NHL teams build their teams in many different ways. Some construct their clubs via free agency while others do it through trades. However, the main way teams create a roster is through the NHL Draft. Most years have maybe one or two players make the roster, but some years the general manager gets it right and gets a cornerstone or two for the franchise. The Last Word on Hockey is doing the best draft class for each team with the exception of the Seattle Kraken. Today we look at the Chicago Blackhawks best draft class.
Chicago Blackhawks Best Draft Class: 2003
The Chicago Blackhawks have a rich history as an original six team, but there hasn’t been that exceptional of draft classes. For example, Chicago selected Jeremy Roenick eighth overall in 1988, but he was the only player of that draft class to play an NHL game. That’s a trend that plagued the franchise in numerous drafts for the past 40 years.
2003 NHL Draft
It’s easy to forget that before the 2010’s dynasty where the team won three Stanley Cups in five years, the Blackhawks suffered decades of mediocrity. The 2003 draft was the beginning of that dynasty. Other draft classes have played more games or scored more combined points, but the 2003 class produced three players who were integral to the Blackhawks’ success last decade.
Brent Seabrook, 1st Round, 14th overall
In 2002, the Blackhawks selected Duncan Keith in the second round. The next year, the team completed a blueline pairing for the next decade-plus by selecting Seabrook 14th overall. He was a Richmond, British Columbia native who was drafted from the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. He played all four years in junior and one season with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals before becoming an NHL regular in 2005-06.
Seabrook has always been known as the defensive anchor while Keith was the offensive rover. Through 15 years with the Blackhawks, Seabrook scored 103 goals and 361 points over 1,114 games. Additionally, the D-man had another 20 goals and 39 assists in 123 playoff games, winning three Stanley Cups. Seabrook was also a member of Team Canada’s 2010 gold-medal-winning Olympic team. The blueliner elected to retire from the NHL in March of 2021, ending a respectable and successful career.
Corey Crawford, 2nd round, 52nd overall
Another cornerstone piece for the Blackhawks 2010’s dynasty was also taken in the 2003 draft. The goaltender was selected 52nd overall from the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats. The Montreal native spent all four years in junior and then another five bouncing between the NHL and AHL. He finally began seeing more regular NHL minutes in 2011, the season after Chicago’s first Stanley Cup of the decade.
From there, Crawford was the number one choice in net. He was selected to the all-star rookie team in 2010-11. Crawford also won the William M. Jennings Trophy for lowest save percentage in 2013 and 2015. Those were the years where he was the starter for a Stanley Cup-winning Chicago team.
Crawford retired in 2020 after just 10 NHL seasons. He amassed a career 2.45 goals-against-average and .918 save percentage over 488 career games, along with two Stanley Cup rings.
Dustin Byfuglien, 8th round, 245th overall
Some may forget that Byfuglien was a huge piece in Chicago’s first Stanley Cup win in 2010. The Roseau, Minn. native was selected in the eighth round of the 2003 draft out of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars. Byfuglien spent five seasons in junior then bounced between the NHL and minors before staying with the Blackhawks in 2007-08. During that time, Byfuglien was used as a forward, scoring double-digit goal totals in each of his first four seasons with the Blackhawks.
In the playoffs, “Big Buff” took his game to another level. During the 2010 Stanley Cup run, Byfuglien scored 11 goals and five assists in 22 games, including a hat-trick in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Vancouver Canucks. However, Byfuglien was a casualty to the cap crunch that offseason, being sent to the Atlanta Thrashers where he then became one of the original members of the new-age Winnipeg Jets. Byfuglien retired in 2020 after 15 seasons comprised of 869 NHL games, 177 goals, 348 assists and a Stanley Cup ring.
Other Draft Classes
As mentioned, there were other Chicago draft classes that produced some notable players, but they found success elsewhere in their careers. They are not considered to be the franchise’s best class because they did not lead to any Stanley Cups coming back to the Windy City.
It was a string of good drafts for the Blackhawks from 2002 to 2007 where the Blackhawks dynasty took shape. The 2004 Draft produced defenceman Cam Barker, two-time Stanley Cup winner Dave Bolland, three-time Stanley Cup-winner Bryan Bickell, and one-time champion Troy Brouwer. Barker was traded at the deadline in 2010 to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy. So in a way, all four players drafted that year contributed to Chicago’s 2010 Stanley Cup win.
This draft class gets an honourable mention because its selections produced a combined 3,659 points in 4,742 NHL games. Hall of Famer Denis Savard was taken third overall that year. He scored 1,096 of his career 1,338 points for the Blackhawks over 13 seasons. Savard went on to win his only Stanley Cup in 1993 with the Montreal Canadiens before returning to Chicago in 1994.
Centreman Troy Murray was taken in the third round, 57th overall in that same draft. Murray had a respectable NHL career, playing in 914 games and recording 584 points. He won the Stanley Cup in his final NHL season in 1996 with the Colorado Avalanche.
Steve Larmer was taken in the sixth round, 120th overall in the 1980 draft. Larmer scored over a point per game in his 15-year career, with 1,012 points in 1,006 NHL games. He spent 13 of those seasons in Chicago, winning a Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994.