We're now 11 days out from the draft, and while that time will be filled with lots of chatter about trades and rights being acquired and negotiations, there is the small task of actually taking players. While lots of fans have gone slightly overboard at calling Stan an idiot for whatever their least favorite move is, Stan's drafting actually looks to be his strength. And in a salary cap era, that's a very good thing.
In just last year's draft, the Hawks took Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw, and both saw time with the NHL club and look set to see a whole lot more. In addition, Phillip Danault and Mark McNeil are very highly regarded by those in the know, just not quite as close to making an impact at the United Center as the other two. That's four players who are likely to one day contribute, or be considered an asset in a trade. That's pretty good. In Stan's first draft, with much worse picks, he picked up Kevin Hayes, Justin Holl, and Stephen Johns, as well as acquiring Jimmy Hayes. Hayes has already made the show, and looks set to be a part of next year's team. Of the other three, his brother Kevin is considered the most likely to make an impact at the top level.
What does this mean for this year, Hubie Brown?
There is a distinct pattern among Stan's picks, at least the top ones where you are expected to get a player more likely to make it to the NHL. And that's centers and d-men. Last year, Saad was the only winger in the first six picks the Hawks made, with McNeil and Danault centers and Clendening, Paliotta, and Klas Dahlbeck all being blue-liners. The year before it was only Ludvig Runsfeldt the only winger among the top picks.
Where does that leave the Hawks system? We know there are a few center prospects already knocking on the door in McNeil, Danault, and Brandon Pirri. With Dylan Olsen already making his appearance in the NHL, the defensemen pipeline is a little more dry. Clendening, Johns, Holl, and Lavin are all considered a couple years away if they have any shot at all. Lalonde has pretty much played his way out of the organization. Johns is the only one who's got any considerable size.
So, just based on that, one would expect the Hawks to look for big d-men with one of their top picks this time around. But they may go another way, because there's on part of the system that is almost bare. And that's in net. The Hawks have no prospects in a mask, and please don't say Carter Hutton. He's already 26, and though we all know the TIm Thomas story, Hutton is more likely to be the first Carter Hutton than he is Tim Thomas. He only got a chance because of Alec Richards's struggles and Alex Salak's complete meltdown. Mac Carruth and Kent Simpson are longshots, seemingly, though you never know with 20-year olds. I'd look for the Hawks to take another goalie in the first two rounds.
Over the next two weeks, we'll take a look at some kids the Hawks are projected to be available when the Hawks pick and ones they might have interest in. And then we'll wait three years to see if we were right or wrong.