There’s no better way for an NHL franchise to set itself up for success than to nail the draft. Get the No. 1 pick in the right season and you’ll end up with a generational superstar. Screw up a couple of those picks, and you can set your team back for years.
GM Stan Bowman has had the good fortune of never needing to be in that position. His predecessor, Dale Tallon, was the one tabbed to get big wins with the Blackhawks’ high draft picks in the mid-2000s. And boy did he, with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane becoming core pieces of a three-time Stanley Cup-winning team.
This year, Bowman won’t have a chance to land that kind of prospect with the No. 26 overall pick, but there will be good options. It’s also possible the team trades up in the first round, like it did three years ago in order to draft Nick Schmaltz.
But before we look into what the draft, which is set for June 23-24 in Chicago, means for the Blackhawks’ future, it’s worth looking back at the past. With that in mind, here’s a ranking of every Hawks first-round pick of the past 20 years.
1. Patrick Kane — No. 1 overall, 2007
Three Stanley Cups, a Calder, a Hart, a Conn Smythe, and a Ted Lindsey. He’s averaged a point-per-game over his first 10 seasons. You could swap the top two guys on this list pretty easily, but we’ll go with arguably the best right winger in the league at the top.
2. Jonathan Toews — No. 3 overall, 2006
The captain of three Stanley Cup champions, a stellar two-way center, and the core of the Blackhawks’ current identity. We used to call him Captain Serious, but that’s gotten harder since he loosened up over the past few years.
3. Brent Seabrook — No. 14 overall, 2003
No longer the apple of many Hawks fans’ eyes due to an outsized contract he couldn’t possibly turn down, Seabrook’s career has still been a resounding success in Chicago.
4. Teuvo Teravainen — No. 18 overall, 2012
Some might consider this too high, but Teravainen remains an impressive talent who should be a good player in the NHL for the next 10 years.
5. Tuomo Ruutu — No. 9 overall, 2001
Finished sixth in Calder voting after scoring 23 goals as a rookie in 2003-04. The Blackhawks eventually traded him straight up for Andrew Ladd in 2008, which worked out pretty well.
6. Kevin Hayes — No. 24 overall, 2010
The failure here wasn’t drafting Hayes. It was failing to convince him to sign before he could hit free agency, where he decided to sign with the Rangers. The Hawks got a compensation pick for their troubles, but Hayes would’ve been awfully helpful the past couple seasons.
7. Dan Cleary — No. 13 overall, 1997
Easy to forget he was a Hawks pick since he played just 41 games with the team before being traded to Edmonton. Cleary would go on to have a good run with the Red Wings that included four 40-point seasons and a Stanley Cup in 2008.
8. Nick Schmaltz — No. 20 overall, 2014
The jury is still out on Schmaltz’s ultimate potential, but he could move up this list significantly within a few years.
9. Ryan Hartman — No. 30 overall, 2013
Similar to Schmaltz, but with a bit less upside because he’s not the playmaker his teammate is. Still, Hartman will be a good secondary scorer in Chicago.
10. Phillip Danault — No. 26 overall, 2011
Like Hayes, Danault is a guy the Hawks really could’ve used last season. They drafted him in 2011 envisioning a high-level defensive center who could provide some offensive pop as well, and he’s pretty much developed into that. Too bad he’s in Montreal now.
11. Mark Bell — No. 8 overall, 1998
Not gonna lie, I didn’t even know who Mark Bell was until writing this post. He recorded 150 points over four seasons from 2002-06 with the Blackhawks, but his career went totally off the rails after being traded to the Sharks in 2007.
12. Cam Barker — No. 3 overall, 2004
The most notorious of Hawks draft busts from the past 20 years, Barker is now a star defenseman in the KHL. He showed flashes in Chicago, including 40 points in 68 games as a 22-year-old in 2008-09, but his greatest impact came when he was traded, and the Hawks got Nick Leddy in return.
13. Anton Babchuk — No. 21 overall, 2002
Recorded back-to-back 35-point seasons in the NHL with the Hurricanes and Flames, but he left for the KHL in 2012, and that was the end of his time in North America.
14. Jack Skille — No. 7 overall, 2005
For a No. 7 overall pick, Skille is a bust. But he’s also appeared in 368 NHL games, and still had an NHL job in 2016-17 with the Canucks. So while his selection wasn’t a rousing success, a 10-year NHL career is nothing to scoff at.
15. Steve McCarthy — No. 23 overall, 1999
McCarthy appeared in over 300 NHL games, but was never able to carve out a spot bouncing around with the Blackhawks, Canucks, and Thrashers. Last year, he retired from playing to become an assistant coach in the AHL.
16. Dylan Olsen — No. 28 overall, 2009
All I know about Olsen now is that he spent the 2016-17 season playing for something called the “Nanton Palomino's" in a league called the RHL. Never heard of either, so it’s been a rough run since Olsen was with the Panthers a couple years ago.
17. Mark McNeill — No. 18 overall, 2011
It’s too premature to call McNeill a bust, but things are trending in the wrong direction. He was a throw-in to the Stars after seeing his AHL numbers dip in his fourth season with Rockford. There’s potential, but McNeill is now 24 and he’s played in just two NHL games.
18. Pavel Vorobiev — No. 11 overall, 2000
19. Mikhail Yakubov — No. 10 overall, 2000
We’ll put these two together since they were inexplicably selected back-to-back by the Hawks in 2000. What did Chicago get from these picks? Mainly the realization that the organization wasn’t well-prepared to handle an influx of Russians, as Vorobiev was complaining about the franchise by the time of his departure.
20. Adam Munro — No. 29 overall, 2001
21. Ty Jones — No. 16 overall, 1997
These two hardly played with the Blackhawks, combining for one assist in 31 appearances between the two players. We’ll consider Jones the slightly worse pick since was 13 spots higher.
22. Kyle Beach — No. 11 overall, 2008
The worst of the worst. Beach was supposed to be an impact power forward, but he was quickly exposed at higher levels of hockey. Even in the AHL, he was an underwhelming scorer. But more than anything, Beach stands out because he’s one of just two Hawks first-rounders since 1971 to never play in the NHL. At least his name makes me think of palm trees and the ocean.