2011 Draft One For The Ages?
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What made the 2010 Stanley Cup win possible for the Blackhawks was the aggregation of talent that preceded it. The Hawks featured marquee superstars AND amazing depth—they rolled four lines that could score and came at you in waves of both power and finesse.
The subsequent subtle decline in the Hawks' fortunes since then has not been due to the loss of marquee players, but rather the loss of depth, players like Dustin Byfuglien and Troy Brouwer. Who both were latter round draft picks of the Blackhawks. Interestingly though, much of the talent that drove the Hawks success in 2010 was acquired through trades: Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Andrew Ladd.
But the draft remains the best way to build a National Hockey League roster. The Hawks appear to have had good drafts in 2010 and 2012, though 2009 looks kind of weak.
2011 is starting to appear to be a foundational type of draft, the kind many teams never have and even the best teams only enjoy once a generation or so, producing multiple legitimate NHL players, if not stars.
This coupled with a core locked up for the most part through 2015, could make the mid to later parts of this decade very successful for the Hawks.
Here is a breakdown of the draft and the progress of its prospects thus far.
Mark McNeill, C/W (No. 18)
NHL comparables: Jason Arnott, Michael Peca
The Hawks are very high on McNeill, who was named WHL player of the week last week. Big, tough and driven.
Projection: 2nd or 3rd line C
Phillip Danault, C/W (No. 26)
NHL comparables: Mikhail Grabovski, Dave Bolland, Doug Gilmour
Danault is a hockey player, pure and simple, with a huge motor. A plus skater, strong on faceoffs, a plus passer, defensively solid and a competitor.
Projection: 2nd or 3rd line C/LW
Adam Clendening, D (No. 36)
Clendening is already playing solid hockey at Rockford (AHL). One of few bright spots on last year's U.S. entry in the world Juniors, Clendening is a puck mover and power play specialist who appears to be a year or two away from the NHL, where he projects as a second pairing defenseman.
Brandon Saad (No. 43)
Saad might best be described as sort of a poor-man's hybrid of Ryan Smyth and Marian Hossa. Very well-schooled and positionally sound, he uses his size and plus-skating ability to get to the net and makes solid plays over 200 feet of ice. He wiil likely not be the scorer in the NHL that he was in junior or anywhere close to it, but he bears all the earmarks of a good NHL second line winger.
Michael Paliotta D (No. 70)
Klas Dahlbeck D (No. 79)
Both of these defensemen appear to have NHL potential. The steady Swede Dahlbeck, like Clendening, is already a regular at Rockford.
Maxim Shalunov W (No. 109)
Shalunov, as predicted by this blog's prospect guru, Bill "Wiz" Placezek, is shaping up as perhaps the sleeper of this draft. His recent play in the Russia-Canada Subway Series has drawn raves and favorable comparisons to countryman Alex Semin. Big, a plus skater, physical enough and a terrific shooter.
Andrew Shaw C/W (No. 139)
Shaw is already an NHL player and is at the top of the list for opposing GMs when talking trade with Stan Bowman. Feisty, tough and possessive of surprising finish around the net, Shaw appears to have a very good NHL future.
Sam Jardine D (No. 169)
Alex Broadhurst C (No. 199)
Johan Mattson (No. 211)
Of these three prospects, Swedish goaler Mattson appears at present to have the highest upside, though both Jardine and Broadhurst, originally found in the lower junior ranks, have talent. Mattson was the #3 goalie on the gold-medal winning Swedish squad at the 2012 WJCs and made a name for himself as a solid backstop for the Sudbury Wolves last year, playing behind a porous defense.
This draft will likely not produce any superstars, though Shalunov and Saad might have very high offensive upside.
But it appears at present to have the potential to produce 6-8 top 9 forward/top 4 defense players (and is almost guaranteed to produce 4 of them at minimum)—which is remarkable.
So there, Hawk fans, after a disappointingly inactive offseason and in the midst of a strike, is some very good news for all of you.
Now let's see if we can do something about that lockout.
All for now,