The Blackhawks had a ton of picks for the 2017 NHL Draft, so they decided to swap a third-rounder for Red Wings forward Tomas Jurco before the trade deadline in February. His career had sputtered in Detroit, and Chicago GM Stan Bowman mentioned at the time of the deal that the winger had been targeted by the Hawks for “quite a while.”
Will that buy-low opportunity pan out for the Blackhawks? Jurco is already 24 years old, but he’ll get a good shot at being an NHL contributor next season. That’s why he’s No. 20 on our Top 25 Under 25 rankings.
Birth date: Dec. 28, 1992
Acquired via: Trade with Red Wings (Feb. 24, 2017)
Most recent stop: Chicago Blackhawks (NHL)
Size: 6’1, 203 pounds
Contract: One year, $800,000 cap hit
Jurco seemed to be on his way to a successful career in Detroit after the team selected him with the No. 35 overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. He dominated the QMJHL in his draft year with 68 points in 48 games, then spent a year in the AHL before making his NHL debut in 2013-14.
That was an impressive season for Jurco, who recorded 32 points in 32 AHL games and 15 points in 36 NHL games split between Grand Rapids and Detroit. He was given a favorable role as an NHL rookie, but took advantage with decent point production and very good possession numbers, including a 56.7 percent even strength Corsi.
Unfortunately for Jurco, the wheels came off a bit after that. He spent the entire 2014-15 season with the Red Wings, but recorded just three goals and 15 assists over 63 games. The next year, he had six points in 44 NHL games, although he produced well in limited duty in the AHL and for the Slovakian national team at the World Championships.
Then finally came the 2016-17 season, where Jurco failed to record a point in 16 games with Detroit before the team bailed. The Blackhawks happily took him on at the price of a third-round pick, but he didn’t make much of an impression with just one goal over 13 games.
Now Jurco is at a bit of a crossroads given he’s too old and too experienced to be considered a prospect, yet he’s failed to really gain any sort of foothold in the NHL. The 24-year-old is a wild card for the Blackhawks who could become a reliable bottom-six winger in short order, but he’s also been mightily disappointing in recent years.
What’s next in 2017-18?
Jurco has the inside track to a bottom-six winger spot on the Blackhawks entering next season. He’s already on the NHL roster with an affordable $800,000 cap hit, and he’s not waiver-exempt, so Chicago would need to risk losing him for nothing if it wanted to reassign him to Rockford. That should give Jurco a leg up over waiver-exempt options like Alex DeBrincat, John Hayden, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Alexandre Fortin, although he’ll still need to earn his spot.