Chicago Blackhawks Biggest Draft Boom and Bust Since 2000

Chicago Blackhawks Draft

Welcome to Last Word’s Draft Boom and Bust series. As the 2020 NHL Entry Draft approaches, we decided to examine each team’s best and worst pick since the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. The biggest boom is a player that had the best value relative to where they were selected. Meaning, no one in the first round will be considered a team’s best value pick. However, the biggest bust picks will almost always be in the first round. We will examine each player, why they were picked where they were, and what their NHL career was like. Today, we look at the Chicago Blackhawks draft, and their biggest boom and bust.

Chicago Blackhawks Draft Boom and Bust

Biggest Boom

Niklas Hjalmarsson

The Chicago Blackhawks draft pick with the biggest boom is the defenceman, Niklas Hjalmarsson. In Sweden, Hjalmarsson established himself as a physical two-way defender that does not hesitate to jump into the rush and shoot pucks on net. He did not put up big numbers or dominate games as a junior, part of the reason he was such a late selection in the 2005 NHL Draft.

NHL Career

After being drafted by the Blackhawks in the fourth round (108th overall), Hjalmarsson played in Sweden for two more years before coming to North America. He played the majority of the 2007-08 season with Chicago’s AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. He proved he could play at the AHL level with a physical style and offensive ability. Hjalmarsson appeared in 13 games with the Blackhawks that season, scoring one point.

After Chicago traded defencemen, James Wisniewski, in 2009 Hjalmarsson earned a regular spot in the Blackhawks lineup. Hjalmarsson’s willingness to put his body on the line and do anything necessary for the team is a reason for Chicago’s success during the last decade.

Since earning a starting spot during the 2009-10 season, Hjalmarsson had been a mainstay in Chicago until he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes after the 2016-17 season. In Chicago, he appeared in 623 games scoring 23 goals and 120 assists for 143 points. While not the top defensive option, Hjalmarsson’s tough presence on the ice helped bring three Stanley Cup championships to Chicago.

Since departing Chicago, Hjalmarsson has spent three years in Arizona, bringing his career totals to 25 goals and 142 assists for 167 points in 780 career games. He’s a three-time champion who’s consistent toughness helped anchor the Blackhawks for 10 seasons. He appeared in over 90 percent of games since earning a starting spot in Chicago. From day one, Hjalmarsson bought into the Blackhawks organization and did anything asked of him. A fourth-round pick became a trusted defenceman in Chicago and left the city as a three-time Stanley Cup champion.

Other Notable Booms

Andrew Shaw

Centre Andrew Shaw was the team’s fifth-round pick (139th overall) in 2011. Shaw went on to play six seasons in Chicago, scoring 73 goals and 74 assists for 147 points in 348 games. He was polarizing on and off the ice, both for his play and extracurriculars, but he was a key piece of both the 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup champion Blackhawk teams.

Dustin Byfugien

Dustin Byfuglien was selected in the eighth round (245th overall) by Chicago in the 2003 NHL Draft. He spent five seasons in Chicago, scoring 109 points in 260 games and was a member of the 2010 championship team.

Since being traded, Byfuglien went on to become a three-time all-star and one of the most punishing defenders in the league. The Blackhawks took a chance on him in the eighth round and he’s exceeded all expectations.

Biggest Bust

Jack Skille

Oddly enough, Chicago’s biggest draft bust also came during the 2005 NHL Draft. Forward Jack Skille was one of the most touted prospects at a young age. In two years with the USNTDP Under-18 Team, Skille scored 17 goals and 20 assists for 37 points in 44 games. As one of the top-ranked forwards, the Blackhawks selected him seventh overall in the 2005 NHL Draft. “One of the things we looked at on our depth chart was speed and that’s one thing he sure brings to the table,” said then Blackhawks general manager, Dave Tallon.

In college, Skille relied on his speed and quick shot to succeed. At the University of Wisconsin, Skille led all freshmen in scoring with 21 points. In his sophomore campaign, Skille suffered an ankle injury that caused him to miss time. He then signed his entry-level contract with Chicago after Wisconsin failed to reach the NCAA tournament.

NHL Career

When Chicago drafted him, they expected to get a speedy winger that is capable of scoring in bunches.  However, Skille only appeared in 30 games with the Blackhawks during his first three seasons. He scored five goals and three assists for eight points.

During the 2010-11 season, Skille started to see consistent time at the NHL level. Despite scoring 17 points in 49 games, the Blackhawks felt it was time to cut their losses and traded Skille to the Florida Panthers. The seventh overall pick in 2005 scored 12 goals and 13 assists for 25 points in 79 games with Chicago.

Skille went on to play for the Columbus Blue Jackets, Colorado Avalance and Vancouver Canucks until he opted to play overseas following the 2016-17 season. In his NHL career, Skille appeared in 368 games, scoring 43 goals and 41 assists for 84 points.

Making this draft pick whiff worse is the players Chicago could’ve picked instead. Skille was selected ahead of other first-rounders like Anze Kopitar (11th overall), Marc Staal (12th overall), Tuukka Rask (21st overall), T.J. Oshie (24th overall), Andrew Cogliano (25th overall) and Matt Niskanen (28th overall).

Other Notable Busts

Cam Barker

The Blackhawks selected Cam Barker third overall in the 2004 NHL Draft. The first two picks in the draft were used on Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, leaving Chicago to pick Barker. The next two picks were Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler. In 310 games, Barker scored 21 goals and 75 assists for 96 points. Compared to the two picks before and after him, Barker was a disaster of a pick.

Kyle Beach

One of the worst Chicago Blackhawks draft picks in history is Kyle Beach. A player who possessed the strength and scoring ability that many teams dream about. He had the skills and physicality but there were questions about his attitude. This caused some teams to pass on him, allowing Chicago to take him 11th overall in the 2008 draft. The attitude issues proved to be costly, as he racked up large penalty minutes in the AHL and never put his game together. He never appeared in an NHL game.

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