among boys. So why then did he last until the latter part of the second round? In a word, immaturity. Aliu had conflicts with both Sudbury coach Ron Foligno and fellow player Steve Downie (Windsor) over the past two seasons that caused him to bounce from Windsor
to Sudbury to London by this season’s end. Aliu’s totals in 53 games with Sudbury were 20 goals and 22 assists with 104 PIM. Aliu is both intense and emotional and seems to be somewhat confrontational. Some who have observed him over the years feel that he might thrive under the quiet, non-confrontational style of London head coach, Dale Hunter, who he will play for again next season. And if he does thrive, Aliu will become a major steal for the Blackhawks, as he clearly possesses the size, talent and aggressiveness to be a very good NHL player.

Maxime Tanguay, C — Rimouski, QMJHL

3rd round, 69th overall
5Õ11Ó, 180 llbs.

NHL bloodlines are helpful, but do not guarantee success. For every Staal brother, there’s a Keith Gretzky. The younger brother of offensively-gifted Calgary Flame Alex Tanguay, Max Tanguay did not quite match his brother’s production in
the QMJHL. Still, production, from another season to another team to another set of linemates can often be quite different. Like earlier Hawk draftees Sweatt and Aliu, many observers felt Tanguay might merit an earlier selection based on his nifty hands and offensive instincts. In an overall rich pipeline of prospects, the Hawks are perhaps most lacking in the area
of creative play-makiing centers. Tanguay could easily help fill that gap.

Josh Unice, G — USDP

3rd round, 86th overall
5’11, 175 lbs.

After Kane, perhaps the Hawks first ‘safe’ pick in this draft, Unice carries the pedigree of international play that Tallon and the Hawk brass seem to love. Supplanting fellow netminder Brad Phillips as the lead goalie for the U.S. squad in the World under-18 tourney, Unice helped lead his team to the finals, where they were beaten in a shootout by Alexei
Cherepanov and the Russians. Smallish but very quick, Unice is a polished product of Ian Clark and the Goaltending Institute. Clark himself rates Unice as one of his best students.  Like Tanguay, Unice helps fill a relatively weak area in the Hawks’ organizational depth. His credentials and draft status would indicate that he’ll be given every oppoprtunity to climb the depth chart with Chicago.

Joe Lavin, D — USDP

5th round, 126th overall
6’1, 195 lbs

Some have compared Massachusetts-native Lavin to current Blackhawk rearguard James Wisniewski. Like Wisniewski, Lavin plays a solid two-way game.

Lavin is a good skater who is strong on his feet.  He has a quick release on his wrist shot, and is capable of being a threat on the power play.  Lavin put up big offensive numbers before joining the U-17 squad, and even for the U-17 team he could be counted on offensively, but he failed to live up to expectations during his season with the U-18 team.  Coming off of a 26-point season for the U-17 squad, many expected bigger things from him.  In 41 games Lavin totaled just 10 points (two goals, eight assists) along with 40 PIM.  Both of his goals came on the power play.

Lavin seemed to really struggle against the college teams, putting up no goals and one assist in 20 games.  He spent 14 minutes in the penalty box.  Lavin did not play much internationally — in just six international games, Lavin had no points, compiling six PIM.

Lavin will be attending Providence College next year, where he will try to find his scoring touch at the college level.

Richard Greenop, C — Windsor, OHL

6th round, 156 overall
6’4, 210 lbs.

Richard Greenop is not particularly gifted as a skater, passer or stick-handler. But he has a reputation as the best fighter in the OHL. At the tender age of 17, he is highly advanced in the science of fisticuffs on ice, using his large frame to shield himself from opponents’ punches, while smartly switching hands at the right moment to inflict punishment. In 48 games with Windsor this past season, Greenop scored three goals and nine assists, while amassing 148 PIM. Further, and perhaps most importantly, Greenop seems to have a liking for the enforcer role. If Greenop’s basic hockey skills improve enough over the next few years, he could merit regular shifts and enforcer duty with the parent club.

Dustin Nielson and Sean Ruck contributed to this article. Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.